Saturday, April 30, 2011

Deadhorse Alaska Updater

The temperatures are ranging from around 15 below to 15 above right now. If the wind isn’t blowing, it’s a surprisingly pleasant walk from camp to my truck and back.


We have about 17-1/2 hours between sunrise and sunset already; that translates to about 19 hours of daylight. We have rainbows, sometimes, that encircle the sun. It reminds me of Saturn, but with a multi-colored ring. This morning I had another of those verbal “WOW” moments. The sun not only had a rainbow, but a column of rainbow that went straight up from the top. It was really fantastic to see.

The roads are almost completely clear of snow and ice and the gravel is flying everywhere when a bigger vehicle passes you on the road. Last week I had a perfect windshield. Today I have a half dozen pits and a crack to see the world through, and all from oncoming vehicles.

With the warmer weather we may get more snow and wind. When I came up for the first time last May, the roads were covered with snow and ice. There was new snow almost every morning and blowing/drifting snow sometimes made roads impassable. I don’t know if that will happen again this year, or if we are having an early spring and all that is done. Every morning there is a light dusting of snow on my truck. A couple of mornings ago, it was very foggy, or so it seemed. It was really ultra fine snow. The only way you can tell is that it accumulates. When the snow is that fine, sometimes there will be sun shining or light from somewhere, and it make the snow look like glitter in the air.

We are beginning to see animals more regularly; but only the ones that are here year-round. They are moving about more, and of course, it’s daylight. There are the several solo caribou that hang out all year and lots of foxes. I had to come to a full stop this morning for a pair of Arctic Fox that were galloping down the middle of the road as though they were late for an appointment. I loved it. They looked very happy.

The last two mornings and yesterday evening I saw Ptarmigan. They are like giant quail, but solid white. Very pretty, too. These are the first ones I have seen, even though they are always here. In the next few weeks they will change color and will be almost impossible to see on the tundra. I wouldn’t have seen them now, except there is so much dust on the snow from the gravel, they looked like clean clumps in the gray. It would have been hard to miss them.

Deadhorse Connie

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Red Fox on Texas Avenue


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After getting spoiled in New Orleans by the French Quarter cuisine, my Bride and I decided it was time to check out Baytown’s upscale offering, namely The Red Fox on Texas Avenue. It’s located at 114 W. Texas and even though the road appears to be closed for restoration, there is ample parking in front of the restaurant.

In preparation for our visit, I downloaded their menu from their website and the first thing I noticed was how chic the layout and font choice was, but as one who writes, I may be bias. The food choices looked deliciously like something I would see in the French Quarter, albeit with a Texas Southern/Creole/coastal twist.

After being seated inside the beautifully decorated restaurant, I couldn’t make up my mind between the potato soup with bacon or the cheese and broccoli soup, but we both agreed we needed to taste the scrumptious sounding crab cakes. The ambience was a breath of fresh air over the mass-seating food joints in Baytown we are indoctrinated to expect. For years, it’s a common lament Baytown has no good restaurants. Not so anymore.

We were blessed to meet the owner Linda Stewart and Baytown Photo Club fellow members Gary Erwin and Elizabeth Caldwell having a bite to eat at a nearby table. Looking around the restaurant I couldn’t help but see how elegant and romantic the setting was. I told the owner that she was sitting on a gold mine and she agreed.

My Bride ordered the muffuletta, a New Orleans sandwich with fresh meats, provolone cheese, Italian olive salad, and delicious bread. I stayed with the potato soup and crab cakes. About this time we had more visitors, a fellow artist named Allen and Ken “the Dauber” Pridgeon. It appears the Red Fox is a good place to meet quality people while enjoying scrumptious food and excellent ambience.

Waving a goodbye, we left only to return soon for a romantic evening of dining in style…and eat some of those delectable desserts on the menu!

The Red Fox web site
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Mans Passion Brings Healing To Many


I paid a visit to one of Baytown's prized jewels, namely Ken "the Dauber" Pridgeon, a local artist on a mission to paint a large canvas of every military sacrificed G.I. from Texas in the Iraqi Freedom campaign.  Whew!  Ken is on Social Security and bears the cost of his passion, but the monetary side of it is minor in comparison to the burden of his soul as he embraces the sacrifice every airman, soldier, sailor, or Marine he paints.

Ken is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served in North Africa, but is quick to say that he was no hero.

