Sunday, September 24, 2017

Round and round

We drove. More exact, I drove; my wife and Madame Google provided directions and unsolicited exclamations. It was a very lovely drive. At one point we missed a turn in some village...even though Madame Google wasn't immediately insisting that we make a U turn, it seemed rather unlikely that the way to Paris would  be via a narrow dirt road. We quickly got back on track. The countryside was beautiful.

As we drew near Paris, the traffic increased, as did the number of lanes on our roadway. We knew some fancy driving lay ahead of us. Which reminds me of Kirk Douglas' line in Man from Snowy River, "...go at them from the jump. No fancy riding..." The closer we got to the airport, where I had arranged to return the rental car by 6:00 p.m., the fancier the driving got. Naturally, I was every bit as awesome as Jim Craig in the plunge down the mountain in my vehicular exploits...but there were a few complications. 

The first order of business was to get to the hotel near the airport to check-in and drop off our stuff before returning the car. It sounded simple...and it the same way that playing rock, paper, scissors against three 40 different people, and beating all of them simultaneously on single throw is simple.

We had to make the correct turn to the general area of the airport and the hotel. Into a tiny roundabout we went. There were three choices;  a choice had to be made immediately...I got it wrong the first time (this actually helped me later)...but I got it right on the retry. Unfortunately, it would take more attempts to get to the hotel. 

The first time, I drove past the turn that would take me to the hotel. So I had to drive around the block (which was about 2 miles around, or more) and try again. The second time, I got the correct turn...only to miss the entrance to the hotel itself. The hotel, the Ibis Styles at Roissy, not to be confused with the Ibis at Roissy, has a single inconspicuous (covert would be a better description) opening into an entry way that is itself perhaps the size of a 20 centime piece. Perhaps my recollection is dim; it may have been slightly larger--the size of a one euro coin. The road was a single, one-way lane; there were cars behind me. I couldn't back up. I had to continue forward. 

The little one-way lane took me around and dumped me back out to the main track...where I went around the two miles, and through the three or four traffic signals again. Take three: Left turn to the correct road--check. Right turn into the covert entrance--check. Then what? There was no where to go from there except to the exit. There wasn't even a door for a pedestrian entrance. Fortunately, my wife noticed the covert covert entrance. What I should have done, after making the right turn into the hotel entrance, was drive directly into the side of the building. Actually, no. It just looked like one had to drive into the side of the building. There was an automobile entrance. The tiles covering the wall, made it blend it with the tiled wall behind it. The automobile entrance was behind that concealment wall...and I couldn't back up to get to it; wrong angle or another car in the way; I around one more time. I was running out of time to get the rental car returned.

Take four: Left turn to the lane--check. Right turn to the entrance--check. Quick jog right to catch the covert covert entrance--check. At last we had discovered the holy of holies, the super secret secret chamber: the parking garage. 

We didn't need a password, but we did have to take a ticket and wait for the light to change, allowing us to proceed in to find a parking place. The fun had only just begun..

Started with a reference to Ratt. Why not end with a reference to the Carpenters (sort of)? Better yet, one more. 

Next time: Gas

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review - Cloaked

I volunteered to receive an advance copy of Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny available for pre-order on Amazon, and to write a review of the book on this blog, and on Amazon. According to the author's recent blog post, the book is already on Amazon's top seller list. 

The author makes no secret of the fact that this western story is based upon the old story of Little Red Riding Hood. As the characters are introduced in the book, the reader should immediately understand their roles from the traditional tale. The characters remain true to those roles. I liked the fact that the author didn't twist the characters into something either unrecognizable, or repugnant to the spirit of the familiar story.

The story moved along rapidly in getting Mary Rose from back east to her grandmother's ranch out west. Once she arrived at the ranch, the pace slowed; the reader is treated to some character development, lots of horse riding lessons, Jane Austen references, and the beginnings of a potential romance. This was my least favorite part of the book. However, I expect the target audience will enjoy this part of the book.

Things pick up by chapter thirteen. The action begins in earnest, taking us to the conventional, exciting climax. Naturally, there is a happy ending. 

This is a good, clean story. The reader knows the path that the story will take. There are no surprises along the way; the story has been neatly expanded and transplanted from old Europe to the American west. The author's prose is clear, and direct. The tale is well-told.

I think the target audience for this book, teenage girls, and mature women looking for a good read, should find this a solid four-out-of-five-stars story.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Bayeux is the place we wanted to be. Madame Google took us right to our hotel. This is actually the view from the rear, in the garden. It was a delightful little place. Our rooms were in a separate building on the left, the view of which is blocked by the trees.

