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Friday, August 26, 2011

Life in the USA

When is a Tyre not a Tire? Is it a Tyre or a Tire?
This is the local parking attendant at work. He goes around the small town of Pullman with a long chalked tip pole and he marks the tyre of the cars parked on the street or in this case one of the many FREE public car
parks. The time limit is two hours and having marked the tire (American spelling--yes ok I hear you all but I can assure you they are nice folk who just talk and spell things differently to us; remember I've married one and so to avoid accusation of cultural discrimination I best include the odd American spelling.) After two hours he comes back on his rounds using different coloured/colored chalk to mark newly parked cars.
He tickets those with his chalk mark of two hours earlier. Above is the car he just marked before I asked him to pose for a picture. To overstay the two hour limit means a $10 fine but be aware: it's $250 for parking illegaly in a disabled bay.
Thrift store is what we in the UK call a charity shop.

Outdoor relaxation is big over here with  tempratures of 85-93F; cooler than usual according to the natives. Nearly all the parks I have visited have a picnic shelter with BBQ, electricity and water. They can be
reserved for a nominal fee to host a large family get together; otherwise the facility is free for public use.
Above is a typical shelter with 4 BBQ units. Seating and tables are available with each unit. The BBQ in the picture below is a stand alone unit in a smaller park that has no shelter.
Also in the park I came across this strange contraption. After spotting some young folk approach and aim Frisbees at it. I just had to ask them about it. The game is called Disc Golf and it is played in  twenty countries besides the USA.
Has anyone seen it in the UK? Each player carries a bag of about twenty Frisbees, with at least three different types: putters, drivers and all purpose mid range discs a bit like a golfer with his many different clubs.

No prizes for spotting what's in this picture. Yep an allotment--the difference being this one is un-fenced, slap bang in the middle of the same park where the Disc Golf and single BBQ units were.

Do we have frozen concentrated fruit juice  in the UK? It's very popular here and comes in at least 20 flavors.
Just peel off the lid, squeeze the frozen contents in a jug, and add three containers of water. The only thing I can think of in the UK that's even close is the Frozen Jubbly in a Pyramid shaped carton we got as kids. Hold the front page! I've just been Googling and it seems they have been ressurected from the grave of my childhood memories HERE.

This three wheeler car is a Zap Xebra Electric and has 4 seats. Built by the Chinese, it has a top speed of forty MPH and a range of twenty five miles between charges. The price is $12,000--about £8,000 pounds UK.
 The bodies used to be fiberglass but are now manufactured from metal.They also make a Truck version that has a solar panel on the roof.

What vehicle in the U.S. other than police, fire or ambulance can stop traffic? Yep it`s the good old American school bus. It`s bright Yellow Orange or Orange Yellow; it depends what book you read from. These buses are a famous sight here as is the black cab in London. 

 Almost half a Million buses carry  26 million students to school EACH DAY.
When dropping off or picking up students, the red flashing lights front and rear--together with the stop sign that folds out on the left side--all mean no passing the bus from either direction.

I have now got an official Washington ID card! The reason being, I wanted an American bank account and
without a social security number this was the only route I could take to get an account.

As the Geese fly over the back porch and the sun sets, I'm thinking in just twelve days we will be on the plane from Seattle heading home. We will leave Pullman a few days before the flight and spend time in Seattle as Jaq has obtained some huge hotel discount via a friend. At least Seattle weather should be cooler. I cannot wait to get back and enjoy the UK climate and stand in the rain. The past three months have seen just a tiny amount of rain over here. The heat stops me doing much during the day as I feel exhausted. It was 101F a few days back.

We have packed up the things Jaq wants for our life on the boat and they have been delivered to the shipper today and will appear in the UK in about 2 months (Look out for a boat laying low in the water after the boxes arrive!)

Life here over the past three months has been one long list of dinner, lunch, and breakfast invites with Jaq`s friends each wanting to say their goodbyes. They are all without exception a lovely group of people and I thank them all for accepting me as a friend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Outside this part of the world

 Sitting here in the garden a regular visitor is the Black-Chinned  Hummingbird. Much to fast for me to catch on camera so the pic is from the Web. They usually hover in front of the flower beds just feet away from where we are sitting.
Click on the link and scroll down to the 3rd video of the super slow motion of the little birds wings. They can fly up, down, backwards and forwards as well as hover while they get the Nectar from plants using their long beak and tongue. A truly fascinating experience to watch them live in your garden.

