Too much road time

It finally caught up with me, down for the count.  It could actually be allergies and exhaustion from the super bloom too??  It’s so beautiful out, but with the allergy season that’s going to be huge I’m afraid to go outside!

So what have I been up to since I haven’t been able to blog?  A whole lot actually.  I did head out to Bisbee, AZ for my cousins 84th birthday, so glad I did.  This is my mom’s 1st cousin, last surviving of his siblings and always there for me as a kid.  Before his wife passed away I thought she sent me Christmas cards, it turns out it was always him.  When my kids were little (Frank was a baby) I went out for the 4th of July.  I set it all up perfectly, got a mini-van for a rental car and was meeting my mom at Tucson airport.

It started off horribly from the Oakland airport…my husband was running late, so late that he didn’t have time to park and help me with all the strollers, car seats, etc. or I’d miss our flight.  He dropped me off at the curb and I ran to make the flight.  When we got to Tucson, my mom informed me that she was going to save me a few dollars and cancelled my rental car, that a cousin was coming through to give us a ride.  What she didn’t mention was that we were leaving on different days, she had a ride back and I did not.  It’s about 100 miles from Tucson to Bisbee, she didn’t tell me until the 4th of July.

I spent the day trying to figure out how to get back to the airport, calling a Sierra Vista rental car place to see how much a drop off fee would be (costing me more than the original mini-van).  My mom asked my uncle to drive me back in his truck, which at that time was a 2 seater, which meant my kids would be buckled up in the front and I would be riding in the truck bed with the dogs.  She said, “Problem solved.”

My cousin Fred overheard the whole thing, there might have actually been tears involved on my part?  He offered to give me a ride in a comfortable car.  Not only did he and his wife – who never went anywhere – give me a ride, they stayed with me the whole time and waited for me to board the plane.  It was before 9/11, it must have been ’96 when Frank was just a few months old.

He’s saved the day more than once recently, we drove through last year on the way to New Mexico and picked him up for breakfast.  I left the dog in his yard, when we got back the dog was gone.  Before we left for breakfast, he and my uncle were programming his new cell phone, not going to lie, they were driving me nuts.  It took 20 minutes calling each other, making sure each number worked.  As I drove around looking for the dog for an hour, Fred calls us and says the dog came to his back door.  That 20 minutes of cell phone programming paid off.   I just cried and gave him a big hug, relief over the dog plus wondering if I’d ever see him again?

It’s been a rough year for him, very touch & go all year.  When I got the invite, my mom let them know we couldn’t go because she couldn’t go.  Her travel days might be numbered, especially on airplanes.  The more I thought about it, the more I decided to just go on my own and see him again.  Every time I go to Bisbee I wonder if it might be my last time too?  Always bittersweet.

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It poured during the party, that was OK though because the next day was too hot.  We spent day 2 all day at Warren ballpark watching the old time baseball tournament with original rules.  Someone told me the town of Warren was shaped like a ballpark, that never occurred to me?  It’s one of the first U.S. ballparks, a fun day with my cousins.   A nice treat was the rental car company didn’t have my normal KIA or Hyundai available, so they gave me a Mustang convertible…fun!!


I’ve been gone almost 2 months now, getting my 6 mos check in for flying in there somewhere.  I just took the train back from LA up the coast, using my Amtrak voucher for the disaster delay last time.  It was beautiful, I definitely have worn myself out though.  Sunday I collapsed and had to cancel everything just to stay in bed at my mom’s.  She kept saying how horrible she felt, I just could barely move.  We propped me up like “Weekend @ Bernies” to get me on the train where I just stared out the window for way too long.  It was cool, don’t think I’ll do it again though.


No trips planned for a little while until I feel better, slowly moving through the week.

Bend, Oregon

Last stop, what a great adventure this has been…nothing like a lengthy road trip to make you appreciate a nice shower and super sonic toothbrush.  My husband has been the concierge while I just drove, letting him know where I was going to be the next night then an email reservation would pop up and I would just press the address & go.

