Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Highway Terror!!!!

Ever wonder what it would be like to get hit by a 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" plywood while driving down the road at 55mph???  Me neither!!!!  But I can tell you now!!!!

I had an appointment in Palo Alto early today, so decided to drive up yesterday and spend the night.  Traffic over Pacheco Pass was at a standstill clear past Casa De Fruita (for those that know the area).  So I went on towards Hollister, crossed the valley and onto Hwy 25 which goes to Hwy 101.  A speeding pickup truck crossed the railroad tracks, causing his load to bounce into the air, enough that the sheet of plywood became airborne and headed straight for my windshield.  I had about 2 seconds to react, swerving to the right and braking.  It missed the windshield and hit me here on the drivers side, ripping the side mirror off.  About 18" from my head, it scared the you know what out of me.  When it hit, the jeep went back across the road ... thankfully people there saw what happened and got out of my way until I got it under control ... but NO ONE stopped.  Not the truck or any other vehicle.  I can't believe the car behind me did not get hit ... or hit me when I hit the brakes ... but they didn't stop either.

I grabbed my phone, dialed 911 and got a CHP officer headed my direction.  He wasn't of any help either ... wouldn't even write up a report.  For my insurance company???  Please???  Nope ... no witnesses, nor did anyone even bother to call 911 and report it except me.

Most of the roof is scraped, you can see the dents in the top panel, the black roof rack is torn up and the side mirror totally ripped off.  A lot of paint went with it.
This is my BRAND NEW 2012 JEEP!!!!!!!!   I haven't even had it 3 weeks.  I cried!!!!  The CHP officer said I could still drive it, just be careful.   Really???  So I drove on to Palo Alto ... and I finally stopped shaking about 10:00 this morning.  I called my insurance company (closed for the holiday) whose automated answering machine said to press 2 for an emergency.  When I did, it told me it was an invalid selection.  I tried it three times ... it was still invalid.  So I drove back to my home this morning, finally got my insurance rep on the phone (complained about the phone system) and went to get an estimate.  $2500 ... my deductible is $250.  If I could get my hands on that guy I would strangle him!!!   NEVER EVER haul plywood in your truck without tying it down you stupid idiot!!!  Although I would have said that in MUCH stronger terms (as my friends know!!).

The part that bothers me most is this bump inside the driver side car frame.  It wasn't there before ... which means that piece of wood hit hard enough to bend the frame of the car.
The sad part is I had scheduled a trip, which is now cancelled.  It will take two weeks to get the car fixed.  I guess I should be thankful I'm alive ... but really, I'm just pissed off!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Than Animals!

There was more to see and appreciate at the San Francisco Zoo besides the animals, although they are the main attraction.  The grounds are beautiful and covered with flowers in full bloom.  My photography instructor would say "ugh ... flowers"!!!  But I happen to think they are beautiful and want to share.

Unlike my friend Patty who knows the name of every flower and plant (and carries a pair of scissors in her purse just in case a clipping is calling her name) ... I don't know the exact names.  So forgive me if I call it something it isn't!!!
Matching the local flora was this spoonbill .....
I know proteas from spending time on Maui in Hawaii every year.  They even have a few in Monterey.  Here there were huge bushes full of blooms like I have never seen before.
We took these while waiting for the Giraffes to come inside and eat.  They did, but with no flash, there are no Giraffe images!!!  Just more protea.
While stalking the peacock, I got this image of his tail.  It surprised me that the kids were trying to grab his tail, which obviously scared him, while the adults looked on.  When the adults started doing the same, I couldn't keep my mouth shut!  PLEASE DO NOT try to touch the bird!!!!  They quit ... :-))
A new attraction that I haven't seen before was this little steam train, pulling six cars fully loaded with people.  The loop route wasn't very long, but you definitely got your money's worth because THIS engineer screamed around the track at breakneck speed!!  This was not a ride for the faint hearted!!
The grounds are covered with trees, vines and all sorts of huge swampy plants.  The small lake in the middle looks like something from the Jurassic era.  This vine crawling up the tree caught my eye.  I thought it looked like another butt!!  LOL
That's it for the zoo ... on to another adventure!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Zoo Butts

