Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dog on Miner's Ridge Trail

A few Sundays ago, as most morning go, I woke up before 7am.  Now the thing about that is... well... it's damned early for a Sunday and not much is going on.  I meant to change that!  Moseying downstairs, I fed Bella the Vizsla and decided that her fission-level energy need taking down a few notches: Off to the trails!

Usually we head to one of the many parks in Rancho Penasquitos - none of them formal dog parks, but early enough no one will hassle you for having your pooch off leash.  This time however I decided to head to an open space preserve that encompasses the tallest hills in the area known as Black Mountain.  There was a parking area that fronted a couple of trails and I figured "no time like the present."

Was I in for a pleasant surprise!  Bella was stoked of course, but the morning was cool and "dewy," the trail was slightly muddy and wet, and the elevation was up and down.  Yee-haw!  Perfect conditions for a romp.  Up and down was right - the trail was rocky but clear, with scrub brush on both sides.  I wasn't sure it went all the way to the cell phone towers on top of the mountain, but the map at the bottom showed a loop so we went for it. 

What a great way to start  off the day - the dog crashing through brush, bounding about, and checking in every once and awhile.  Me, alternating between jogging up the hill and rock-hopping.  Sixty percent of the time, the brush was at least chest if not head height, so the views weren't quite as spectacular as they could have been... but I think that made me stop and appreciate them more!

About 3/4 of the way around the trail, I came upon the carcass of an eviscerated mouse.  I could imagine a hawk grabbing the unlucky chap in razor-sharp talons, eating its fill and dropping it to the ground.  Poor mouse; Bella didn't even pause going by (but at least now you're immortalized on the Internet!).

I'll visit Miner's Ridge again - next time with a kid in tow.  Gotta get up early to keep up with Dad!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Da Dump!

Etho and I went to the garbage dump today.  Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal, but it was pretty much the first time I'd been to a dump (AKA "landfill") here in CA vs. the ones in AZ.  The last one I was at was outside of Green Valley, AZ a few years back when visiting my step-father.  House man "Bear" and I had taken a load in the smallish red Nissan pickup truck.

The cool thing about the big Miramar landfill is that it's... well...  REALLY BIG.  You have to drive 5-8 minutes after cruising through the scales and paying to get to the pit.  Cars and trucks are shuffled away from the big trash haulers.  The birds were omnipresent.

It was raining when we went - a rarity in San Diego - which helped tamp down the stench and increase the mud content of the joint.

We were hauling a couple of closet doors, a toilet that my friend Tony wanted to get rid of, and some chest of drawers from the kid's rooms (following an Ikea visit to replace them).  Cost was $18 - ouch - but I wasn't complaining because the City of San Diego is stupid enough not to charge homeowners for trash pick-up!

I liked the mud and the birds and the time spent with Etho who seemed to dig helping his Dad for once...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Pinewood Derby 2010

This year's annual Pack 621 Derby was extra special in a number of ways. One such way was that car entries built by Dad and son (that would be me and Etho) were joined by a totally cool race car designed and carved by my daughter Emily in the shape of an "E." Her colorful car turned heads and smoked all comers on the Friday practice day!

It was also the inaugural race on the brand new aluminum Derby track purchased by Pack 621. The company which built it, BestTrack, did a fine job - it was everything they billed it as and more. The smart purchase as well was their "Champ" electronic timer which sorted out race results to the *thousandth* of a second - WOW!

Kevin, Patrick, Matt, me and several others trucked the track over in a fine storage box built by Woodworker Jim of the Pack.  We built it on Friday night at the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) church up the road.  The  have graciously donated their gym the last several years so that we could run a quality race rain or shine.  There was a little tinkering that had to be done and a couple of times we had a few things backwards for a minute or two, but by early evening kids were racing and fine-tuning their cars for the BIG race scheduled for the next morning.

Ethan's entry was a last-minute build later that night because when we tried to install his axles/wheels  in his car the wood split because he had carved out the body too close to the axle grooves. Much gnashing of teeth and wailing!  Luckily he had cut his block of wood down the middle during the Pack's "Build Day" in mid-January.  So, we reached into the parts bin, pulled that wedge out, and immediately reached for the orange Krylon.  After it dried, I used a T-square to mark some new axle grooves straight as I could, then gingerly sawed those darned grooves.  The wheels slotted in perfectly and we went to bed satisfied that we had a decent and hopefully competitive car.

Boy howdy:  Race Day! Scout families were abuzz with excitement as they wheeled their cars in.  Most did some last minute adjustments to weigh in at 5oz, squirting powdered graphite into their axles and finally going through Registration to end up with their rides on the Impound table (where they could not be touched again prior to race time).  Soon, racing began with cars zoom-zooming down the track, sometimes separated by tenths of a second.  Starter Matt and Scorekeeper Matt (errr... different people), kept the races moving along until we had the top 12 cars ready to move on to the finals.

During intermission, Dads and siblings raced their cars in the "Unlimited" class.  Since there were essentially no rules except that the cars must be powered by gravity, some entries went for style points (one had functioning lights and Emily's "E" was a crowd favorite), or brute force (heavy railroad spike), or a combo of the two (stylish and oh-so weighty).  I entered a black lowered pick-up truck with about 1.5lbs of lead in the bed.    

Though my favorite was probably Dave's old-school Derby car he raced decades ago as a Cub Scout, and Spike gave me a run for the money winning a couple of races, it was no contest at the end as sheer black lead mass triumphed over all comers... 

When the Scouts came back from snacks, everyone knew it was serious race time.  The margin of difference between a first place finish in the heats now was measured in hundredths of seconds. Whoa!  Lots of clapping and cheering.

Because I was taking a lot of pics of the races, it took me awhile to realize that Etho's bright orange wedge car kept winning, heat after heat after heat!  It wasn't long before I heard a group of the Webelos 2 boys chanting "Ethan, Ethan" and another faction of the younger Scouts shouting "Camden, Camden", whipping the crowd into a frenzy and swinging all attention on the final races. 

Eyes of the adults and kids alike were glued on the track and timer as Derby cars built by Ethan, Camden, and Miles raced down the track three times.  And three times, the "Krylon Special" of Ethan logged position #1 at the end of the track.  Ethan had won the 2010 Pack 621 Pinewood Derby!  Fantastic - I'm proud of you son!

Next stop is the "San Diego 500 Grand Prix" at the 2010 Scout Fair at Qualcomm Stadium in April.  Until then, the car is under glass:  Nobody is touching the Krylon Special!