Solar Eclipse Preparation

I’m heading up to Alliance, NE, for the solar eclipse. We’ll be staying in a campground just a couple hundred yards north of Carhenge. I made camping reservations several months ago but have manged to procrastinate on all other preparations since then. Now that we’re just a week away, I figured it might be time to get things a little bit more organized.

I dug through the shed and found a tent I didn’t know I had. I was looking for the two man tent and couldn’t find it. Instead I came across a larger four man tent. I got it out and did a quick set up, so I’m all set there. Found the gazebo and a lawn chair, too.

I had been thinking all along that I wouldn’t bother trying to photograph the eclipse at all. My first impediment was that I don’t have a long enough lens. In addition, I don’t have a solar filter and I’m not likely to get a picture anything like as good as somebody who’s done this before. But then when I was chatting with Mike at the Warbirds show he said he’d be happy to lend me his 600mm zoom and convinced me to give it a try in spite of my reluctance.

I got online and found a filter I thought would work. It’s for a telescope but should work for his lens. I ordered it and when it arrived I was disappointed to discover that it’s too small. It’s too late to send it back and try to get one the correct size, so I’ll make this one work by taping it onto the lens.

Then I went into the back yard and tried to take my first picture of the sun. With the solar filter on the camera, everything except the sun is black. I tried for a few minutes was unable to even locate the sun through the lens. I did verify that the filter works as expected using my regular lens, where the sun shows up as a fairly small, unimpressive circle.

Center the white bit on the back panel and I more or less have the sun lined up.

I asked around for suggestions and Jim and Travis provided the answer. They said I could fabricate a little solar viewfinder out of cardboard that would do the trick. So I just put one together and went into the back yard and had another go at it.

My first sun photo. Nothing to see here…

I was thinking I’d need 1000mm of lens, and briefly considered buying a teleconverter. But this shot is at 600 and looks like it will be sufficient.

Being that we’ll have no moon next Sunday night, and we’ll be a couple hundred miles from any large cities, if the skies are clear we should have a nice view of the Milky Way. I will take a shot at astrophotography. Again, not something I’ve ever tried before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?

Small Claims Court

I was hoping that this entry would be the end of the story of the Ordeal of the Camshaft. We had our day in court but we don’t have the end of the story yet. It’s a cliffhanger!

Monday, July 24

This is Victor’s case, I’m just a witness. I’ve been called up for jury duty a few times, but never had to serve. So outside of traffic court I’ve had no dealings with the justice system.

We arrived in Judge Ecton’s courtroom at about 8:00am. A docket is posted on the wall just outside the doors. We were second on the list. After we seated ourselves in the gallery, the court clerk came by and did a little roll call.

Shortly after that the judge entered the courtroom. “Everybody rise!” He took his seat at the bench and gave a little introductory speech. This is not an episode of Judge Judy, or whatever court show you watch on TV. We follow some rules of evidence. There are no surprises here. If you want to introduce an exhibit into evidence, your opponent has to know about it and will have an opportunity to object.

Each side can make a one minute opening statement. Each side may call as many as three witnesses, and each witness is given ten minutes. Then there’s an opportunity for the other side to cross-examine. Then the first side can ask any additional questions that may arise from the cross-examination. The judge controls the stopwatch.

Those are the basic rules, but before we could get to any of that, each case was sent to mediation. This mediation took place in another room, with just the principal parties. As a witness I was not a party in the mediation. The judge instructed that there would be a minimum of fifteen minutes of mediation. If mediation failed to produce an outcome, both parties would return to the courtroom ready to follow the process above.

While Victor and the defendant were in mediation, and after a short pause, the first case was handled. In this case the defendant didn’t show so the plaintiff won automatically. The plaintiff was awarded his claim of $1500.

Then the first case came back from mediation. This was between a Mr. Benson and a Mrs. Benson. Mediation produced a result, and Mrs. Benson would pay Mr. Benson $1300. Because everything was handled outside the room, we in the gallery were left in the dark as to exactly what this was all about. The imagination runs wild: are they man and wife? Brother and sister?

I didn’t check the time, but it was more than half an hour before the mediator for our case returned to the courtroom, Victor and the Ehrlich Toyota people in tow. Mediation failed to provide an agreement, so we would come to trial. But one key point was not disputed: Ehrlich did not contest that the parts they supplied were defective.

So now the fun begins. I admit that I’m not a court reporter, not a stenographer, don’t take shorthand, and didn’t even have a pen and paper to take notes with. I was able to key a few short notes into my phone, but that was the extent of it, and I can’t type worth a damn on my phone. So it’s very likely that my record here contains some minor errors or omissions. I do feel that I’ve recorded the major points fairly and completely.