His studio is lined with large paintings of men in uniform, all of whom paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  In his early works, he painted them in high school sports uniforms, or enjoying their various interests, but as the scope of his project grew, he began to focus exclusively on their military experience.  He is painting himself into a corner.  The amazing likenesses of our boys have filled the studio to the bursting point.

Ken poured tears on the floor as he told me their individual stories and I too, having lost me son to the effects of this war, was moved with grief for their sacrifice.

My own office is graced with one of Ken’s early paintings in this direction, one of my son Nick, after surviving an IED attack in Iraq.  Ken accurately portrayed my son with facial bandages and a burning Army vehicle and I am blessed to have it.
 
Ken has now painted 33 portraits at his expense.  He sends the parents or loved ones a high quality print free of charge and hopes to paint all 500+ lost military personnel from the state of Texas to honor them.  The only problem he foresees is where to exhibit the many canvases when the project is complete.

We both feel this is history in the making, but neither of us have a solution or the backing to make a permanent exhibition a reality.  Ken also worries the enormity of the project will tax his physical timeline.  I know one thing.  He paints from early in the day to late in the night and his passion to the project is stronger than ever.

If you have a solution to help “the Dauber”, please contact him at: 832-514-1452
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East Baker Road Expansion Clarified

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I sat down at city hall with Baytown city manager Bob Leiper - at his invitation, to clarify the plans to expand West Baker Road from North Main Street to Barkuloo Road.  Mr. Leiper made it crystal clear that this is the only plan the city has funding for at this time.

Using a large engineering blueprint he traced out the proposed path to Barkuloo Road.  I asked what exactly the road would entail and he replied it would be a boulevard with sidewalks on both sides and landscaping in the median and it would accommodate commercial property.  Eventually, it would pass directly south of Crockett Elementary with a 6 foot cyclone fence on the school side when the road is built to connect Crosby Cedar Bayou and Sjolander roads.

He stated the timeline would be approximately 18 months before construction begins and 12 months for completion.  This translates to approximately January 2014.

I was also informed the existing East Baker Road, which runs through Chaparral Village must regrettably be renamed and he predicts a neighborhood meeting (possibly at Crockett Elementary) to facilitate the new name with existing East Baker residents.  I suggested the city provide guidance for mail rerouting since many are long time residents.

The renaming of the existing road will prevent mix-up by commercial trucks mistakenly entering Chaparral Village and preclude confusion by having a road change names, as is found on Rollingbrook Street and the Massey Tompkins Road transition.

I asked about the further extension of the road behind Chaparral Village and although it is only in the planning stage, it is shaping up to be very well planned.  I tossed around a couple of ideas including channeling the existing pond to the tributary of Cary Bayou at the end of the existing East Baker cul-de-sac.

Again, Mr. Leiper stressed the expansion past Barkuloo is being studied and has no funding at this time, but has high expectations the future trails and park will make everyone concerned pleased.

On my way out, I stopped in to talk to Baytown's Public Affairs Coordinator, Patti Jett.  Her chipper and upbeat attitude towards all things Baytown gave me further hopes that our city is indeed "on the move".
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baker Road Extension plans


I spoke at length to a city engineer yesterday named John Dupois about the *activity we are witnessing on the wooded area in between Chaparral Village and Crockett Elementary.  See the attached map.

*A path has been bulldozed through the wooded area from Barkaloo road heading east towards Sjolander road and surveyors have been on the pipeline surveying the lake.

According to Mr. Dupuis, a portion of the land has been donated to the city (for the road and park only) and has to be acted upon with-in the next 9 months, or the city loses the option.

Here is the plan for the land as best as I can explain it.  The lake will become a 22 acre park.  The Baker road extension will run on the north side of the acreage close to Crockett Elementary and arrive on Sjolander close to the RR tracks at Jenkins Park.

The pipeline will get a new Trail that connects Crockett Elementary with Barkaloo Park, then the new park and finally Jenkins Park.

There will be a new Harris Country drainage ditch extension that will run just north of the new trail which connects to the lake at the 22 acre park.

To finalize, what the folks on El Rancho will see out their back door is a new trail, then the drainage ditch, then houses, then the new road, then Crockett elementary.

What the folks on Buffalo Trail and Broken Arrow will see is basically the same if they decide to connect the drainage ditch at the circle at the end of East Baker, which is a feeder stream for Cary Bayou.

I am sending a copy of this map and letter to the City for clarification, so do not take this as gospel.  Next, I have been concerned about this development for many years and the more I talked to the engineer, the more I liked the proposed changes.  I think if implemented properly, this could actually raise our property values and provide a much needed boost in park and trail amenities.

I don’t think anyone in our subdivision that owns property next to the woods, wants a 2-story house overlooking their back yard, but the path and drainage ditch would move a new home approximately 150 feet away from our back fence.  The joggers, walkers and cyclers would actually add security to the back of our property, as is seen in newer subdivisions.

After the city has added the Park, it would move to annex the property and bring it into the city limits.  It is currently in the county.  Before the land owners can build houses on the remaining property, they would have an option to use the proposed drainage ditch or dig a giant retention pond.  The city hopes they will choose the drainage ditch option, which would provide wonderful water abatement for us in CV during bad storms.

The city has a new option to get information.  It’s called Ask Baytown.  I have a link on www.ourbaytown.com also.  281-420-5311
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Nawlin's in a Beignut Shell!

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My bride and I took a much needed break from our routines and spent 4 days in the French Quarter, in New Orleans and man, the food was crazy delicious!  Neither one of us is a nightlife person, so we did some tours, visited one of NO's famous graveyards, saw an IMAX, walked and walked and ate and ate.  Here are a few photos of our trip for your viewing pleasure.

My breakfast in New Orleans - biscuits, poached eggs, grits, gravy & chicken livers!  The Old coffee Pot restaurant! Delish!
BB and Living Statue "Femora" at Jackson Square in New Orleans
BB and the absolutely silent "Silver man". I dropped a buck in his bucket and posed. Even though I made small talk, he was totally mute. He looked like "Mr. Natural" to me, from the underground comics.
 BB at the tomb of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau in St. Louis cemetery.  I didn't feel a dang thing.
I ham it up with 3 Egyptian cabbies in front of hotel Maison Dupuy.  I asked them to smile and the fellow on the right made a funny noise instead.  We shared salted nuts and laughs.
 My bride and I took the Honey Island Swamp tour in Slidell.  The gators were delicious with mustard!!! I had 2 whole ones!
 At Cafe Fleur De Lis, I had the most delicious crawfish omelet.  Sounds disgusting, but just the opposite. My bride had the convention, but after tasting mine, she agreed it was a great combo. the price was very low also!
At the WW2 War Museum, my bride reads about the bloody battle of Biak,  where her humble Dad was stationed.  He told me one time that "the Japs strafed them every day".  Other than that, he never talked about it. R.I.P. Willard Reneau.
Go no further than Deanie's Seafood for awesome delectable shrimp and crawfish!  I had crawfish ettouffee and friend crawfish!
We went to the IMAX on the Mississippi river and listened to a  Hollywood movie star tell us how we are destroying all the water on earth!  I laughed all the way through it! Thank heaven for Hollywood!
BB over-doses on beignuts and tubas at Cafe Du Monde!
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

My New Jeep Is In The Driveway!

Well folks, River Oaks Jeep sold me a Jeep cheaper by a mile in fact, than I could get it locally, so that is who got my business.  I really really wanted to buy it in Baytown, but business is business, or the lack there of.

This thing is awesome!  I do believe this Jeep is capable of everything my lifted and locked 97 Wrangler could do, except I had an additional traction device installed on my TJ and this one has an open differential in the front (I’ll upgrade that in the future with a Detroit TrueTrac).

My new Jeep has 3.73 gears, which with my auto tranny and torque-converter is the equivalent of a manual stick and 4.11’s.  Don’t feel alone if this tech talk goes past you, just suffice it to say that it is geared for off-road in Texas for the most part and can still roll on the highway as a daily driver.  I know from experience that I can run everything with this set-up, from the beaches to the logging roads with ease.

I had to have the beefy Dana 44 rear-end with TracLoc, which since 1997 has been built even beefier that my unbreakable 1997 TJ Dana 44, but stronger is better.  The Jeep I picked out pretty much fit my options list with a couple of exceptions.  It had “tubular side steps”, which look functional, but I’m told they fail miserably when you drop the Jeep on a rock or log, so I didn’t want them and asked if they would remove them.  I planned to buy a set of “Rock Rails” and install them for rocker panel protection, but the dealership called back and asked if I would take a set of Wrangler Rubicon rock rails in exchange!

Heck yes I would.

The Jeep came with a $500.00 side air bag option and although I would rather spend that on the upgraded sound system, I decided I couldn’t remove the air bag option, or add the factory upgraded sound, so I looked the other way on these options.  I can add a small subwoofer and amp later – but, the Jeep has Sirius radio and a one year subscription and yes, it is super nice.  I might have to renew this plan at the end of the year.

