Knife Fighting

On my first visit to Japan, which was in 2001 I think, I bought a kitchen knife.

This knife has brought me happiness and joy ever since. She has been my companion in  the kitchen for 20 years.

She is made from soft, not stainless steel. This means she can be sharpened to razor edge very easily.

She is now old and the ever present Okinawan decay syndrome, has hit her hard.

I am very pleased to remember the word “Tang”. This is like the steel part of a knife that goes into the handle. I cannot remember the name of the person I have just been introduced to, but I can remember instantly obscure knife terminology .

Her tang has had a hard life.

I clean her up and introduce her to the new handle. I am not the first to experience knife trouble and replacement handles are easily found.

I insert the tang into the new handle. I then drop the set up onto a hard floor. This drives the tang into the handle.


DSC_5941 (1).jpg

I love my knife. Back in action.


So, many thanks knife. I hope we can  work together for years.


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Rank and Gross

So, Monday was a very busy day. I have to go to OIST, en route, I pass what was once a wonderful vegetable garden.

Not now.


Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.

I so hope that the old lady who tended it is OK.

My former workmates have invited me to the divisional meeting to present me with a souvenir of the good old days.


It is a book


It chronicles my time at OIST in pictures and kind comments.


These are the best people. Thank you.

I then have lunch with Julia who is 9 months pregnant. She is beautiful and I wish I had taken a photo. We have a wonderful time and try not to laugh too hard, so as not to precipitate labour.

However, no more frivolity, as I wait at the boatyard to transfer the boat from one trailer to a higher one. This is quite an operation. My trailer is low, which means that I cannot get at the bottom of the boat and importantly cannot attempt to lower the center plate. The center plate, I fear, is heavily corroded and probably jammed. I need height to persuade it to drop. This is a bit like having a baby.


We pull the boat to the massive boat lift.


We pass the slings under her and gently ease her skyward. All of this is done with typical merriment and good cheer.


How does she feel?

Tabata san has lent me a higher trailer, not as high as I might have hoped, but sufficient to play with center plate and, with great suppleness, scrape and sand, the bottom of the boat in preparation for painting on anti-fouling.


Petit a petit l’oiseau fait son nid.


Archival picture. You can just see corroded center plate protruding a few inches below the keel. This will be the focus of my interest over the next days. I hope few days.

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My Room

I fortuitously rented an apartment in San Francisco in 2010. This was probably the best thing I ever did. It is a wonderful place.


The house is divided into 4 apartments. Ours is bottom left. My room is the one with open curtains .

There are four bedrooms, a big kitchen, bathroom, and an outside porch that houses the washing machine, the dryer and James’ workshop. From my room I look right out onto the Panhandle.

The Panhandle has the oldest trees in San Francisco, they are big and beautiful.


Panhandle just in front of the house. Jimi Hendrix once played  a free concert right here.

Anyway, the room has not had a good clean for 8 years or so and I determine to repaint it. I buy a can of paint that has eggshell written on it. The slightly off white beigey color of my imagined eggshell is the shade I am looking for.


It turns out that the paint is Artic white in hue and eggshell only in the texture of the of the final finish.

This is no good as it makes the room surgical and the wonderful white door surrounds, window surrounds and associated beading are lost.  I finish painting the whole room thinking that this will make a good undercoat for the next attempt.

I go to the paint shop on Divisadero and scrutinize the color charts minutely. I find a shade that corresponds to my dream color of muted sand and tramp home with the paint.


The paint turns out to be bright yellow.

Anyway, I paint the whole room again and it actually looks good. However I cannot sleep at night. I toss and turn and groan through nightmares of the landlady throwing us out of the apartment because I have broken the contract by painting the room, which indeed we are not strictly allowed to do. The chrome yellow would be seen immediately, no way can I keep it a secret, so it has to go.


Third repainting of the room in 2 weeks. James helps. We restore it to the original color.

This time James chooses the color at the paint shop. He is an artist, he understands pigment.


The bay window, looking out on park, still has original sash windows.

So I paint the room 3 times in 2 weeks.


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Hard Road

James has to get back to work so we set off early for San Francisco.


In russet mantle clad

This time we are going to take a very difficult track up to Mengel’s Pass, then back down towards Panamint Valley, stopping off at the ranch where Charlie Manson and his ‘family’ were finally arrested.


James nails it.


Bing bang bosh

It is at times a very scary drive as there are big boulders, deep pits, strange cambers, steep hills going up and equally steep hills going down.


Crash bang wallop


We finally make it to Mengel’s Pass


It is very windy on the summit

The trip down to Panamint Valley is equally nail biting.