The woman in charge on their side was the one Victor had been dealing with over the several months this has gone on. I don’t know her position in the company, and managed not to record her name (surprise, surprise) but she’s not one of the owners. She was supported by one of their technical people and at the last minute was joined by one of the Ehrlich family. Between mediation and the start of the trail, Victor wondered aloud why he was dealing with her and not one of the owners. He went out into the hall for a couple of minutes to try to talk to him but returned unsatisfied.

We began with the short opening statements, Victor going first. Nothing particularly interesting was said by either party, with the exception of Victor being mildly chided by the judge. Victor had interrupted the judge. This is a no-no. When it happened I didn’t even notice it, probably because I have a tendency to do the same thing. Almost immediately after that, the judge cautioned Victor for making “inflammatory” remarks. These remarks had to do with our feeling that Ehrlich’s warranty policy was just a policy and didn’t carry the weight of law. It doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for the damage the defective part caused. After this mild dressing down, there were no more cautions from the judge, although I think Victor may have gotten close when he made the same point later in the proceedings.

Victor was the first witness. As he’s also the plaintiff, it obviously wasn’t the usual question-and-answer process one sees on TV. Most of our exhibits were documents, but we did have the damaged head and sprocket. He set the head right on the witness stand, although he never had to point out the damage that was caused by the bad cam. He spent a few minutes going over the events that led us here. He did a pretty good job, even though he seemed to me to be a bit nervous. He was then cross-examined by the defendant.

One of the key parts of Victor’s testimony relates to why Victor is the one with the claim instead of me. Essentially, I assigned the portion of the bill relating to rebuilding the head to Victor. He felt it was wrong to stick me with this bill and that he would make the claim rather than force me to do it. I think the Ehrlich people thought explaining this thought process was a weakness, and they brought it up later in a derogatory way later on.

Victor called me as the second witness. “Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I do. No bibles were involved, and no swearing to god. “State your name, and spell your last name.” I took my seat at the witness stand.

Victor started with High Mountain Classic’s reputation. What was said about their work? After this experience, did my opinion of their reputation change? A few other questions of that nature. Then Victor had me read a few paragraphs from my blog, a printout of which had been entered into evidence as one of the exhibits. The judge said it wasn’t necessary for me to read any of it, as he’d be able to read it himself, but Victor had me read a key passage anyway.

Next up was cross-examination. Why did I go to High Mountain Classics rather than a Toyota dealer? What was the nature of the work I had them perform? Did I consider using parts other than from Toyota? Is my car a daily driver? Do I take it to the race track, do I race the car? I said that I never considered taking the car to a Toyota dealer. I’ve not known any Lotus owners to do this. I explained my thought process, that I considered going to Ferrari of Denver or to my usual shop (Peak Eurosport) but chose Victor after discussing the issue with him after a club meeting.

When it came to the specific work, the judge interjected some questions. I explained that there were issues with the hardening failing on the cams and that it was recommended that they are periodically inspected for abnormal wear. HMC performed the inspection and found wear was starting and recommended replacement of the parts. I made clear to the judge that the wear problem was totally unrelated to the defect in the parts where the burrs were sent through the motor, damaging the head.

I was a bit surprised by some of these questions. Why was it important to know if I considered other sources for the parts? I told how I came to the decision to use Toyota parts: I looked into the Stage 2 MonkeyWrench racing cam, but dismissed this because it would involve a lot of additional work. I felt that the known, good, Toyota part was the best way to go, and that Toyota reliability was a large factor in purchasing the car in the first place.

I also didn’t understand why they wanted to know if I raced the car. I said that I don’t have a daily commute, that I put an average of eight thousand miles a year on the car and that track days account for a small fraction of the miles. I told the judge that an HPDE day is not competition. In any case, it seems irrelevant to me. This is about the defective part wrecking my engine. I don’t know why they felt it was an important issue.

Van was the technician at HMC that did the work on my car. He was the third witness. Before the trial started we sat together in the back of the gallery and chatted. When I asked him how he got into auto restoration he quickly gave me his entire CV. It starts with him earning a BS in Auto Restoration. I didn’t know such a degree was available. He told me there’s just the one school that offers it. After graduation he’s worked in a number of jobs that sounded quite interesting, including a stint at Tesla.

So, of course, the first thing the defendant did was attack his credibility. Are you a certified Toyota mechanic? Have you ever worked on this particular engine before? Why didn’t you notice that the part was defective before installing it? Why didn’t you do the rebuild of the head? Van is, of course, an ASE certified mechanic. He routinely works on engines he’s never seen before. He says he followed Toyota’s procedure for replacing the part, and that procedure didn’t include anything about checking for burrs in the camshaft internals. Ryan was brought in because HMC was falling behind on the other projects.