Did you ever go to the zoo and find all the animals sleeping with their backs to you??  Well that's what happened to my friends Diane, Chris and I yesterday at the San Francisco Zoo.  It was a butt day ... and even those that were looking forward, turned their backs to us when we three walked up with all our camera gear.  I'm sure this is a result of being zoo-raised, otherwise I would think they would be watching their backs for predators ... especially the human kind!!  Since I really didn't think you wanted to see animal butts, I waited around as long as I could and got a few good faces.  The grizzlies were very active having just been fed.  Huge guys ... huge claws!!!
Flamingos on the other hand were sleeping.
I was very disappointed to see that the elephants had disappeared completely, to be replaced by a large rhino.  As we were waiting for the penguins to be fed, the trainer walked up with a handful of celery stalks, lettuce and corn on the cob.
As you can see here, the rhino's large horn has been cut off by zoo personnel.  What a shame that people can't see him in his glory, but those horns are valued by some crazy people as "medicine" and may sell for as much as $5000 ... to protect the rhino from being killed for it's horn, they just cut it off.  
Koalas (don't call us bears) were all asleep, snuggled up on their tree branches.
In between the "sleeping" and the "butts" we took photographs of the gorgeous flowers.  This zoo has lots of exotic plants and flowers as well as animals.
This lion was sleeping totally on his back, with hind legs spread out, just like your household kitty.  But of course when we walked up, he turned his back ... zoo butt!!
Peacock butt!!   We followed this guy for about 15 minutes, right past the "employees only" sign, heading to the back lot, hoping we didn't get caught and ejected from the zoo.
Some time later, we ran into him again after I found some bread crust on the ground.  Using that for bait, we were finally able to see his face!!
By far the most impressive of the day, this big guy literally thumbed his nose at us, turned his back and sat stoically for about 15 minutes.   This is BIG zoo butt!!
Having moved to a better vantage point, someone came along with a crying child (human variety) and he turned around as if he were saying "would someone please check the kid??"
My favorite zoo animals are always the tigers ... but this time it was very weird walking around them, knowing that at this exact spot a few years ago, two young men were killed by a tiger that jumped this  barrier (now fully enclosed by an additional 12 foot tall plexiglass wall).  That animal was killed by a police officer responding to the call.  It is my understanding that they had been taunting and teasing the tigers, throwing things at them.  As you sow, you shall receive ....  At this time there were only two tigers in the facility, accompanied at all times by security guards.  Only one was visible, in a very tiny cage inside.  I chose not to photograph this gorgeous animal pacing back and forth.  Even in a zoo, I prefer to see them outside.

Now THIS beauty ... a snow leopard ... was hanging out sleeping atop a large crate next to the window.  Another zoo butt ... but this time lots of "show me your face pretty girl" resulted in this pose. A perfect way to end a gorgeous sunny day at the zoo.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tale of the Bella Toad!!

Having finally purchased the 2012 Jeep Liberty (her name is Bella), I was ready for the tow package installation.  Of course I checked with my mentor ..... and the Roadmaster Sterling All Terrain Tow Bar seemed to fit the bill.  AND ... it's on sale at Camping World ... how cool is that?  I had two choices.  Drive to Rocklin (3 hours) or drive over Pacheco Pass (ugh .. 2.5 hours).  I chose Rocklin!!!  After a two week wait, they called and told me when to arrive.  A Monday morning appointment at 8:00 a.m. sounded like a 4:00 a.m. wake up call to me, which is not in my vocabulary, so I asked if I could spend Sunday night in their parking lot.  They were most accommodating.  My friend Chris drove the jeep while I drove the motorhome.  There were two spots left in their lot when we arrived at 9:00 p.m.  It was then that I realized we were parked about 20 feet from Hwy 80 to Reno.  Do you have any idea how many trucks and cars go to Reno after midnight?  I do, cuz I counted every one!!!  NO sleep THAT night!!!!!   Monday morning bright and early, Miss Jessie kept watch on the birds.
After two hours of "throw the ball mom", Cooper finally settled down in time for us to get a cab to the mall.  The Service Guys said 6 hours for installation, so we might as well shop since we have no TV.
At noon, they called and said it was complete.  WOW ... two hours early!  That's service!!  After 30 minutes of explanations as to how to hook and unhook the tow vehicle, I spent another 30 minutes trying to remember how to put the transfer case in neutral.  Of course the instruction book is on the table at home, so I called guess who ... Dan ... and wrote down all his instructions, which worked perfectly.  This unit is VERY nice ... the top bar comes off and with a twist of the wrist, so do the brackets, if you so desire.  I don't.  That thing is on there for the life of the vehicle!!!
I can't begin to tell you how nervous and stressed out I was about towing this thing.  Maybe it's because the freeways around Sacramento are AWFUL ... or there's too much traffic ... or I can't back up AT ALL ... I have to make wider turns ... I don't know how far to get ahead of trucks before I pull back into my lane ... or maybe I really don't want to see my new Jeep passing me on the freeway on it's way to a big hairy crash!!!!   And off we went!!!!!!!  Looks like it's floating in my rearview camera.
We made it home 3.5 hours later because I refused to go over 55 mph.  It didn't come undone and I could hardly tell it was there.  I was so stressed when we got home though, that I immediately unhooked everything before I forgot how to do it ... and didn't even get ONE picture!!!!  Don't worry ... next time I take her out, I'll post Bella Toad looking pretty behind Mobile Buzzards Roost!!!!
See .... women CAN drive big RV's and CAN tow the toad!!!!  Just give us lots of leeway on the freeway!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My First Wedding!!!