The Coyote makes an appearance near the house occasionally albeit at a distance across fields, this one again
taken from the Web is full grown and we have seen many like him as we drive around including youngsters dead by the roadside having been hit by cars.

Another visitor in great numbers to the garden is this Dragonfly known as a 12 spotted skimmer. This picture
is mine. It has a 3" wingspan and is about 2.5 inches long.

Skunks are something we don`t have in the UK and boy do they stink. We passed one making its way along the side of the road and slowed to get a pic but Skunky was none to pleased and emitted a terrible smell  i quickly wound up the car window.

A week or so back as i went out of the back door i startled an Owl that had been i assume because of the shortage of  trees perched on the roof. It flew down low over me and settled some 50yds away on the edge of a field of Wheat. I watched it with binoculars for some 20 mins and can only assume it was digesting a meal when i disturbed it. With out doubt after watching it up close  it was easy to identify by the ear like feathers upon it`s head as a Great Horned Owl.
Reading about it on several sites firstly it`s `ears` gave it away also the fact that they do feed on the ground in fields for mice but i think the best thing was the apparent wingspan they can have. Believe me when Owly swooped down over me that wingspan was huge.
Sadly just last night Jaq and I discovered an Owl(dead)  in the middle of the road probably hit by a car. Jaq moved it to the side of the road but as to weather it was a Great Horned I have not yet gone to have a look in daylight. Certainly by the size it could have been.....shame.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Big lock on a big river

Jaq and I had a trip out recently to the Lower Granite Dam on the Lower Snake River. The dam is 2,655 feet wide and stands 254ft high. It has 6 generators that produce 810MW of power. There are 4 dams on the
Lower Snake River all generating power and a further 4 when it joins the Columbia on its way to Portland and the Pacific. Behind the Granite dam lies a lake of water stretching 39 miles.
The dam has a single lock, the bottom gates can be seen in the pic above, that measures 674ft by 86ft wide with a 100` drop. Now i`m not sure if they class that as a double or single lock but taking a Narrow Boat of 60ft my guess is you can get 132 boats in facing forward with room at one end for perhaps 2 across the lock.
Above is the inside of the lock, 46 million galls and 10mins to empty/fill. Besides pleasure craft barges use the lock and typical cargoes would be Wheat, Barley, Petroleum, Machinery.
This is a typical tug and 4 barge set up.It is the equivalent to 280 rail truck or 1,076 USsemi / UKartic loads.

The fish are guided into fish ladders that are like the exhibit in the visitor centre below. Fish make their way along an uphill channel with laybys that give them a refuge to rest before swimming on and upwards.

Watching fish use the ladder from inside the visitor centre.

I would love to have gone on the guided tour of the dam that included the power house but the whole site is run by the US Army Corps of Engineers and US citizenship with photo id is a condition of a place on the tour. Jaq and I even had to show photo id just to drive the road across the dam, luckily they accepted my UK drivers licence but warned us not to stop till we reached security on the other side. I stood up with my head through the sun roof  to get the lock picture.
So a rare chance to walk along by the river and past the Marina but the warning signs tended to make me not stray to far off the tarmac.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Return flights are booked

My original return date was Aug. 16th a date plucked out of the air to keep the USA immigration happy. Perhaps in hindsight it might have been better to have made the return date nearer my visa expiration of Sept. 9th but at the time I thought August would be fine. So 230 squids lighter and i have a B. Airways flight Seattle-London direct. We then booked Jaq on the same flight and sorted the seats near the rear in the 2 abreast section, getting boaty , breasting up!.

Hands up anyone who thinks air fares are as confusing as train fares. First let`s just explain that we have different tickets in that my ticket ends in the UK but Jaq`s is for a return to the U S  in April 2012. This came about because Jaq returned with me in May for 3 weeks so we both have returns starting each side of the pond.

Now the price we paid for Jaq`s return has gone up 50 pounds since we booked it 7 days ago which i can understand, supply and demand, more people wanting fewer seats. What i don`t understand is why can`t we get Jaq a single ticket at a reasonable price then we both land in the UK equal,  i.e. no return part of our tickets.

I tried Brit. Airways (US) and the extra cost for  single against return was $320. Also tried a UK  based Internet site( E and the difference was 194 pounds sterling so we now have Jaq with a ticket for April and i`ll need to get on the same flight so we can return to see her kids both little and grown up and this ticket fiasco will continue unless we pay to change it.....why should we.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs