Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guzzi Again

Surly sent me a link to a write up on this beautiful Moto Guzzi. This thing is slicker than snot on a doorknob and ain't but one thing slicker than that. Not sure why I've got the Jones as bad as I do for one of these but I sure do. The Moto Guzzi Museum looks like it would be a nice destination if a guy was touring Italy in the Lake Como region. If I ever go back, I'm heading up that way - been working on my Italian just in case.

And if I buy that Guzzi, I'm going to get me a pair of these Gasolina boots. They might be a little overkill riding around on a 125 Rapido but at only $189.00, they're a hell of a deal.

I really need to get busy and get something finished up for the street. It's time to scratch that motorcycle itch.

Took Thursday off to man the pumps, supposed to rain today and tomorrow as well. Compared to what those poor people in the south have gone through, a little water in the basement is nothing more than a little inconvenience. My heart goes out to them. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose everything. While that would be bad enough, the loss of life that has accompanied the storms is real the pisser.

The last time there was a tornado outbreak like this was in 1974. I remember that one. It destroyed much of Monticello, Indiana, including the Redman Lodge where we used to go every summer for the Putt/Bohannon reunion. My grandmother lived only about six blocks from there. Fortunately, she and the rest of my relatives were spared any real damage. My cousin in Brandenburg, Kentucky wasn't so fortunate. She was killed when that tornado destroyed her beauty shop and much of the downtown area. Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress.

Again, my heart goes out to them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Hot Damn!

The Not Quite
Royal Wedding

Making good progress on the aerator job. I got the dethatcher hung on the back of it and it goes up and down pretty much like I planned it. As they used to say on the A Team: "I love it when a plan comes together". We fixed a few other things this week, like always. A couple more broken desks in that endless parade, a tamper for the baseball team, and an old Jon boat I welded up during Open Shop. Hoping to get started on a couple of my own things soon while the boys are steppin' and fetchin' trying to get some of their required work done.

The barn is back in the schedule for the Building Trades class. They got a couple of the trusses set yesterday in between the raindrops. The weather's been terrible for outside construction projects and we've got more rain forecast for today. If it keeps up, I'm going to be manning the pumps down the basement. Installing the sump pump is definitely on the "to do" list for this summer. Only had water down there twice before but that's about three times too many. I've got the pump and the sump, just haven't been real eager to bust a hole in the basement floor. With these old houses, you never know what you're going to run into.

I talked to one of the IT people on embedding a couple of instructional videos on Moodle. It looks like all of us here will be required to put our lessons on Moodle next year. If I'm going to be forced to do that, I'd like it to be somewhat useful. Since the majority of our time is spent welding, I'm not sure of the value of putting up something like "welding a tee joint in the vertical position with an E-6011 electrode" is going to be. If the kid is too sick to come to school, not much point in putting welding assignments up for him to do at home. Plus, I'd rather his dad wasn't doing the welding for him at home, if he actually had access to a machine. I was talking to the Building Trades Instructor at lunch and he's kind of at a loss also as to what he's going to do. The trouble with this one size fits all approach to education is that it usually never fits anyone well. Hopefully, someone, somewhere, can show me the light. The IT guy is supposed to get back to me and I can get started on it over summer vacation. I'm sure it won't be the top priority but I just want "My Man Mitch" to know that I actually do school things on my own time.

So there's the latest. Good news on the project front, maybe bad news on the water front, and Moodle has become my new sword of Damoclese. And in this case, it really could be worse, it could be raining.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Better Days Are Coming

Magnolia Blossom

Two of my magnolia trees are of age to blossom out. The one was really pretty this year. I did have another tree get it's first blossom this year. It should be a real pretty tree in the next couple of years. I've got 5 or 6 of them planted, all different varieties. The peach and apple trees will be blooming next. They're always a treat. I'm a big fan of trees and if you're going to have trees, they might as well do something productive, besides the obvious things of shade and the whole respiration process they do so well. In fact, I was wondering the other day while mowing how many trees I would have to have to be carbon neutral as far as the lawn mower goes? Not that I really give a hoot about being carbon neutral. I'm more interested in having a windbreak, shade, beauty and fruit. Plus I'm just naturally cheap. Most things that conserve energy also conserve dollars. The CO2 + trees = Oxygen thing is just a bonus. I'm still curious though.