When I first pulled up to Wall Street Suites after driving from Seattle, I thought he got me a crappy motel off the Hwy.  When I saw the clerk didn’t have track marks (I say that because I couldn’t stay in a hotel in Santa Cruz, CA because of the clerk), I thought I’d at least check out the room.  It was like a small cabin, I slept like a rock!  It was convenient to downtown, hoofing distance.

Bend was beautiful, I hit some decent weather to get out.  The downtown area reminded me of Walnut Creek when I first moved here in 1992 before they built up Broadway Plaza.  It’s even more beautiful with a river right through it, gorgeous bungalow houses, lots of my favorite things (like coffee shops).

There’s still snow on the ground, after checking out the downtown I drove around a bit to cover as much territory as I could.  The only bummer about this trip was off-season timing, otherwise I could have hiked or spent time on that river.  Instead I checked it out for a return trip, possibly a place to live?  Those houses were gorgeous, not bargain basement either.  The Old Bend houses are over a million.

Favorite house

A few things about Oregon that I wasn’t used to, the zero sales tax.  That was a nice little bonus that I read was subsidized by a higher personal income tax.  The other thing was the gas station attendants…by the 3rd time I filled up I didn’t scream when the guy came to the window to fill up.  My gas station routine is pull up, then dig through my purse on the passenger seat for my credit card where there would be someone at the window when I turned my head to get out of the car.  I had to make a conscious effort the 3rd time that there would be someone there and not to scare the crap out of both of us.

I’ll go back to Bend for sure, I’d like to spend some more time there to see if it’s a viable relocation place.  A few things I need to consider is my mom, I can’t be too far in case of emergency.  I told her March was a no crisis month for my trip, I’ll be down there in April.


Full moon

I stayed one  more night in Mt. Shasta on the trip back down, it rained the whole drive.  It’s catch up day, which was supposed to be yesterday but I got a better offer to go sailing then to see Dennis Quaid & the Sharks at Yoshi’s in Oakland.  Seeing Dennis Quaid was on my bucket list, I’ve seen a lot of actors growing up in L.A. who look a lot different in person.  He delivered, he looked great and put on a show.

Regroup for L.A., stock up on my Nespresso pods that got me through much of my trip!

Eugene, OR

Not the best time of year to travel through here, better than last week when the Amtrak train got stuck in the snow for 3 days.  It rain/snowed on my drive, making it easy to get over the passes that were either closed or chain controlled last week too.

This is my first trip ever through Oregon, this town in particular is a college town.  Thought I’d get a quaint hotel on the river, which it is, it’s just sharing the parking lot with a mall and I have the parking lot view.  That’s OK, only here for a night before heading to Portland.

I’ll try and get some decent pics, it’s just been raining non-stop with that little break yesterday while I threw my bag in the truck.  I’ve noticed that unless there are pics involved, no one reads this :).


The rest stops along the way have been nice with viewing areas, not used to that.  I stopped at one with a visitor center right at the border, with a homemade board about “The state of Jefferson.”  A few places I saw it said “Jefferson State” and was a little curious?  I’d heard rumblings throughout the years but didn’t know much about this so where did I research?  Where else, google & wikipedia.  In a nutshell, Northern CA and Southern Oregon want their own state.  These are the rural areas, upon reading the all-knowing wikipedia they also voted for Trump by a landslide…not surprising as a drive through observer.

With a break in the rain/snow, got the drone up for a few shots in the mall parking lot right before a mall cop almost busted me…a narrow escape…living on the edge!

On the way out I tried to stop in downtown Eugene for lunch and was discouraged when I filled up for gas.  Actually, it’s full service gas here which took me aback.  Someone grabbing my credit card and saying it’s full service while traveling solo is not my idea of “safe.”   He had to convince me further, then he told me places to go and where not to go and we got along fine.  My FIL owned a gas station in Manhattan Beach where my H and his brothers worked in HS.  That was probably the last full service gas station I’ve been to (late 70’s, early 80’s)?  Back in the day, gas stations were where you went to get directions, maps, travel tips.  It was really nice, his tip was to skip downtown due to no great restaurants or parking.

