Hannah Abigail Albritton

Welcome to the world, sweetie.

Scary, isn't it?  Yeah, I know, me too.

Hannah was born at the Woman's Hospital, in Baton Rouge and weighed 7 lbs, 13 oz.  Everyone is doing well and soon will be headed home with Mom, Dad and big brother Henry to celebrate Christmas.

She, is absolutely gorgeous.


Rollin' On The River

After watching Henry's last basketball game of the season, Jared and I took his father-in-law's boat out on the river.  Actually, it was the intercostal waterway beginning at the Port of  Baton Rouge at Port Allen but who's counting?

Earlier that morning, I'd ridden into town on the Harley, ignoring the lower 40° temperatures, figuring it would eventually warm.  That was a bad guess....it didn't.  Anyway, we launched the boat and were on the water around 11:00 A.M. supposedly testing a new tachometer which never registered, maybe because it was defective or maybe because it was wired wrong, nevertheless, it didn't work on the old 70 hp Evinrude.  Even though we figured that out in the first 5 minutes, the notion of a river ride was there and before long, we were headed south on the Gulf Inter-Coastal Waterway that eventually makes it's way toward Morgan City and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.  Completed in 1949, it is part of a sophisticated network of waterways that connects the Mississippi River with waterways across the southern United States.

Even though the temperatures were cool on the water, the bright sun helped quite a bit as we enjoyed seeing life along the river, disturbing Louisiana Blue Herons, dodging the occasional log in the water and negotiating around ever present barge traffic.

One special treat was spotting a young Bald Eagle a few miles south of Bayou Choctaw.  I can still kick myself for forgetting my good camera and having to rely on the cell phone instead.

While we could have gone on and on, boat motors are not known for their gasoline efficiency so we turned around just south of the Bayou Jacob Road in Iberville Parish and made our way home.

A nice venture and experience for sure that was a little different, especially for me.



I think we may have created a monster.

Saturday morning I took an early ride up to Baton Rouge, where my grandson Henry and his kindergarten buddies were engaged in the beginnings of a basketball team.  Unfortunately for Henry & Co., they were playing a muuuuuuch older group......first graders, but somehow they managed to score two or three times.  His dad (my son) is one of the coaches.

That was great in it's self but the real story begins after the game, when his dad just kidding around (or at least I thought he was kidding) asked Mr. Allstar Kindergarten Athlete if he wanted to ride with "Pop"....that would be me.

"Suuuuuurrre!", he said, with eyes as big as the headlights on the Harley.

We had planned on me dropping by their house after the game, so when they took off in the truck and I followed along later, I pondered how this was going to work out and at the same time trying to imagine the conversation that went on with Henry's mom when his dad came in saying their 5 year old was about to be inducted into the world of motorcycling.  The imagery of tattoos, chains and leather were probably floating around was drifting around there somewhere.

Never the less, as I leaned low turning into their driveway, all three were coming out to meet me.  Henry was adorned with an LSU kiddie football helmet reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's character in Easy Rider.

Henry's little legs were nowhere near long enough to touch the back foot boards so they suggested he sit on the gas tank and lean back on me.  After a brief reminder on what items were hot, he eagerly crawled on board astride the 5 gallon motorcycle tank and acquired a death grip on the mid part of the handlebars.  Asking if he was ready, and getting a head nod affirmation, I fired Boudreaux up and we circled the lawn and eased out on the street.

Although our cross country adventure was only few minutes  and just 4 or 5 blocks in the neighborhood,  it was a ride he will remember.  I would have loved to have taken him further but since he did not have a legal helmet and the possibility of a Baton Rouge policeman could have cruised by and found issues with our adventure, I thought it best to get him back as soon as possible.

He's already looking forward to another ride.


Freezing fingers and plastic shields

Around this time of the year, when the temperature drops and I take long(er) motorcycle trips, I'm usually able to stay comfortable with enough layers and leather.  My feet, stay relatively warm with thermal socks but regardless of how hard I try, at interstate speeds, the constant wind on my hands and fingers turn them into icicle digits.  I can't seem to find hand protection that can withstand  several hours of 70 mph blasts of 35 - 40° humid air defeating some really great ski gloves.

I've thought about heated grips, electric gloves, bat-wing fairings for the bike and all sorts of concoctions that either were non-effective, too expensive or simply too much trouble to deal with.

Recently, someone sent me a link showing some clear acrylic wind screens that would block the wind and looked like something I could deal with.  They were not too big, not all that expensive and didn't require batteries or electrical hookups, all for $89 plus tax and shipping.  I began thinking on these and figured, "What the heck?  I can make my own!"