Looks like more rain in the forecast the next couple of days. Hopefully it will ease up so I can start working up the garden. I've got lots of things planned for this summer outside and I'd like to get going on a few of them. I've got lots to do, period, but it's always that way. Chickens will be here soon, so I need to get that going. I picked up the stuff to wire up the apple grinder, so I can finish that up. I've got a couple of photography projects I want to do. Now that my cold has about run it's course and the chest thing is healing up, maybe the nice weather will get me going.

I got a good start on the aerator/dethatcher project yesterday. I'll start tacking things together today. I should be at the point I'll know for sure if my engineering efforts are going to pan out by tomorrow at the latest. If things look good, it'll be done by the end of the week or first of next week. Of course every time I say that, something else shows up - sort of like this project did - and my schedule goes all to hell. That's OK, though. Better days are coming.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Busy Week, Again

It seems like all of them have been pretty busy lately. I had something going on every night - gym on Monday, Open Shop on Tuesday, retirement seminar on Wednesday, meeting with the superintendent and gym on Thursday. All that on top of a cold I've been nursing for the last week. Glad I've got today off. The retirement seminar was put on by the state pension group. I picked up on a couple of new things plus they recommend having a face to face meeting two years prior to retirement. That's me - I think I can swing getting out a few years early. The way things are going and the way my mental health is responding, I probably should, whether I can afford it or not. I'm not exactly the most positive of employees any more. That's liable to get worse on Monday night after the school board meets. Depending on what the superintendent's recommendation is, I might lose a couple of days off my contract. I understand the reasoning for it but they haven't been giving us much to be happy about lately.

The job itself has been going well, however. We fixed and patched a few things this week and because the weather has been so crappy, the boys haven't gone into full-blown laziness yet. The fact that progress reports came out this week probably helped as well. We cut an earring/piercing thing off a young lady. It wasn't in the lobe of the ear but in the part right in front of the ear canal. First one of those I've done. We put some pieces of channel on the side of a trailer - kind of like stake pockets but for tie-downs. One of the maintenance guys brought in an aerator and a dethatcher that he wants us to marry. I spent a little time on the mechanics seat with my coffee cup staring at it and I think I've got it figured out. It needs to be adjustable so he can use either the aerator or the dethatcher independently of each other. We'll start on that Monday. I sharpened up a big Forstner bit for the guy in the woodshop. Nothing too scientific, just a little judicious filing. The boys finished up the cart for the new TIG welder except we forgot to make provisions for hanging the cables up. No biggy, but that's not like me to forget something like that. Too much on my mind right now. I took a couple of pictures of the projects but for some reason the computer won't read the camera card this morning. A photo of a piece of 5" channel welded to the side of an old rusty trailer isn't that glamorous anyway.

The weather today looks like 40's and rain so I won't get much done outside but I've got plenty to keep me busy inside. Tomorrow looks better. I need to mow, of course I need to fix the mower first. I got the front yard cut the other day and when I went to get the thing started to cut the back, I managed to burn the starter out of it. It's eight years old and this is only the second thing that has gone wrong that I had to spend any money on so I guess that's pretty good, actually.

Have a good Easter and enjoy some time with family and friends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Educational Philosophy, Part 2

I saw this quote at Cay Broendum's blog:

I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day.
I haven't had time for tobacco since.

How you going to argue with logic like that?

I wish it were possible to go back in time and see what made men like Toscanini, Elbert Hubbard, Glenn Curtis, Thomas Edison, and countless other creative people tick. What kind of education did they receive? What kind of driving force was behind Buckminster Fuller? He didn't worry about the ISTEP test or the SAT. What drove George Washington Carver or Luther Burbank to succeed? Is there greatness in all of us? Did they succeed in spite of their education or because of it? Bill Gates is spreading a lot of money around to improve education but is money the answer?

There have always been great men and women, I suppose. Many come from terrible circumstances but rise above it and others have it on a silver platter and end up in the gutter. My buddy Kevin and I were talking after school the other day rehashing our Italy trip and talking about wanting to learn more about some of the people and places we came across. I mentioned that schools leave so much out and he responded with words to the effect that there's just so much out there and we're the exceptions in that we're always hungry for more. Three out of the four of us who traveled together have been burning through books related to our trip since we came home. I'm not sure about the fourth because she's in Spain learning Spanish and traveling all over learning more.