Downtown Eugene, lots of dispensaries on my travels so far

Eugene is a lot like Las Cruces in the food department, chain restaurants and mini malls.

Didn’t have enough time to fully explore, it seems like more of a college town than a destination spot.  I grabbed lunch at a chain with those whopper whipped cream pies (I didn’t eat, they looked good though) and took off.  My timing for packing has been great, once I was on the road it rained the whole way.


Rain forevermore

Good thing my house is set up for indoor days right now and still kind of recovering.  By the end of this storm I should be good to go again.  I’m not missing anything, even skiing, by staying home this week.  I just hope my friend’s baby isn’t born in this, Seattle has had more snow than ever and I don’t know if I can get up there in it?  I was planning on driving, Portland looks flooded.

I’ve been making this “Like Water for Chocolate” quilt for the baby.  All my womanly knowledge, including a ton of patience while I seam rip mistakes.  Making these is the only old lady thing I really do, to me they’re like a big puzzle or math problem to figure out.  It helps me concentrate, the second I make a mistake I stop.  Not great for my back, I can only sit in a chair an hour a day at most.

One thing I need to do is get my body ready for a baby schedule.  When I was pregnant, my body naturally adjusted to my boys eating & sleeping schedule.  Right now my body schedule is leisurely waking up to rain.  It’s kind of in hibernation mode 🙂  I don’t want to go up to Seattle to be a guest, I want to be Mary Poppins!!  Haha.

In other artistry endeavors, I donated a panorama photo I did with my drone to Berkeley Yacht Club (BYC).  It turned out really well on canvas, I figured it should go there because I got the whole marina.  It was kind of an accident, I was showing someone else how to use their new drone and did a few things with mine.  I stitched it together in Lightroom, down to the ripples.


There was someone at BYC saying I should sell them, at first I was flattered.  I did the unfortunate mistake of saying how much the print cost me – it was a Xmas special for $30.  The woman looked really excited for me and said I could sell them for $40!!  I know she meant well, it’s just that if I sold 5 of them my profit would be around $10…maybe.  Is that worth the price of poker??  Sadly, no.

I’m beginning to see more & more that there’s a reason it’s called a “starving artist.”  You have to have a lot of time to get the shots, or sew, then there’s the matter of actually selling it.  When my boys went off to college I was looking up seamstress salaries, starting & ending was $20k.  I might make more with a tin can at the freeway exit?  Tax free.

I did just post something about my drone company (GrandView Services) on LinkedIn and got some hits from someone who works at Facebook, 3DR, Ford.  One of my big clients was Ford GoBike, it’s all swallowed into Cal Engineering & Geology now and really starting to catch on.  For years I was doing it by myself, but to take it to the next level we hired someone.  There’s some saying about innovators burning out, then the next person takes it & runs with it.  That would be me, I started it from absolute scratch and now that it’s a press of a button and catching on, I’m out.

Maybe I’ll go back to it?  I was just showing someone some stuff I did years ago, turns out he does commercials in this area and had outdated info on drones.  The landslide job sites are hard for me…one, no bathrooms.  Another is no cell coverage and since they’re my drones I’m not quick to fly it 10′ off the ground and have it crash or lose it.  There’s a difference between flying your own drone and using the company drone.  I read this saying about chartering that was pretty funny, “Fly it like you stole it.”

Not sure if I connected the dots on this blog post?  That’s OK, that’s the way my fuzzy brain works.


Camera Ready

The problem with getting older and being a half-ass photographer is that to keep up you have to upgrade your equipment every few years.  I upgraded a few months ago to a Sony a7ii with a 28-70mm lens.  It was a package deal from Mike’s camera last November, it’s replacing a Sony Nex5 I’ve been using for the past 5 or so years.  I bought both cameras from Mike’s, there are a lot of advantages to still buying from a camera store – one is the classes and ongoing support for the camera.