Bouncing the idea off my brother-in-law and with a general design in my head, made my way to Home Depot for some materials.  There, I bought a pair of corner braces ($2.87), 3' metal strap ($6), box of nuts and bolts ($3) and a sheet of Lexan ($18) clear plastic.  The Lexan has more flexibility than plexiglas, relatively flexible, can be shaped with heat and most important, is not quite as likely to split or shadow when drilling or sawing it.

After settling on a general design, I cut out a rough draft on cardboard and mounted it on the corner braces that I had attached to the mirror bolts on the handlebars.  Applying masking tape to both sides of the plastic, I transfered the shape from my template with a marker and cut it out with a jig-saw.  The reason for masking tape is two fold; (1) the tape gives you something to trace the pattern to and (2) further reduces the chance of the Lexan splitting or shattering when the jig-saw starts it's cut.  After the shape was cut, I sanded the edges and drilled holes for the mounting brackets to attach the Lexan.  It should be noted here, I recommend using Lexan by brand because my first attempt was with plain plexiglas which shattered when I attempted to cut it out.  It was cheaper but not near as strong.  Add another $8.00 plus gas back to Home Depot on the cost.

It took a bit of time to adjust the angle to be aesthetically appealing and to be effective in blocking the wind  but I believe I have something I can live with for the next 3 months when the weather warms.  This coming weekend, I probably will refine the shape a bit more to remove a few flat spots and make it more rounded.

Hopefully, my new hand shields will keep my hands from losing all feeling on my next 500 mile ride in January or February.


Detroit again

My third run at Detroit will be a short lived version, lasting just two weeks.

Since the clocks have gone back to standard time and the days have gotten shorter, there has been little, if any, exploration time.  When I arrived last weekend, the trees were at their zenith in autumn colors and by mid week, the rain and wind had put most of them onto the streets and ground.  Now, the tree tops are virtually bare and the gray skies afford little to be excited about. There's even a little bite in the air that makes you glad you brought a jacket.

However, I have a need to get out for some reason and since I am one to always seek a bargain and the temptation of finding a unique lens for the camera at a low-ball price,  drives me to pawn shops and thrift stores. So, out I go with smart-phone in hand, Googling "pawn shops" and choosing one, I begin following the turn by turn direction of the provided GPS Navigator.

My first stop was the American Jewelry and Loan.  At 10 a.m., it was already a popular place and the crowded parking lot only sharpened my dodging skills as I avoided running over frenzied pedestrians.  A young clipboard wielding lady greeted me at the door and asked as I walked in, "What brings you here today?"  With a blink, I responded that I was there just to browse around.  With a cheeky smile, she beckoned me to just, "go on in!"   Wow, that's different.

I have to tell you, the patrons of this store aren't the high tea crowd and felt a little out of the place for being (a) noticeably non-local, (b) over 50 and (c) no visible body art.  As I made my way through, I saw an entourage of media people with at least 3 large format video cameras flanked by sound techs and boom microphone grips.

At this point, the lightbulb went off in my head and so I whipped out the Android again and googled "TV pawn store shows" and found myself in the beginnings of a taping session for the truTV's Hardcore Pawn documentary series where the obstinate owner regularly gets in it with his customers.  It's the cheesier knockoff of the more popular Pawn Stars filmed in Las Vegas.  The owner apparently had not arrived, so the crews were drifting around the store getting various shots of patrons.  I have an idea most were there for the TV hullabaloo except maybe a dozen or so lined up to either make a payment or to un-hock something of value they had previously taken a loan on.

Seeing nothing that sparked my interest and not wanting to be part of a TV episode, I made my way out through aisles of fur coats and jewelry cases toward the door.  Outside, I did manage to check out a way overpriced Harley-Davidson before getting out on the freeway to dodge refrigerators in the lanes and getting an eyeful of decaying buildings on the horizon.

This is not the garden spot of the world, especially with winter coming on.

 Lagniappe: Just for fun, since we're talking pawn shops.


Wild Hogs - Arkansas Style

With very little planning other than a desire to go, my friend Louis, my brother-in-law Gary and I fired up on a rather cool Sunday morning headed up to check out the leaves in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains in western Arkansas.

The players



 Yours Truly

I know, don't even start.  Louisiana is a beautiful state in it's own right but hey, it was October and we are not known for our four seasons.  We have the hot humid season and the not so hot humid season.  With that in mind, we figured we would put at least 400 miles on us the first day to get into curvy roads and into the hill country.  
As we began on Highway 7 in southern Arkansas the colors began to spring forth in a way we had not seen at home.  Highway 7 is a well known crooked little pig trail and following the Ouachita River north and was an adventure itself.

Reaching Hot Springs in mid afternoon, we found the city over run with hillbillies coming out of the woods to participate in a downtown Halloween fest.

Monday morning, we waited until an enormous fog burned off.  By 8:30 we were continuing on Hwy 7 toward the mountains.   The colors were even more vivid and somehow managed to distract our attention away from the endless collections of old camper trailers, abandoned refrigerators and old rusty Fords that had not moved in 40 years.  Somehow, the odor of the ever present chicken houses were not that bad.

Being a Monday, traffic was at a minimum and having to pass motor homes was not much of an issue even as we began to ascend Mt Magazine and Petit Jean Mountain.
While it was exciting taking the curves, hills and switchbacks, it was a lot of work that would later prove to be the source of sore shoulders and backs.  Imagine riding a beast 4 times as heavy as you are and guiding that thing by pulling on one horn and pushing on the other while clamping your legs around it's neck.  Nevertheless, I would and will gladly do it again.

Monday night, we found a hotel in Arkadelphia and turned in early.  The next morning, cold again, we rode down to the Waffle House to continue our quest to over-eat.  As we rode up, there was a dual sport motorcycle already parked there.  A "dual sport" is a bike that is basically a street legal dirt bike.  Finding the owner already in there, I engaged him in conversation and found he was from Illinois, had been on the road since June and had been to Alaska already this year. "Mark from Illinois" said he would probably go to the Gulf of Mexico then head back for home.  He said he just didn't like riding in the snow.  I can only imagine.

By the time we had arrived back home in South Louisiana, we had put just over a thousand miles on our bikes.

I say, it was a good trip that cleared my head of a lot of junk and will look forward to another "Wild Hogs Adventure" in the future.


Rest In Peace, Jim

                  Jim Haldane


High Times In San Jose

Each Friday, I have to check out of my little bungalow in Carmel.  Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts or anything more luxurious than a pup tent is usually booked months and sometimes a year in advance.  Sometimes it's events over at Luna Seca or perhaps an art or film festival but at any rate, rooms are at a premium there on the weekends.

So, with the Carmel room situation at hand, I usually leave the office Friday afternoon, zip up the road to San Jose, grab a hotel room at the Hampton Inn, exchange the rental car and generally hold up there until Sunday when I return back to the Carmel and the Monterey Bay.

Friday evening, when I went out to eat, I found an inordinate amount of police (mostly motorcycle cops) hanging around the shopping center near the hotel.  Thinking it seemed a bit weird seeing lots of Cop bikers in different uniforms, I speculated on the reason but never came up with a definitive answer.

As an added benefit, the people in the room on one side of me played salsa music well into the night and the couple on the other side had a domestic dispute accented with yelling, crying and door slamming, all of which was in Spanish rendering it completely unintelligible to me.

This morning, as I filled up the car just before going to the airport, I noticed the streets filled with bikers and even more cops.  As I turned onto Kurtner toward the freeway, I could see lots of biker types entering a funeral home and cemetery nearby.  At that point, I guessed it was some kind of biker funeral.

As it turns out, the Hells Angels president had been mortally wounded over at a casino in Sparks, Nevada last month and they were finally getting around to having his funeral.  Let me see a hand of those who do not see trouble coming here.  Yep, it sure did.  Before that thing was over there had been another shooting at the funeral resulting in another Angel getting his one way ticket punched.  Who couldn't see that coming?

I could have gone up to San Francisco or Oakland but hearing the news of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and Bart protests, I thought it best not to go into the inner city.  I just didn't need to get arrested as an innocent bystander.  Maybe a few years ago, I'd have been compelled to check it out but not today. Besides, traffic was horrible in the area.

With that, I'm glad I had elected to visit the Pumpkin Festival at Half Moon Bay and get caught in a couple of hours worth of a traffic jam.  Tonight, I'll reflect on my better choices and try not to make a spectacle of myself as I watch the half dozen or so Hells Angels toying with their Harleys down in the Hotel parking lot.  While I see no one openly carrying fire arms, some wear knives in scabbards looking as big as a Roman Short sword.

Tomorrow, I'll be anxious to head back to Carmel where the most dangerous thing there is getting run over by someone's dog on the beach.


Rest In Peace, Jo Ann, rest in peace.

Rest in peace, Jo Ann. Rest in Peace.
November 23, 1948 - October 9, 2011



Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo

Awakened by the shrill squawkings of a murder of crows intimidating a flock of seagulls,  I could see daylight coming through the open air balcony of my room.  The air was cool, crisp and without the sometimes present early morning fog.  Since the hotel room does not have air conditioning, slithering and creeping things are rare, so Darlene and I spend the nights with the sliding glass door open.

Taking advantage of the early light, I slipped my jeans and boots on, made my way down to the car and headed south through the somewhat rough, hilly and darkened streets toward the Carmel Mission.

