Monday, May 26, 2014

More Home Improvement...

More progress towards making the house a bit less of an eyesore, this is just the warm up for the REALLY big projects coming up in June and July--first we're having the old juniper stumps removed, the overhanging trees trimmed, the back part of the property drug, all the debri removed and some planting holes for trees & shrubs dug--I'm DONE trying to dig holes in this ground without the aid of major machinery.  Once the holes are dug we can plant the trees and bushes...

Then in mid-July will come the VERY long awaited chain link fencing!  I'm so excited for that I can hardly stand it, because it means that after more than two years, the chickens will finally get to roam the yard safely.

Meanwhile, smaller projects are getting done.  The other day we got a new mailbox but hadn't put it up yet...the old one then suddenly just fell over, pole and all, in apparent despair.  Mailbox suicide. It's zip-tied in place for now lookin' all classy 'n stuff until the hole for the new mailbox pole gets dug.

Today was new front porch lights!  Because the old ones were cheap, ugly, too small and looked like they wanted to burn the house down.  Before:

Yeeeaah....aggressively ugly.  My favorite part is the ghostly outline of the previous porch lights.

New ones!  Much more attractive and the right freakin' size.

Yay.  The weird wood strip above the door is getting replaced with a painted bit of trim that will match the rest of the doorway, then the front entrance should look a bit more inviting and cease resembling the local haunted house.  We also managed to get a monster flag holder to bolt to the house, we planned pretty carefully for the wind in locating it, making sure it's mounted securely to a corner.  Hopefully we won't be buying a new flag once a week...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Back To Virginia City, By Train!

So the V & T (Virginia & Truckee) line had it's opening day for the season today, it happened to coincide with Virginia City's Memorial Day parade.  We'd wanted to take the train trip anyway, and since today they were running the steam train, off we went.  The V & T was built around 1870 and originally ran from Reno to Virginia City and several other nearby towns, hauling silver and gold ore from Virginia City and nearby Gold Hill.  It fell into decline when the ore petered out--the tracks were ripped and sold for scrap during WWII and by 1950 the right of way had been sold,  the trains disbanded.  In the 1970's, when historical train routes were gaining interest, the line was rebuilt and the excursion trains began to run.

Our locomotive, #18, is a Baldwin built in 1914 and is an ex-McCloud River Rail locomotive.  Only problem was, when we got there the locomotive was on the wrong end and pointed the wrong way.

The passenger cars are very pretty and hail from the early 1900's.

Discussion and photo ops before #18 is shifted to the other end of the passenger cars.

Requisite pretty train pictures.

They were VERY gentle and respectful of this cool old equipment, you could tell these old-school railroaders loved their train.  You know in the movies where there is a loud bang, big impact and a train-long shudder when they connect the cars?  Forget that.  These guys backed that locomotive into place so gently it just *kissed* the passenger cars with hardly a bump.

Now we're pointed in the right direction and ready to go!


They weren't without their humor and embraced their small-town image.  There was a guy running around 'security wanding' people.  The wand was a chunk of 2x4 with a wire coat hanger and an old propane tank gauge nailed to one end.

This little orange fire patrol doohicky followed us all the way up and back again, this guy's job is to put out any fires the train accidentally starts.

There was a slight delay before we left--seems three different people had chosen to park their cars across the tracks at the end of the rails.  The V & T made them move them, announcing, 'If you don't want your car when we come back you can leave it there, but we WILL bill you for any damage to the locomotive.'  We all got a laugh at their expense as they sheepishly ran off the train and moved their vehicles.

The interior of the cars is beautiful, restored with lots of the original items still in place.  This stove looks like it still works and I suspect is used during the holidays when they do their 'Polar Express' runs.

We were in the first car just behind the locomotive.  The view from my seat, looking forward at the back of #18...

...and towards the back, into the other cars.

The conductor was amazing and kept a running narrative going, telling us all about the history of the line and the area right up to present day, and fielding all kinds of questions.  All of these guys were dressed to the nines and VERY dapper.

The trip was 1 1/2 hours each way, with three hours between runs so we had plenty of time to wander around Virginia City. We went through several tunnels which thrilled the kid no end, and the engineer obligingly blew the steam whistle for the train fans with big cameras that lined the track along the way.  We leaned out the windows and waved at the people in cars as we went across the trestle bridge over Highway 50, they honked, hung out of their cars and waved back with big grins.  Everyone loves steam trains.