I bought a nice camera for my son once from Best Buy as a graduation present, the guy practically spit into the lens to clean it as we watched in horror.

Last night I went to a Sony seminar at Mike’s to learn a little more about the camera.  I’m very familiar with cameras, not above going to find out what new features I might be missing and a few tips.  One of them being that I’ve been cleaning the sensors wrong, I’ve been laying the camera down flat and blowing into it so the dust can just go right back in.  It’s little tips like that I go for.  I’ve taken many photography classes, it’s amazing how much I forget and how obsolete my college classes are.

Darkroom class 1997??

My first camera was a Pentax K-1000 my parents gave me for my 16th birthday in 1978 (photos above are from Manhattan Beach, 1978).  Sadly, between my boys that camera has been lost 😦  I used that camera up until my youngest was crawling around in 1998, then I switched to my first digital camera that was about $1,000 with 500k of memory.  You had to anticipate the shot, once you held down the shutter it was almost a minute before the camera actually took the picture.  By that time my boys were on swim team,  I switched the slide shows to all digital for swim team and Junior League those years.  I still have pictures of every kid in Walnut Creek, now 25 year olds.  I remember someone saying they thought digital would never catch on, there’s always a naysayer.  I was all over it!

This only shows pics, the songs were copyrighted:

Then I got an ill-fated job with the Contra Costa Times as a contracted out photographer and bought a Minolta something or other.  Honestly, I didn’t do much research on it, I took the advice from a guy at our office who is really into cameras.  I had to cancel a job at 5am due to spending the night in the emergency room with my husband, who severed something in his knee the night before playing volleyball.  It was a 3 day shoot, luckily I was not the main photographer, but I had a babysitter lined up all weekend for it.  Not surprisingly, I never got a call back for work again.  I also quit Junior League, he was down for months with surgery and couldn’t drive.


Quitting Junior League was interesting, not sure if they knew why I had to quit but not one person called to see if I needed help or if we were OK? I petitioned to become a sustainer, that was a no.  When I bought my Sony Nex5 I was in that class at Mike’s camera coincidentally with a woman who was a big sustainer, she recognized my name.  She thanked me that night on upgrading JL to all digital, gave me all the credit for making them cutting edge in technology at that time.  That was nice, especially because the end seemed so, “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

Then came the iPhone cameras which gave photography a whole new twist, making virtually everyone a photographer.  Somewhere in that time we got a Cannon Rebel digital, replacing a film Cannon my husband had.  When the cameras on the iPhones got decent, you have a camera with you at all times.  I have no problem whipping out my iPhone for pictures, it’s so convenient.  People who know nothing about photography starting getting awesome shots, those selfies look better than posed shots a lot of times.  With FB and Instagram photography blew up (good & bad, kind of killed writing & photography for a living in general).

Below is Golden Gate with my iPhone, Hawaii sunset w/ Sony Nex5 & looking out from Manhattan Beach Pier Marine lab with the new Sony:

I still like to have a nice camera though, and a drone for fun.  I was using the drones for work before we hired two 25 year olds to replace me.  Now I use it for fun, it’s a whole new world in photography and technology that’s fun for me.

3D with images on the left to practice AutoDesk Recap 360, a few hundred images.

This one is with the drone, about 800 pictures I did years ago when drones still crashed & flew away.  The drone technology has advanced to just pressing the button, instead of crossing your fingers as your pre-flight routine.

Not sure if I’m losing my “eye” as  I age or if people are just so damn good at it now!  On my Instagram (@hellereng) I’ve had several known photographers follow me and I’m super flattered.

Glad there are still some actual camera stores around, many are gone.  Camera and book stores used to be my favorite places to go and browse around, I miss that.  Amazon is bringing the books stores back, after they made a clean sweep to make sure there are no Barnes & Noble competition (Which is fine by me, B&N wiped out small books stores first).  Time marches on, still trying to stay cutting edge if at all possible.

The Featured image is of Lou Silva & Rob Ryan from a volleyball tournament in Manhattan Beach when we were teens in 1978.  They have both passed on, can’t believe I got this shot.