Carmel is noted for a lack of streetlights, traffic signals and curbed residential streets.  At one time, the town had some pretty unusual laws.  One being that it is against the law to wear shoes with heals greater than two inches in height without a permit.  The streets are so uneven, the city was simply trying to avoid lawsuits from those twisting ankles.  I understand the law is rarely if ever enforced now but if you're nervous about it, permits are granted free of charge.  At one time, it was illegal to sell or eat ice cream on public streets but that and other strange regulations were overturned when Clint Eastwood and his town council took office back in the 1980s.

A few blocks south of center of town, there is a very distinctive old mission that was founded  Father Junípero Serra in 1770.  When the padre passed away in 1784, he was buried in it.  I had passed Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo several times and one of my co-workers had told me a little of the history of it.  Each time I pass by, I'm fascinated by the dome and at night, with the right conditions, you can see the rising moon floating above it.

As I began taking pictures this morning, the parish faithful slowly began to arrive, so I did not approach the interior of the structure, saving that venture for a later and more appropriate time.


Carmel-by-the-sea, California

I'm finally getting around to updating my travels over the past few months.  After spending a very hot summer in Shreveport, La with temperature in the triple digits for days on end, it was nice to work in New Roads, LA.  Although it was a 60 mile drive one way each day, it was wonderful sleeping in my own bed for 3½ weeks.

Oh well, break's over.  Well it's not that bad because I've landed in Carmel-by-the-sea, California.  This very unique place is well known for attracting the rich and famous - and of course, me.  Carmel is a very dog friendly town and have been told that sometimes borders on the ridiculous side.  I noticed  a George Rodrigue (he's from Lafayette, LA) gallery with Tiffany pictures in the window.  Old time movie actress, Doris Day pretty much started all the fuss.

I even managed to eat at the next table to Clint Eastwood a couple of nights ago.  No, I didn't hound him for a handshake, autograph or a cheesy photo.  No one else seemed to make a big deal out of it so I figured I'd go along with it.  Actually, it was at his Mission Ranch Restaurant.  I heard he would show up there on occasions but it caught me completely off guard when he pulled up a chair with a group of friends next to the table with me and my two dinner companions.

Feeling that I might not be here for a while, I've invited my wife up next weekend to stay a while so it was appropriate that I scout out places I wanted to show her.  This afternoon, I drove south on Highway 1 along the sometimes foggy coast.  Occasionally, pulling over to take in the sights of wildflowers, hearing sea lions bark  and snapping a few pictures while I watched a California Condor glide the up draft and eventually perch on a ridge high above me.

Driving further south onto Big Sur, I drove under some big Redwoods and with the sunroof open, smelled the ever present Eucalyptus trees.  One of the highlights was recognizing the Bixby Creek Bridge that we have all seen in commercials and movies.  Completed in 1932, it spans over a deep gorge and is an imposing part of the landscape.

Further south, I enjoyed getting out and walking down a trail at the Julia Pheiffer Burns State Park to a very controlled stroll that overlooked the McWay Falls.  I say controlled because you must stay on the trail and going down to the beach just doesn't happen.

Figuring I should get back to my hotel in Carmel, I arrived near sundown to see the sun casting a warm glow on a gingerbread style house behind the inn.  While not all the houses in Carmel look like this, the "cottage" look is what makes the place their own.


Line In the Sand....um..grass!

...or How Petty Can I Be?

Perhaps the summer has been too long and hot or it could be that I've been working near or from home the past couple of months.......but....my new neighbor is getting next too me.

We've been in these modest digs for 6 years now which makes us some of the "old timers" of this zero lot-line neighborhood.  The guy on one side is an original too and we get along.  Sometimes when he's out on vacation, I've been known to edge and mow his yard.  He's the sort of guy that will sometimes run the weed eater around the side of his house adjacent to my property.

The home on our other side has suffered a troubled past.  It's been on the market twice and the latest resident has signed a lease-purchase agreement with the second owner.  That means it will probably be vacant within a year.

Maybe I'm being a little petty here - well yes, very petty - but our new neighbor is the kind that simply will not edge around his own home much less along side our house which is technically on his dirt.  There are two foot high weeds growing up around his deck and between the houses.  Increasingly so, he has moved his mowing space further and further away from the property line which throws the responsibility of mowing around the cluster of meter boxes and street light pole to me.  All summer long, I edged around those boxes, kept it clear for meter readers and went the extra mile treating fire ants in his front yard.

Call it what you like but I see it as him drawing a line in the sand...well...maybe the St Augustine, expecting me to continue doing what he should be doing.   So, not to be outdone, when I mowed this past time, I left a 6 inch strip between where he stopped and where I stopped.  Next time around, I will move it another foot back toward the line until I've re-established the true property line in the grass.  Oddly enough, it's not stealing anything tangible but it is stealing my time and violating unwritten patterns of responsibility for hopeful property owners.  My time, equipment and sweat is just as valuable as a man at least 20 years my junior.