Photo does not capture the steepness nor the depth of the holes.


Charles Manson was here

We then have an equally difficult drive over the Slate Range on the appropriately named Slate Range Trail, which eventually dumps us near Trona. From there to Bakersfield,  then we hammer up 5 to get home around 8:00.

What a trip! Thank you Tacoma, you earned your off road spurs.

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But Now I am Cabined, Cribbed, Confined

We go over to the cabin the next morning and the people have shipped out so it is ours.


Cabin from behind


From in front, later in the day.

The cabin has become much more civilized since I first stayed here.

Better furniture, camp beds, lots of food, solar panel driven electric light and sound system, even a jar full of grass. I don’t like this, preferring the more frontier atmosphere of yesteryear. That said, Geologist Cabin is still the best place in the world.




Way in


The sink

James climbs Striped Butte!


Bravo James!

I look for birds.


Too lazy to look up what these are.



Idyllic day.


We find a Mule skull!




Last sun on Striped Butte.

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Powdering Our Noses

Gassed up, we drive down through Death Valley heading down to Sweet Water Canyon where we will head off into the Badlands. The scenery is majestic.


Where is your sting?


Indiana Jones hat

The big crunch comes at the turn off into Sweet Water Valley, the fractured trail up to the Geologist’s Cabin, because the gate is closed and locked. I know this place from old. There is a wash just beyond the gate, which in rainy weather is uncrossable and so cuts the road.

We drive around the gate and down to the wash, as we thought, it is totally crossable.


You must be kidding

So, here we start the real stuff, as we batter the Tacoma up the rocky, sandy, desert trail, which is sprinkled with abandoned mines.


James is very good at this kind of thing.


This is a talc mine. James did not know what Talcum powder was. When did Talc disappear?

We continue up the mountain without accident, as wild mules, ancestors abandoned by prospectors, er a long time ago, detachedly look on.



Anyway, we finally get to the cabin after some 600 miles of travel only to find it is occupied by other travelers. It is a bit like Scott arriving at the South Pole only to find that Amundsen is already there.


Are we downhearted? No!

Oh well, we head off into the desert to camp. I tell you, if you like camping then Butte Valley has to be one of the best places – amazing views, perfect sites and that sort of thing.


Our campsite.


View from camp

Perfect camping.


We start cooking


Tri tip and roast potatoes


James carves ju ju doll


Happiness and joy

We sleep out, looking up at an astounding sky packed with stars. At 3:00 it starts to rain, so we scamper into the flat bed of the truck and slumber on in the freshest of air.

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Valley Boys

So, James and I head out to Death Valley. The goal is to stay in the exceptional  Geologist’s Cabin.

Tacoma loaded, we blast over to Sacramento and then take 50 over the Sierras. Up through the pines into the snow with a deep blue sky above, we go.


Over the Sierras

Down the other side to hit 395 and then cruise all the way down the other side of the Sierras. It is a beautiful  day and we have huge snow covered mountains to the right and desert to the left. One of the great drives.

We try to drive up to Bodie but the main access road is closed because of snow but I know a back way and we drive around back trials, gleeful at having beaten the man until, well on the way up, the road is blocked by impassable concrete blocks. Rats!


Hard to think that the road is blocked by snow. I mean we are wearing Tshirts.

However we take at tramp around Mono Lake, which is amazing.


James at Mono Lake.


Mono Lake 

We have no plan other than drive down towards Death Valley until we get fed up. It is getting dark and we are getting vaguely fed up as we gallop into Big Pine. The town looked quiet, indeed  strangely quiet. We stop at a motel and ask if they have a room. It takes us a surprisingly long time to notice the candle burning on the counter. They cannot rent us a room because there is no electricity.

Strange experience a U.S. town with no power – McDonalds with no golden arches, no street lights, all gas stations closed, everything closed.

We have no option but to keep driving. It is pitch black as we roar up the 40 miles to Panamint Springs, there is no light anywhere. There is a total blackout over this part of California.  We  finally see lights ahead. It is Panamint Springs, a gas station, restaurant and camp site on the edge of Death Valley.  Their power comes from generators. We camp.


Dawn at Panamint Springs

Up and off but we do not buy gas as it is much cheaper 40 miles away in Stovepipe Wells down in the valley. Beautiful drive into Death Valley descending from 6000ft to sea level with massive vistas at least the size of  Belgium. Regretfully, there is no power in Stovepipe Springs and so no gas. Fundamental rule of desert adventure is to set off into the backcountry with as much gas as possible so we turn around and head back to Panamint Springs.


Glug, glug, glug at Panamint.

Hmmm, strange start.

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