Stranger Danger

Usually I don’t talk to many people when I travel.  I wouldn’t call this traveling right now, I’ve been here a bunch to see my son with a little bit of a routine going when I’m here…  Walk the dog, grab whatever my son needs while I’m here, lunch, piano, then latte.  The dog will keep anyone at bay, she looks like a huntress ready to pounce.  I don’t worry about my son living alone with this dog around.  He’s getting a roommate, which will help him not be so lonely out here.

I found this music store that has a practice room I can rent by the hour for the price of a parking spot in Walnut Creek.  Last time I was here for an extended period I was able to go there every day.  When I finished practicing, I found a coffee shop a few blocks away on my phone map.  I kind of remembered the neighborhood wasn’t great, the coffee shop was cute though so I went there again yesterday.

After I got my latte I cracked open my Kindle to read the New Yorker and some guy asked me what book I was reading?  I looked up and told him the New Yorker, then he started a conversation with me about where else besides Amazon can you download books?  I told him Amazon owns Kindle and I just download from the store.  I wasn’t being rude, I was being friendly too.

He was probably mid-20’s?  I had noticed someone sitting outside with his dog when I walked in making sure to avoid him.  After I got my drink and started reading I forgot about the guy I avoided outside.  Inside he was friendly, thought he was a student.  He was blonde, very skinny, from Wisconson originally.  He wasn’t high, I didn’t feel threatened at all.  Just seemed like a lonely traveler to me so I engaged.  A few years ago my husband traveled through Europe alone and said the hardest part of the trip was he had no one to talk to.  I thought about that when I was talking to this guy.

He wasn’t a student, he was kind of a nomad.  We started talking about the meth problem in these states here when I told him about Ms. meth’s wild ride I had in Bisbee over the summer where I was REALLY scared because she was a wild card.  We were on a night hike when we ran into this girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend to walk home.  She used my cell (so they had my phone number), then proceeded to hold this hiking group hostage.  We gave her a ride “home” after walking her back to the car, first I wanted us to be dropped off at the restaurant and she said, “No!”  I said, “I’ve had enough of you, they’re dropping us off first.”  My reasoning was more that I didn’t want us four good samaritans to drive into a meth house, the whole experience made me feel like we were being set up.  I didn’t feel safe until she was gone, instead of sounding scared though, I came off as a bitch.

Then the guy at the coffee shop started telling me his experiences, how most people are good, how to talk down a meth head, when it clicked he was the guy outside I had slithered by because he had creeped me out.  He was telling me about how when he hitch hikes people seem nice until they pull up into a gas station a few miles later then want him to pay for gas.  He couch surfs a lot, told me there’s an actual website or app for it, when people get too high he’s able to talk them down without too much trouble.

As he was talking about his nomadic life, my mind started in on an exit plan wondering if I had given him any info on me?  My name is unusual, easy to find.  Nope, hadn’t exchanged names.  I wasn’t too scared though, he really did seem like a friendly guy who was just passing through.  Still, I don’t know how I look to others (like a target?).  I had my camera backpack with a nice purse sporting my Nordstrom Trunk clothes.  I dress just enough to have a cab driver in Bali charge $60 instead of $6.  Plus, I was in a really bad part of town.

As I was wondering how I was going to get out of there without being followed the few blocks to my son’s car, I got a txt from my cousins that saved the day.  He backed off when I said I was meeting cousins, then said goodbye and wandered off with his dog.  I waited a little while before I took off myself.

He wasn’t who I had to worry about, I still had to walk through this neighborhood to get to my car.  There were one room apartments, just a door with a room like a closet with bars on every window.  Boy did I feel like an idiot for walking through there, no one was on the streets the first few times I did it.  This time, people were out and looking at me.  I chose my route wisely, not physically walking by anyone that saw me.  A car slowed down when I quickly turned that corner to duck around, making him have to back up if he was slowing down for me.  What goes on in my mind when I’m totally freaked??  I just thought of how stupid I was for carrying around this camera, looking totally out of place and that I’d be lucky if someone didn’t just mug me right there because I was screaming for it.  I took the stuff out of the car with me so that the car wouldn’t be broken into.  In the Bay Area, anything you leave in a car is going to have a broken window when you get back.  Where I was walking, it would be much easier to just give me a good shove and take it then go through the trouble of breaking a window.