Maybe that "everything is interesting" idea is the answer. There's very little I don't find interesting and certainly those I traveled with think the same way. We all have different interests, but yet we all are interested in the same things, if that makes any sense. I'm really disheartened by what's occurring now in mainstream education. However, I'm encouraged by some of the alternatives that are coming along. If I wasn't such an old fart. I'd seriously consider starting a charter school. For a dollar a year, I'll be able to rent a space from my school corporation and they'll have to maintain it once all the new laws get passed. I can see it now - like a Montessori school only with power tools. "Everything is interesting and we can build anything." I'm thinking those Brightworks guys are on to something.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Educational Philosophy

Traveling Pirate posted a comment the other day about education in Finland. Seems they still value vocational education highly. Actually, they seem to value education in general quite highly. I also received an e-mail from the Chicago Tinkering School the next day. And as these things often go, it had a link to Brightworks, a new school opening in San Francisco. As this was the first I had heard of Brightworks, I clicked on the link and checked it out. On the bottom of their home page are two statements that certainly fit in with my educational philosophy: everything is interesting, we can build anything.

Those two statements seem to be a great foundation on which to build a school. Everything is interesting - somethings are just more interesting than others. And of course our interests are colored by our experiences and how we're introduced to a subject. I've noticed over the years that many high school kids are very close-minded. If it's not exactly what they're interested in on that day, it really doesn't matter what you do, they don't want to hear about it. They limit their learning experiences and end up graduating high school knowing very little about anything.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know why I identify with the "we can build anything" statement. Because we can. And have. The State of Indiana is currently busy writing laws that are designed to improve public education. The reality is that they are dismantling public education. Instead of focusing legislative reform on removing the impediments to learning, they have decided that it's the union's fault that kids aren't learning. Rather than me rehashing the stupidity of what's going on, let's take a moment and present another scenario.

The little tykes go off to school and they are just tickled to death. They do the original cut and paste, they draw, they sing songs, they do the ABC's, and they learn because everything is interesting. As they age and work through the grades, they continue to be exposed to anything that is interesting. That should be easy, everything is interesting. They also continue to build things. They go from gluing cotton ball clouds on construction paper to woodworking, metalworking, photography, bookbinding, leatherworking, gardening, fishing, hiking, you name it -just keep throwing it at them so they are exposed to a variety of stimuli and they are using their developing skills to build things. Any thing. When they graduate from high school they will have been exposed to all kinds of things by pursuing what interested them and what interested their teachers. They will have developed the skills to build all types of things because they built all types of things. They will have used their math concepts, learned some electronics, woodworking, welding, machining, etc., and since they didn't learn these skills and concepts in isolation, they can apply them wherever they fit or as need arises.

The damned concept is so simple, anyone should be able to grasp it. When you're out fishing, you don't have to talk about fish. When you're out hiking, you can talk about geology but you don't have to. Everything is interesting. So let's discuss it. And let's build something to go along with it. Let's build lots and lots of things. Everything is interesting. If you can build anything, you have to know about everything. Really simple. Done properly, it could go a long way to mitigate the effects of poverty, race and other impediments to educational success.

I'm really glad to see there is some movement in the right direction. I'm not sure if Brightworks will be the answer but it's definitely going in the right direction. Finland has been kicking our ass for awhile now and instead of squaring off against them and seeing what we can do to get on top, we look at the thing least likely to make it better and go with that.

So the answers to improving education are out there, it just requires some decent leadership to implement. The state legislature is absolutely clueless as to what they're doing., so they're no help. Instead, just keep the level of interest up and the kids will damn near teach themselves. Blow up all the computers in the buildings unless they are being used as a tool such as part of a CNC milling program. Get the kids outside as much as possible. And put some creative people in charge. People that are interested in everything and can build anything. I know they're out there. Hell, that describes most of my friends and family.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Miss Lube Rack

Those dudes from the '50's had it goin' on.

The Wisdom of the Hands blog had the following:

Indicating the rich, warm patina of a tremendous plank table in his kitchen, he (Odate) mentioned the idea of the “user’s finish”—the fact that no piece is really complete until, 50, 100, or 300 years down the road, the thousands of users’ hands handling a piece have given it the true finish, one that the maker could not give when the piece was assembled. It speaks of the present-day craftsman imbuing his or her work with their intention and sense of social responsibility, and projecting that skill and care towards the future, where further generations will be able to feel the woodworker’s spirit with them still.
While the quote is talking about woodworking, the same thing happens with metal. Brass and copper develop a nice patina but where it is constantly being touched it shines up and the sharp corners become nicely rounded. That's when it develops the real beauty. Kinda like Miss Lube Rack - nicely rounded. We all need to feed the creative beast within. As Mr. Stowe says: make, fix and create.

The Golden Gloves tourney is over so I'll have a little more time to work on things now. Hoping to get after a couple of the motorcycle projects real soon. The chest/back thing is still giving me some grief but I could ride a motorcycle. I've been longing to get back on a bicycle now that the weather's turning nice and the gas prices have gone up. One way or the other, I need to be commuting on two wheels.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spiral Stair

There's been some good progress on the project front lately. We welded up the roller they use for the baseball field, fixed the upright for the pole vault - we fixed the other side not too long ago - welded up a chair for one of the substitutes, fixed the trailer the construction class uses to deliver sheds, made a shelf for the MIG feeder and they should finish up the cart for the new TIG welder tomorrow, and I got the spiral stair painted during Open Shop the other night. It looks pretty sexy. The boys did a real fine job. They didn't get as many jobs this year due to the construction but since we've been moving quite a few little things through, they're getting some experience. I've got a job lined up for next week but the only other things in the shop are the Rickati and the big ass log splitter. I need to fire up the ambition machine so I'll get back on those. The log splitter needs a little more engineering work before I can put the boys on it and the bike needs a couple of pieces machined up for the back wheel. Other than a seat and hooking up the back brake, that job is pretty close to being done.

I've been working on upgrading my curriculum as well. Some of it was mandated but as long as I was changing things around, I figured I might as well work on a couple of other things I've been kicking around in my head for awhile. I'm working on writing up my own instructional guides for the MIG and TIG welders for openers. Eventually I want to write my own text for the class. Basically it'll be a condensed version of a couple books that I currently use. The present textbooks are too difficult for most of these guys and there is a bunch of information we don't ever look at. I'm preparing a few Power Point presentations even though I can't show them. In fact, I got a new DVD from Lincoln Electric and I can't use it because my computer doesn't even have a DVD player in it. I'm assuming that will change some time in the future but even if I'm gone before it happens, I might try to come up with something I can market in the future. Welding DVD's from most sources are pretty expensive. A text that high school kids can read, along with how to video on the various welding processes might go over big. Especially if it's reasonably priced.

The Building Trades boys will be back on the barn project pretty soon. I'm not sure they'll be able to get the whole thing sheeted but as long as the roof's on it, I can take it from there. I bought the big doors the other day and I talked to a guy about buying all the sheet metal and trim. I think that'll be the way to go. Everything will be cut to length and the package will include all the trim and screws, etc. I'll have to wait and see on the price he quotes me.

I'm taking a fighter down to the Golden Gloves tomorrow night - last night of the 2011 tourney. We add another night when the tourney's going on, so I don't have much free time then. I need to get quite a bit done around the shack this year, so I have to start getting after it. That's the price I have to pay for galavanting all over the place during my spring break and the last few summers.

At least Spring is here, of course now I have to start cutting grass with the $4.00/gallon gas. Since the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, I need to figure out where to put a fence.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Farm City

We had a two hour fog delay Thursday morning which allowed me to finish the book I've been reading, Farm City - The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. It's a relatively new book, 2009, about a young couple who move into a pretty rundown area of Oakland, California. They live in the upstairs apartment on a dead end street with a weed infested vacant lot next to them. The author, Novella, and her boyfriend progress gradually towards becoming small scale urban farmers by first clearing the lot and planting a garden and then they add animals to the mix. They start with a few chickens and then add bees, turkeys, ducks, rabbits and eventually a couple of pigs.

It's an entertaining adventure that describes her neighbors that include Buddhists monks, a man living in a car that's missing it's wheels, and a Vietnamese couple among others. The property is close to an expressway and gunfire can be heard on a pretty regular basis. Towards the end of the book, a gentrification starts to close in on them and the vacant lot is put up for sale for the ridiculous sum of $488,000.

The book details the trials and tribulations of learning how to grow a decent garden and how to raise animals, including the process of turning protein on the hoof into protein on the plate. I enjoyed the book for a couple of reasons. First of all, I used to work in a neighborhood not too different from that. I had the luxury of leaving every day after work but I understood the dynamics of the area. So I have at least some appreciation for what they were doing. Secondly, I admire the effort they put into the farming operation and the learning curve required to pull the whole thing off. Plus, how many people would actually tackle buying and caring for a couple of Durocs? It really showed what could be done if you really wanted to grow your own food with a minimum of space. Before I moved here to the country, I lived only seven blocks from the town square but the house across the street had a building in back that at one time was home to a cow. That was long before I lived there but even so, it used to be fairly common place.

Lots of people are starting to do similar things and a few city ordinances have been modified to allow a few chickens in the backyard as long as there aren't any roosters crowing. There's really no reason not to do a little gardening or keep a few rabbits to supplement your food supply or just have a worthwhile hobby that will get you outside and moving a little. The Missus used to work for a county park and inner city kids would come there on school tours and for many of them, it was the first and maybe only time they'll ever see a pig. Everyone should know where pork chops come from.

It's a good read and if you click the link above it'll take you to Amazon where you can buy it for something like three bucks.

The weather is supposed to be warm this weekend, so I'm planning on getting outside and working up some of the garden myself. I've got my chicks ordered, so I need to get my brooder in shape for delivery in a month, also. I planted my tomato seeds, some acorns and a couple of magnolia seeds. I've tried before to get the magnolias to sprout but so far, no luck. Hopefully, something will happen this time.

Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back in The Saddle

Photo From Ebay Listing For Ad

I'm in the last nine weeks of the school year which means they all turn stupid from here on out. I mean even the good ones go bad. Once the weather warms up and they can feel the end of the school year is close, they all act like their in rut. That being the case, I've learned over the years not to take any big projects unless I want to finish them myself. So I've got a couple of little things I started the boys on to keep them busy. Nothing too difficult and I'll work on getting a few of the other things tidied up around the place.

A couple of them are finishing the handrail on the spiral stair. They did real well on the first section but after taking the week off for Spring Break they seem to be struggling a little on the second piece. As I stated, this was to be expected a little. I've got a couple of them making a cart for the new TIG welder and a couple of them making a little shelf to put a MIG feeder on in one of the welding booths. I got the little race car chassis finished up and we've been fixing desks for the middle school - about twenty of them. Fixed a little cart for the lunch ladies. That's always good because they pay off in cookies.

Hopefully I'll have some time to work on a couple of my own things yet this year. I've got some school teaching things I do with the vocational guys at the end of the year - resumes, job applications and some writing assignments that they need to complete - but mostly it's them screwing off until the last minute and then there's a mad dash to get enough stuff done to get their credit. Nothing new here, I was pretty much the same way when I was in high school.

I got a registered letter in the mail from the school corporation about shortening up my contract. As long as I have health insurance they can shorten it up all they want. I'm not crazy about the reduction in pay but I've been through this kind of thing in the past. With all the other people that are laid off out there, I'm pretty fortunate.

Gas prices are almost $4.00/gallon again (put $100.00 in the truck and almost filled the tank), so I think I'm going to drag out my little Harley Rapido like in the vintage ad above and see about getting that running. I was considering getting a motor kit for a bicycle but I might as well ride the Rapido around. It should get about 70 mpg and it's just going to rust away otherwise. It ran last time I fiddled with it. It needed a couple of things but I think I've got everything I need - new air cleaner, etc. Surly drug it out the other day to take some photos of it for a project he's working on and that got the wheels turning. It'd be a fun ride back and forth to work or to the gym. I don't want to start another project but this one would be just get it running and not worry about a restoration. I could have this thing running and get it plated for about the price of one tankful of gas in the truck. Three times the mileage at least and a lot more fun than the truck.

Ordered my chickens the other day and bought some seeds for the garden. Time to get going on that project. I want to get either some cedar boards or some cement blocks and make a raised bed for the new addition. I bought a well point and some pipe a couple of years ago. I want to get the well put in this year to water the garden and the animals. Plus I'll have a backup if the power goes out. The Building Trades class is about done with their house, so they'll be back on my barn project again. I'm glad the weather's turning. Time to get outside and get some things done. If you don't have a garden, it would be a good time to get one going, food prices are going up and you can't beat a good home grown tomato or a fresh cantaloupe right from the garden. Might be time for me to reread Five Acres and Independence. It's dated but there's still plenty of good info there.

I noticed quite a few errors in my last post, mostly the there/their deal. I usually try to write a post and then revisit it before I post. The last couple I've just typed up and went with them instead of giving them a cooling off period and a rereading. I fixed the most obvious errors so you might want to read it again. I really need to watch that stuff.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recap IV


Gladiator School

The Dome of St. Peter's Church as We approached

Inside the Church

The Pantheon

Arrivederci Roma

The last two days of the big Italian vacation were spent in Rome. What a great way to end the tour.

The first thing we did upon arrival was stop and get a bite to eat at the student cafeteria that's part of the University there. I had a salami sandwich with mozzarella cheese that was toasted on a grill to warm it up. The cheese was very white in color and had a different texture than the mozzarella that we get locally. Tasted real good and was only 4 Euros, which was a real good deal compared to some of the places we ate.

After lunch we walked across the street to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. The Coliseum was amazing. Huge place - seated about 50,000 people. The walls had a bunch of holes in them that were the result of pulling the reinforcing metal out and melting it down for coins. It's curious that it's still standing for the most part, meaning that it was extremely well constructed, yet it fell into disrepair. I guess if you're not slaying lions or feeding the Christians to them, there's not much need for a coliseum of that size. What they needed was a football team. Or better yet, an ice hockey team. It was, after all, the son of Italian immigrants who invented the Zamboni.

After our tour there we headed to Gladiator School. The students all got a chance to learn something of the history of the gladiators and the weapons they used and then got a little training in sword fighting. They had a few sword fights using plastic swords to try out their technique. The students all seemed to really enjoy it and we all got certificates testifying that we are honorary Roman citizens.

After that is was off to the hotel and a late dinner that was one of the best of the trip. Pasta with broccoli, roast turkey with green beans, salad, and chocolate cake for dessert. We also had breakfast there at the hotel and they served a nice buffet. They had crostatta on the menu here as well. I've got to get the Missus to make some of this stuff. Really good.

Our first stop on the last day of touring was the Vatican. Tour groups get fast tracked into the place as long as they've made a reservation about six months in advance. Otherwise, it's stand in line for as much as two hours. At the height of the tourist season they run about 20,000 people per day thru there. We got our headsets and our local tour guide and took right off.

We went into the Sistine Chapel and this was really my only disappointment with the trip. The ceiling and frescoes were recently cleaned and the colors were extremely vibrant - not at all dark like I thought it would be from photos I'd seen. The work itself truly is a masterpiece but there's not supposed to by any photography or talking in the chapel. It was noisier than hell in there! The guard told everyone several times no talking and made a sushing sound several times as well. Maybe Jerusalem is a more sacred place for those of Christian faith but I'm thinking the Sistine Chapel located in Vatican City certainly deserves a little more respect than it was getting. There were a couple of women sitting along the edge who were just gabbing away in Italian. When their husbands came up, they joined in as well. They were older people who should have known better and it was obvious that they weren't rude Americans, either. A bunch of people were snapping pictures on the end away from the guards. What's wrong with people that they can't keep their big mouths shut for a few minutes in church? Michelangelo spent four years painting the thing. You would think people could respect his effort and, once again, the fact that it's a church. I was really pissed off when I went out of there. Probably not the best emotion to have leaving a chapel, but I was just in awe of the work and very thankful that I got a chance to see it and then all these jackasses are gabbing away like it's just some everyday thing.

After leaving the chapel we went to St. Peter's church. It's a huge building, very ornate inside and talking and photography were permitted. Probably just as well, you wouldn't be able to stop them from doing either anyway. I saw were the smoke comes from when they select a new Pope and where the Pope stands when addressing the masses - several different spots, actually. After leaving the church we were hustled out of Vatican City and led to a place to buy souvenirs. We never hit the official Vatican gift shop, so I didn't get a chance to get something for the Missus there. Caught me off guard but nothing I could do about that. I did mail a couple of postcards to people and they got the official Vatican cancellation. Or at least I think they did.

After our lunch break we went to see the Pantheon and a church decorated with human bones. No talking or photographs at this church either. And, of course, someone in our group decided to sneak a photograph. This would have been the same idiot who was checking his cell phone messages in the Sistine Chapel and trying to take photographs.

We had dinner at the "White Hen" - Gallina Blanco - with gallina being a hen as opposed to pollo being a chicken. Surprise - the food was real good. Same type of fare: bread, salad, pasta, entree (roast turkey), dessert. As a side note, I just ordered some baby chicks, Golden Comets, so I'll have the gallina oro pretty soon. If I could just have the gallina that layed the golden eggs, there'd be a whole lot more travel in my schedule. After dinner we hiked/bussed back to the hotel and prepared for an early departure.

I hated to leave but I hated to keep going at the breakneck speed at which we were traveling. It would have been nice to go back to Florence or Sorrento for a few days/weeks/months and just relax. The weather was fast approaching the best time of their Spring. Buy myself a Ducati or Guzzi and get out in the country, send for the Missus and never go home. OK, that might be a bit much, especially at my advanced age, but wait, isn't that what people do when they retire? Screw a bunch of Arizona or Florida, retire to Italy. Someplace near the south with the really cool cycling areas, both motor and bi, just a few hours drive away to the north. It'll never happen, but as they say in the movies, that's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Arrivederci Italia

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recap III

Tower at Pisa

Elizabeth at Vesuvius

Remains at Pompeii

View at Capri

Inside Church at Sorrento

After leaving Florence, the tour took us to Sorrento for a couple of nights. While here we also visited Pisa, Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, and the Isle of Capri.

Sorrento is a relatively small town of about 17,000 people. We didn't spend much time in the city proper because we were traveling to other destinations much of the time. If I ever have the chance to go back, I'd like to check it out a little closer. Because it's a little smaller than a few of the other cities we visited, the scale lends itself to walking and looking around.

On the way to Sorrento we stopped at Pisa. In addition to the Leaning Tower, there is also a church and a baptistery. The tower is neat - started about 1000 years ago - and the construction was interrupted but they continued even though the thing was leaning already. The acoustics inside the baptistery were phenomenal. A lady came in and did a little vocal thing and the whole inside of the place was reverberating perfectly. The adjacent church was likewise amazing. It was chock full of beautiful art and craftsmanship. The walls upon entering were covered with huge oil paintings. The pulpit was supported by beautiful statues. It was the most striking building that I had ever been in.

We visited Mt. Vesuvius, the cause of the destruction at Pompeii. It has an eruption every 50 years or so, so it's due for another blast. Lots of people living in the vicinity but supposedly there's an evacuation plan in place. Personally, I think I'd find someplace else to live. The road leading up to the parking area was a real doozy. Our bus driver charged right up there, however. The hike to the top was a little strenuous but I took it easy as to not over tax the chest and made it up just fine. Incredible view from the top. You could see a little steam rising from one part of the crater. Nice reminder that it was a volcano not just a big mountain with a crater in the top of it.

The visit to Pompeii was interesting. A whole city buried under a layer of ash that was very well preserved. Unfortunately, since it's been uncovered, it's no longer protected and is open to the elements and consequent decay. Some of it has a roof over overhead but most of it doesn't. It was a pretty advanced city with shops and a whore house. The streets had a couple of phallic symbols pointing the way to the whore house and inside the house of ill repute there were paintings on the wall with different sexual positions. That made for some awkward moments with a group of high school kids. They had a couple of people under glass that were captured just as they were as they died. They experienced not only the ash falling down on them but also poisonous gas. Rather gruesome, to say the least.

The Isle of Capri was really nice. It was a little early for the tourist season and there was a lot of sprucing up going on getting things ready. It was a beautiful day while we were there and I had the chance to just walk around and shoot some pictures. The funicular wasn't running that day so we had to take a bus to the upper level but that was fine with me. Once again the view from on top was gorgeous. We took a ferry ride back to Sorrento and it was a little chilly once the sun started going down and, once again, here too I was reminded how dumb young people can be when it comes to dressing for the weather. There was a young lady, not one of ours, who had on short shorts and a light sweater who looked as if she was real close to hypothermia. I took a look at all the locals when I first got there and saw a lot of heavy coats so I figured there must be a reason for it and planned accordingly. The Italians, with their keen sense of fashion, apparently realize that standing around shivering is not all that glamorous. As a nod to fashion and the fact that I was a chaperone, I didn't even take a pair of jeans nor did I wear a Kromer - totally out of character for me but it was after all, Italy.

The last stop was Rome. I'll get that in the next and last installment.