Okay, not mine ... but it IS the first wedding I have ever photographed!!  I swore I would never, under any circumstances, be the photographer for a wedding!  Too much liability ... if you mess up, you can't just go back and retake the shots.   But when my best friend Diane was going to officiate one of her good friends wedding, she said they would not have a photographer if I didn't go.  Diane is also a good photographer, but couldn't take the pictures if she was marrying them.  So I packed up every piece of camera equipment I have, including two of everything!!!  I charged 16 batteries, not counting the four for the cameras (yes, I took two cameras) and four flashes.  If nothing else, I was going to be PREPARED!!!

A great couple, Krissy and Fred got married in their beautiful back yard, next to Bear Creek.  Getting the "before" images was fairly easy.  Getting the "after" images was like pulling teeth!!  Everyone went in six different directions.  If you corralled one, two others skittered off!!  Here they are at the water's edge.
The lighting was great ... and with Diane's help, we were able to get plenty of images of the bride and groom.
Right after I took this image of the flowers, the Bride ran off to fix her hair and makeup, leaving the bouquet on the kitchen counter.  When she returned, we all walked out to the music, minus the bouquet!!!  After many hand signals and yelling, I finally got the message and ran back to the house, grabbed the bouquet and missed all the images of her going down the isle.
This last image will be used on their thank you cards being sent out to all.  A cute idea we stole from Diane's daughters wedding!!!  LOL  After lots of champagne and great cupcakes, I left Diane to finish up taking photographs of the party.  I guess it's a learning experience ... not sure I would do it again, but I am pleased with 48 of my images ... hope the Bride and Groom love them too!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Zooed It Today!!

Ok, I admit it.  I'm addicted to photography.  I really needed a fix today, so I set off early this morning for the Fresno Zoo.  I haven't been there is several years and wouldn't you know I picked "School Kids Day"!!!  I counted 22 buses, each which holds a minimum of 25 kids.  You do the math.  The good news is that I'm taller!!!!!

I took LOTS of photos, but really tried to limit what I subject you to!!!  The two elephants were using their trunks to sweep up every morsel of hay they had knocked down from an overhead feeder.
They have several seals and are in the process of creating a huge new pool, where the public can walk underground and watch them swim underwater.
This big guy was getting fed (notice the tongs to escape the teeth!!) by a trainer who would tap the fence and whistle when the tiger came to her .. she then held the food up high so he would stand up.  Pretty impressive!!!  He was purring the entire time.
Inside the reptile house were various lizards, geckos and venomous snakes.
This guy was sleeping, as were most of the snakes.  What else can you do in a 3 x 4 foot enclosure?
Here's the scary one ... a Gaboon Viper.  This thing is huge ... probably 18 inches around his belly (yes, really) thankfully behind VERY thick glass!!  His head is probably 4 inches across.
The zoo has three adult giraffes and one new baby.  Seems to me this zoo produces baby giraffes quite often.  Here's the latest.
The keepers were handing out delicacies for the children to hand to the giraffes for breakfast.  Their tongues are amazing ... not only are they long, but they can twist them around these little branches like a monkeys tail.  Fascinating!!!