I made it back to the car in front of the music store.  When I told my son about it, he confirmed I was in the worst part of town.  Won’t be going to that coffee shop again!!

For the most part, I feel pretty safe everywhere I go…mostly because I don’t usually put myself in those types of situations.  There have only been a few, “Oh shit!!” moments.  I don’t think I was in danger at all talking to that guy – we had a guy follow us in Taipai my uncle was being friendly with, who I’m convinced was a nomad cannibal.  Actually, most of those moments have been traveling with my friendly uncle where I have to be the bitch.  This was the first time I was solo and scared, no one to blame but myself.

One more day here, then off to lala land.

Now I’m really choking

Smoke in Walnut Creek on the worst day from my drone

After the first rain…



That smoke finally nailed me!!  Been down for days with chills and no voice.  It didn’t help that we haven’t changed our heater filter downstairs forever, I forgot we had a heater down there until our son moved back in.  They’ve been running it non-stop, it’s like I have legionaires or something??  Maybe it’s just a flu, it sure seems like the smoke.

I was out WAY too much in it without a mask.  The first day I was walking a reservoir a few miles when I saw the smoke as I came around.  It looked like the fire was in Walnut Creek or Concord there was that much smoke.  When I got home to google, I couldn’t find anything local.  It was from that Paradise fire about 150 miles away.

The next day we had a sail out on my boat.  Most of the people who show up for it are seniors, the smoke was really bad once I went through the tunnel and saw the San Francisco Bay.  We all met at my dock, I gave them the option to call it for health reasons but everyone wanted to still go for it.  There was no wind, we ended up motoring the whole way without any physical exertion.  Still, we got to Sam’s in Tiberon to be told we had to sit inside for the health of the staff.  That was about 5 hours in the smoke for me, all because I couldn’t call it.

We took one more walk around the reservoir before it got really bad.  By then, everyone was wearing masks.  That was the last day I was out until it rained to clear out some of the smoke.

On Saturday night there was a party I had RSVP’d to, but I felt like crap.  We made it for the dinner part, then left early because of a knot in my chest and my heart actually hurt. I finally called Kaiser on Sunday, they had me come in.  It’s the first time I’ve ever gone in for a flu type symptom, usually I figure if I want to get sick I go into a hospital.  I don’t know anything about smoke inhalation or not changing a filter.  The kind of a bitch of a nurse assured me it wasn’t the smoke?  That was like the manager at the restaurant I got food poisoning from lettuce telling me it wasn’t their lettuce that got me sick.  Whatever.

They gave me an inhaler, that untightened the knot in my chest.  A little surprised the Dr. didn’t use a stethoscope to check for… I don’t know?? Pneumonia??  The inhaler did help though.

Now I’m just weak and my  husband is down for the count.  I’m a few days ahead of him, just feel weak now with no voice.  Selfishly, I wanted to just lay in bed for this to be over with – I’m never sick.  I also never watch daytime TV, it totally caters to people laying in bed.  There’s a plethora of illnesses we might  not even know we have unless we go to the Dr. and ask for that specific drug.  With all the internet searches and the TV, it’s all an ad for drugs.  I’m guilty of jumping to the google, legionnaire conclusion.

It’s one thing to be in a warm house (with a new filter).  I can’t imagine what they’re doing in Paradise now that the town is leveled.  I totally disagree with that nurse, the illnesses from that smoke is about to kick in.  There’s the long term affects of us all smoking a cartoon a day of cigs in smoke, the first wave is going to be the illnesses it caused right away.  Who would have thought this would ever happen?

If this isn’t coherent, it’s because I’m not coherent yet.