The train laid by on a siding at American Flat for about 10 minutes so that another train coming down could clear the tracks.  While we waited we watched for wild horses, spotted some quail and rabbits and got a good look at the old Comstock Mill ruins in the distance--a huge complex that cost 8 million dollars to build in the 1920's and these days is a graffiti-covered curiosity.  We noted a good dirt road leading into it, so it will be a trip for another day to check it out.

As we got closer to Gold Hill and Virginia City, mine tailings were everywhere.  Copper is green, iron is red.  The conductor was telling us that people in modern times had realized that science had advanced and the tailings had been reworked many times to glean every bit of ore out of them.

Finally we made it to Virginia City, and we got a good look at the equipment yard and the rear of the locomotive as we exited.

Several other cars are still awaiting restoration.

As we got off, the kid pointed and laughed and said jokingly, 'Hey, blowing off steam!'  Exactly, we told her--guess where that saying comes from?  Poor kid, her parents never lose an opportunity to turn things into a learning experience and stuff information into her head.

There was even an old timey bus waiting to run us the couple of blocks to the main drag--which you can appreciate on steep streets at 6,200 feet.  The Memorial Day parade was starting in 30 minutes and everyone was getting organized, even the Clampers had tacked notices for their members onto the phone poles.  The most vital information is mentioned several times.
Parade, yada yada--WHAT ABOUT THE BOOZE?!

Hardware, stoves & metal.

Love it when the old names just kinda start blending.  The Crystal Bar building is a lovely, mellow shade of yellow & pink.

Lots of the people were in period costume, Virginia City folks LOVE to dress up, nearly everyone on the main street does.

This guy was a master with a bullwhip, entertaining the crowd.  No one had to tell people to stay out of his way.

This lady was a one-person cheerleader for the vets.  She was energetic, LOUD and would run out into the parade, pinning red poppies on folks and giving bear hugs to the military guys and girls.  She was awesome.

Now--this is Nevada, where we take our patriotism, support of the military, guns and cars seriously.  There's a cheerful old vet in the back, his driver looks like he eats nails for lunch:

The Nevada Patriot Guard--I have no doubt that these guys probably took part in the recent amusing 'run the BLM guys out of Nevada' rodeo.

Not bad, but this shot could use more flags.

Niiiiice bike.

Here the Grand Marshal rides in an old miltary jeep and likes it thank you, no fancy cars.  Also, nearly everyone in town had at least one sidearm.

C'mon, this is Nevada!  Where are the BIG guns?
There.  That's better.

This guy was all style.

Requisite northern Nevada parade--family members running out to remind the driver to pick up milk on the way home.  I shit you not.  She chewed his ass about forgetting it earlier, too.

Nevada hood ornament.  Of course it's a miner, what else would it be?  Like I said, we take our patriotism seriously, flags and Americana were everywhere.

No, more seriouser than that.  COAT YOUR VEHICLE WITH IT.
There, that's better.

For some reason there was a lone British miltary guy in the parade, sweating his ass off in the Nevada sun in a heavy wool uniform, poor guy.

The period dress folks.

My buddies the Clampers.

But this is America!  Where's the muscle cars, dammit?!
Yeeeaah, baby.  This thing genuinely roared and frightened small children and a dog nearby, which hid under my husband's leg.

'Therapy'.  The bullet holes in the door were real.

Then just for comic relief, a flivver.

Um...well ok.

This dog was having a GREAT TIME.  He was convinced that the only reason all these people had gathered was that so he could bark at each and every one.

He was a total boss and got a huge cheer from the crowd.

And this was just a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

The high school band.

This lady had clearly piled all of her family and their offspring into her car and asked, 'Who wants to be in the parade with grandma?'  I salute a fellow convertible land barge owner who fearlessly stuffs the thing with whatever in the supreme knowledge that it will ALL fit.

This horse entertained himself by doing his damndest to eat the shirt of the lady driving the cart.  He was nearly succesful, too.

After the parade we dinked around town for a bit and had an awesome BBQ lunch at the Firehouse BBQ & Creamery...and of course ice cream after.  By then it was time to catch the tram back to the train for the ride back down the hill.

Along the way we got a look at one of the tunnels that had collapsed back in the day--the conductor said that guys were working on it, went to lunch...and when they came back it looked like this.  It was deemed too unsafe and expensive to dig out again, so they left it and did without that particular tunnel.

Also along the way were wild horses roaming around in the Gold Hill cemetery.

Then it was goodbye to the train and time to go home.