Ever since I can remember, they have had a flock of flamingos nesting in the park.  Their color is just amazing!!
Of course I have a special affinity for the zebras since they resemble my horses.  There are only two at this zoo and I think I took 50 images of them.  They were getting a little amorous ... actually a little too amorous ... so I decided to leave those out!!!
The zoo is in need of some remodeling and TLC.  Lack of funds for required maintenance has left it a little run down.  I was disappointed to hear that the hippo had died and while the chimps were being readied for a trip to their new digs in L.A., the male died.  The grizzly is still there, but very old and just sleeps all day.  Some of the "cages" actually have hot wires running around the outside edge.  Proposition Z was passed last year by the local residents and some new construction has begun.  I hope they are able to keep the zoo going because the kids went absolutely crazy over every animal.

Although I took some 250 images total, this one is my favorite.  In fact, I think I like animal photography better than anything!!!
By the way, everywhere you turned was a poster about adopting a zoo animal, so I did.  His name is Joey!!!
Until next time ...........

Monday, May 7, 2012

America's Favorite Past Time ......

It's baseball season, which means fun trips to San Francisco to watch the Giants play.  Having been World Series Champs, you would think our expectations would be crashed when they didn't play well.  That's not the case however, with Giant Fans.  Doesn't matter if they win or lose, we love to watch them play in one of the nations most spectacular "privately" owned parks.

Heading out in my new Jeep, I drive to Pleasanton and park in the Bart parking lot.  Space is limited, so two minutes on the computer provides me with a parking pass IF I get there before 10:00 a.m.  Hopping on Bart ($11.00 round trip ticket) gets me to Embarcadero Station where I change over to the Muni Train System.  10 minutes later I'm at the park.

A T & T park has been slightly remodeled and a new store added that sells game used bats, balls, jerseys and even bases.  Here's the rack of bats, some broken, each signed by the player.  They range from $300 to about $900.  I didn't say they were cheap!!!!!

Floating around above the park was this blimp from Hangar Vodka, providing great overhead views for the TV audience.  A little dicey because not only was the wind really blowing this particular day, it poured for the first 30 minutes of the game.  We got soaked!!!
We're playing the Miami Fish ... I mean the Marlins ... and in this image, taken from my seats with a
28-300 lens ..... he's SAFE!!!!
Unfortunately, the next batter didn't make it to the bases.  He struck out ... strike three!!
It was a close game, but in the end they won.  Our closer and top two hitters are out because of injuries and we have three rookies playing.  They still played good ... in this image he's OUT!!!!
Another fun day at the ballpark!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Night Running in Cougar Country

While waiting for my hitch installation appointment, I'm trying to catch up on my running.  Having been off for three months due to surgery, I'm pretty much out of shape.  A quick morning 2 miles, one with each puppy, and a couple hours laying in the sun, found me raring to get on the road again .. running that is.  So when my friend and running partner Ofelia called for some night running, I was there!!!

The University of California Merced is nestled in the foothills outside of town and is a great safe place (or so we thought) to run at night.  You can't get lost, right?  Just follow the lights.
It's super moon night, so we thought we could run without our headlamps, but as you can see, it got pretty dark.  We headed out along the dirt/gravel road, listening to the coyotes howling really LOUD!!  There was a good size pack of at least 5.  While worrying about the coyotes, we didn't watch the road very carefully and basically got lost.
After much laughter we finally ran into the fenceline that Ofelia was familiar with from her daytime running, and headed back to the University.  All of a sudden, Ofelia suddenly jumped aside and yelled at me!!!  Cougar .. Cougar!!!  and she wasn't talking about me!!  Hiding behind some trees on a large rock outcropping was this beautiful creature!!
Yeah, you're right.  It's not real ... but at first glance in the dark, you really couldn't tell.  Come to find out, she already knew it was here when her dog tried to attack it a couple weeks previously!!  In one of the big park-like areas is this huge art piece shining with the light of the moon.
Heading back to the parking lot after 3-1/2 miles, we came upon this deserted quad area.
At 10:30 we headed home, tired, achey, thirsty and feeling great!!!