I thought parking might be an issue; it wasn't I found a place on the street about 30 yards (Yards are like meters but a few inches shorter--which is strange, because meters don't have any inches. Of course, I'm referring to meters as units of distance measurement, not as in parking meters, or gas meters, which also measure things, but not in meters...which is strange, since they're called meters.) up the street from the hotel. We walked back to the hotel to discover, as had been promised on the website, that there was parking within the gates. I moved the car.

Our hostess was an interesting lady with shoulder length reddish hair, and large glasses. She spoke pretty rapidly, equally comfortable in French or English. Of course, I opted for French, so that my wife would be impressed with me; I don't think she was. Our hostess gave us a little map and circled restaurants and various sites of interest. One of those restaurants was, if I remember correctly, Le Petit Normand. We chose it for two important reasons: She recommended it, and it was nearby.

After we put our backpacks in our room, and figured out how to get our room door--which opened directly to the gravel courtyard/parking area--to lock and unlock, which was much more difficult than I had anticipated (requiring the precise and well-timed turning of the key while holding the door and knob just so), we walked to the restaurant. This edifice reposed across the street from the dining establishment:

Initially, we decided to eat at the tables outside the restaurant door by the street. We had just sat down when a car drove past. I didn't want that as part of my dining experience. I apologized for our change of heart, and asked for a table inside. I'm not so sure about the older lady behind the counter, but the young lady who served us was very pleasant. She seemed interested in everything that we did, even watching me from behind as I pulled apart the camembert nuggets in my salad. My wife thought maybe the young lady wanted to come back to the U.S. with me. Wisely, I didn't make that inquiry. I had the duck with black currant sauce. It was delicious. We also had some bread and more camembert. The server laughed when, after she asked if I was going to share it with my wife, I said, "Peut etre." She also acted amused when I protested as she gave my wife a spoon with which to share in my dessert. My wife's order didn't include the cheese, or the dessert--thus my mock protest. As for the dessert: Small cream puffs swam in a cool pool of chocolate sauce. We chased them with our spoons, dismembering, and devouring them with glee. That dinner, and the breakfast the next morning (I already related that experience here) were the two best meals, outside of the home-cooked meal at the Joly's (as told here), that we had during our visit. Our worst meal was yet to come.

I've already related the rest of the Normandy experience, including the stunning but somber American Memorial at Coleville-sur mer, at the link above. But here's a picture of a Norman warrior from the era of William the Conqueror as encounted at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum:

 It was no easy task getting him to pose in the sunshine right in the museum like that. Incidentally, I recently finished a book, The Norman Conquest: The battle of Hastings and the fall of Anglo-Saxon England. I gave it 5 stars for being highly informative, extremely interesting, and somewhat exciting.

After we left the memorial, where my wife shot these school kids,

we drove back toward Paris.

My wife got this picture of an interesting house in Normandy.

And, you can double those loyalty points on Tuesdays.

Next time (maybe), the adventure that is returning a rental car at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview with an author

Here is an interview I provided about my first book, Justice in Season.

Reading this interview makes me want to read the book. Of course, I already have...but there are lots of people who haven't read it...maybe you're one of them. 

Click the link. Read the interview. Buy the book. Read the book.

Here's the link to the book and you can read it for free on kindle unlimited.

Or, just look at this picture of some ponies from a long ago frosty November morning. You decide. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017


I wore a memory today. A pair of them. I hadn't worn them in weeks. I didn't think of the memory when I slipped into them. It was later that I noticed the little yellow flecks against the black leather. There were a lot of flecks...especially in the creases and seams. To what shall I compare them? Stars in the night sky? No; the flecks were too plentiful. Gold dust? Perhaps; flecks of gold glistening in dark rock, more abundant in some spots than others. In a way, that's the best comparison.

My shoes were bespeckled, stippled; in point of fact, they were bespattered. I should have cleaned and polished them right away...but I am loathe to do so. Perhaps it is too late. Will memory dim if I scrub away the specks? Will I enjoy the remembrance less if those abundant flakes are replaced with the sheen of well-buffed polish? Will I cease to remember the walk hand-in-hand with my wife in the torrential downpour which splashed the sands of France upon my loafers?

While memory may remain intact after the shoes are polished and honed to a fine gloss, I am pleased to be forced to recall that day in Versailles when I gaze upon those sandy traces.

On a different subject, my oil gauge is still strangely afflicted with the cheerleader virus. The new switch, the new sockets, the trips to town, the muttered oaths, and bruised arm were all for naught.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled story.

We left Chateau Gaillard. Bayeux beckoned. We hearkened. As we left the ruins, Madame Google (It could be Mademoiselle, but the tone of her voice sounds more dame than moiselle to me.) soon sent us off on a rather narrow road. Down. The road went down. We went with it. The stairs of Cirith Ungol would have been wide in comparison.