My Jeep has a removable 3 piece hardtop and the front panels come off with ease.  The larger back portion and window will take 2 people if I want to remove it.  I opted for the giant 32” tires and this baby is about 6 feet high at the top.  Inside it is real nice with tons of Rand D by the Jeep people to make this 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, the best thought-out and planned version since 1941. I've already got a name for it thanks to Arnold - The Choppa!  "Get to the choppaaaa"!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Jeep Madness Update

It's deja vu all over again in Baytown!  I called Bayshore Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep on I-10 after not hearing from them for 4 days and wouldn't you know?  My offer was so unbelievable to them that they didn't feel the need to respond.  In fact, the salesman told me he would give me $1000 cash if I could find a dealership that would match my offer.

I said "Will you put that in writing"?  He said "I'll give you my word".  LOL  Geeze Louise. 

So, this very thing happened with this dealership in 1997, so I called River Oaks Jeep in Houston and on the first conversation, the salesman comes within $311.00 of my offer to Bayshore Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep on an identical Jeep +/- $200.00.

The hunt is on!  More to follow!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Jeep Madness Strikes Again!

Back in 1997, I bought my first Jeep.  It was a 97 Jeep Wrangler “TJ” and was the best out of the box Jeep ever made to date.  I did a certain amount of modifications to it over a few years, including a 4 “ lift kit, 33” mud terrain tires, and a limited slip differential in the front axle.  I also upgraded the gears from 3.54 to 3.73, as I was running an automatic transmission AND driving it daily.

It served me well and I ran every obstacle with ease from the Palo Duro Canyon, to Hot Springs Arkansas, Shiloh Ridge ORV to all the coastal beaches of Texas.

Unfortunately, certain circumstances caused me to move on and I became mortal and began driving a small compact car to get around.  My “Jeep Madness” never left me though, but lay dormant in my subconscious waiting a time of rebirth. That time is now.

So, today I drove over to the local Baytown Jeep dealership to put my hands on a new Jeep.  I believe in supporting Baytown, BTW, if at all possible.  If they can't bring me a deal, I'll move on.  Before I get into the particulars, let me back up a bit. 

Jeep has rebuilt and renamed the venerable TJ Jeep I once owned and renamed it a JK Wrangler for the 2-door model and a JK Wrangler Unlimited for the 4-door.  I am interested in the Unlimited model these days, as I need more room for camping equipment and well, it's awesome looking.

There is also a myriad of equipment options that would stagger the mind of the average mortal, but being an informed ex-Jeep owner, I waded through the options like a Army Ranger in the company of a bunch of straight leg REMF soldiers.

I need a Jeep with guts, so I need the Dana 44 option w/Trac-Lok differential and 3.73 gears.  I want an automatic transmission so my Bride can drive it and I want a 3-piece hardtop this time, because, well, I want one.  Other than that, I can live with or without a lot of the do-dads on the option list.

Arriving at the dealership, I was met with a cowboy-looking fellow from Dayton, Texas named Gary Shelby and it wasn’t long before we realized we knew one of Dayton’s infamous citizens, noted hellion Tom Davenport.  Gary and I selected a 4-door Jeep and began to go through all the options.  Between the two of us, we got down to business comparing my old TJ to this new-fangled JK.  It was all relaxed and Gary was very knowledgeable and me being a Jeep guy, this was refreshing.

I took it for an on-road spin and I must say, it’s a real Jeep.  More to follow, so stay tuned.

Alaska Update from Deadhorse Connie 4-1-11

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Temperature at 0630, 17 below zero.

With daylight savings time rolling the clock forward, it is still before dawn when I drive to work; twilight.

This morning, as I sat in the line to get through the gate, I looked out to the east and whispered, “wow.”

Everything was a shade of purple, blue or pink; the horizon sprinkled with the lights of the various facilities. It was overwhelming…not eye candy…this was God-eye-va Chocolate. I had to thank God for the beauty, the purple tundra majesty, so to speak, that I was seeing, and for my eyesight and the ability to appreciate what a rare opportunity I have been given. I was so glad to be right there at that moment because it goes from dark to light very quickly, and that particular sight did not last long. My only regret is that there was no one to share it with; to say five years from now, “remember that April morning……..”

How can anyone believe this universe was an accident?

From the Arctic Circle............I remain,

Deadhorse Connie

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...