It was a curvy, windy affair. Trees and thick brush cast an impermeable, verdant canvas over both sides of the road. Jagged patches of sky showed in the broken foliage overhead. We seemed to be alone in this downward spiral of leaves and asphalt. 

Things were not as they seemed. 

At a place where the road nearly doubled back upon itself, a black car, like some nefarious beast of Mordor, thrust itself in front of our KIA. Inasmuch as the road consisted of only one lane (or less), I can't fault the driver for being in my lane. But that driver made no attempt to keep to his side of the path. 

I slammed on the brakes, consciously ignoring the clutch, knowing that the car would stall. I hoped the added resistance of the transmission would help me stop; I don't know if it did or not. I was pretty positive that the nose of the KIA was going to ram that other car like a Roman trireme...and sink us both. 

There couldn't have been more than a centimeter between the cars when the KIA skirtched (That's a quick, brief, screech of the tires on the asphalt. It's not a word, but it should be.) to a stop. The dark beast resumed its course. Dragging a trailer behind, it drove around us, up into the verdant shadow.

Unscathed (and somehow unsoiled), we continued toward Bayeux.
I just looked at my shoes again. The flecks have nearly all disappeared...

Monday, September 4, 2017

An Unscheduled Visit to Mountain Home

The clash of the dark cars in France will have to wait. I have another, more recent travel story to tell.

The day was hotter than a linebacker's armpit--but, fortunately, much drier. Wife and daughter were enjoying the air conditioning. The other gal, who was not quite twenty years old, suddenly got cranky; about 12 miles out of Mountain Home, she blew a hose. We coasted to the side of the road. The small by-pass hose at the front of the V8 spewed coolant from a small hole. I knew that my dad could fix that temporarily with electrical tape...but I would have to wait for it to cool, and I would have to be able to get it started again.

Within minutes, the county sheriff himself pulled in behind us. He wanted to know if we could move any farther off the freeway. Nope. The engine wouldn't turn over (we were going to need a tow). He stayed behind us with his lights flashing until the tow truck arrived...and pulled over the guy who refused to change lanes for the tow truck.

My awesome insurance agent answered my phone call; he said that my policy did include towing; the first twenty miles would be free. I confirmed the number that I needed to call for the roadside assistance. I called the number; the tow would not be free because I had not been in an accident. (What? Maybe I planned this mishap?) Anyway. They would find an available tow truck and have me pulled to the nearest Boise. 

Long story short...we waited an hour and a half for the tow truck. We were towed to a place in Mountain Home; the insurance company had assured me the place was open on Saturday. The tow truck driver assured me that they were not open on Saturday; he was right. I decided to have the vehicle towed to my brother-in-law's house about ten miles out of Mountain Home. On the way, the insurance company called to confirm that I would say they had provided me with excellent service. I declined to so classify it. The tow was great...but that was it.

I think there is something about the Mountain Home area that messes with my vehicles; it's sort of a vehicular Bermuda Triangle for me. Every major car problem I remember having while on far travels has been within Elmore county: December 1981, car totaled on the highway from Fairfield a few miles outside of Mountain Home. August 1995, fuel pump died on the freeway between the Mountain Home exits. August 2003, Jeep overheated and engulfed in flame outside Prairie in Elmore County. Add this August 2017 incident to the tally. Maybe it's a good thing that the bad things happen there. It's not outrageously far from help. 

My brother-in-law, Dan, is what I call "a car guy" and an extremely helpful, nice guy--and his wife kept us in cool drinks during the stay. At his place, he, my dad, and I (by which I mean that I mostly watched, and held the flashlight) replaced the culprit hose. We also discovered that the rig would run...but the battery was bad...and the housing near the hose was leaking more than a little. He advised me not to drive it home. My parents gave us a ride to their place, and let us borrow their pickup to get the rest of the way home--delayed only by 5 or 6 hours as a result of the unscheduled stop; we got in about 11:00 p.m.

Fast forward one week. Dan had the rig repaired, and enough juice forced into the battery to give me at least one start. I actually got four starts out of it before it was completely dead again a couple days later. New battery time. I charged it overnight; it started. I drove to the auto parts store, bought a new battery and replaced it in the parking lot. I also got a new oil pressure switch (which I suspected was bad because the needle in the gauge bounces at times like a cheerleader on speed). I would discover to my dismay, later in the day, that I didn't have any sockets that were both deep and wide enough to remove the existing oil pressure thingy. The new doohickey required a 13/16 socket; that was too small for the bad one. After removing a front tire and the cover inside the wheel well, three trips to town, four new sockets, and a new socket extension, I was triumphant in making the replacement. I spent more on new tools than the part itself cost. An inch and 1/16 was the size required.