Next there was a line of questioning about labor rates. HMC doesn’t use the flat rates. They bill for actual hours, not book hours. I suppose that was to call into question the amount of the bill. But this is misdirection as well, because the hours worked on the rebuild were not Van’s, they were Ryan’s, the certified Lotus mechanic.

Again, I’m somewhat puzzled by many of these questions. There is no dispute that the parts they supplied were defective. They seem to be trying to say that it wasn’t the defective parts that caused the problems, but an inexperienced or incompetent mechanic. (Van, is, of course, neither.)

Ehrlich’s only witness was the woman Victor has been dealing with through this whole process. She emphasized that all the receipts have a disclaimer on them, saying that their warranty does not include implied merchantability and does not cover any labor. During my testimony, the part of my blog that Victor had me read included the bit about all the cams in their stock were also bad. The judge asked if this was true. She said she didn’t know.

In Ehrlich’s closing remark, they proudly stated that had all this happened in their shop, they’d never think of sticking the customer with the bill. This, clearly, was in response to Victor presenting the bill to me with the full amount, which then had the rebuild backed out. I paraphrase, but they essentially said, “We would never leave the customer holding the bag.” And, yet, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do here. HMC is the customer. HMC bought defective parts that caused me extensive property damage, and they’re adamant that they’re not responsible. The didn’t seem to see the irony.

One of the final questions that came up was why Victor is going after Ehrlich rather than Toyota USA or Toyota Japan. Here’s the one place where I thought Victor’s response was weak, but I couldn’t help him out. He said that he was afraid it would cost too much to pursue a giant Japanese corporation, didn’t want to go out of state or out of the country. Ehrlich said that Toyota USA has people here in Denver, so none of Victor’s fears are valid. My answer would have been that we hadn’t had any dealings with Toyota USA or Toyota Japan: we’ve been dealing all along with Ehrlich.

This question, in fact, is the only part of this whole suit that bothers me. Before we started down this path, my research indicated that if we were to go after the wrong party, we could win the case but still never get compensated. If there’s something in the law that we don’t know about (and we don’t know much), we could very well be going after the wrong party.

I don’t know anything about the law, but here’s how I reason this part out. I dealt with Victor, not Ehrlich. Victor dealt with Ehrlich, not Toyota USA. Ehrlich’s transaction was with Toyota USA, who presumably had a transaction with Toyota Japan, who may have had a third (sixth?) party like Denso actually manufacture the part. It’s a chain of command and you can’t go out of sequence. If Victor had stuck me with the bill, it should be obvious that I’d have to make a claim against him and no one else. In fact, it’s generally the case that the chain above Victor is invisible to me. I have no idea, for example, where Peak Eurosport gets their parts.

So Victor has a loss caused by a bad part. And just as the chain of transactions above Victor are invisible to me, the chain above Ehrlich is invisible to him. He can guess, just as I’ve guessed, what that chain looks like. But he can’t really know. The only party he can go after, then, is Ehrlich.

Victor’s only remedy against Ehrlich is this small claims proceeding. Ehrlich, on the other hand, certainly is in a different situation. Had they done the right thing and paid a warranty claim to Victor for the work, they can surely make the claim from where they got the bad part. And we’ve seen that this relationship exists and works. The engineer that came to HMC to inspect my car was from Toyota USA. It was this engineer that authorized the replacement of the defective cams. This is the undisputed fact: Toyota USA admits the part was bad.

It’s a no-brainer that Ehrlich would pay Victor and make a claim to Toyota, because Toyota admits the fault. So why doesn’t Ehrlich do the right thing? Why make Victor take them to court? I can only assume that the claims resolution mechanism in whatever agreements and contracts exist between Ehrlich and Toyota USA do not allow for payment of damages unless one of their guys does the work. You’d think there’d be some sort of arbitration mechanism. Doesn’t anybody in this chain have any general liability insurance that covers this sort of circumstance? I’d hate to think that the only remedy is going to court. Yet, here we are.

It was approaching noon when we headed out the door. It had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. The judge did not come to a verdict. Not knowing how it all worked, I was a bit surprised. I expected an answer. As the man said, this isn’t Judge Judy. It only makes sense that he should have some time to go through the exhibits and review the testimony before making up his mind.

Leaving the courtroom I was unsure of how things would turn out. But after writing it all out here, I feel pretty good. Ehrlich is the only party we can logically go after. Toyota accepted from the start that the parts they supplied were bad. That’s the key piece. Ehrlich’s only defense was misdirection. I made a mistake in not taking it to a Toyota dealer. I abuse the car by racing it. Van can’t possibly fix a Toyota engine. HMC wasn’t qualified to do the work and had to call in the Lotus mechanic. Victor is going after the wrong people. None of this is true, and none of this changes the fact that all the parts they supplied were defective.

I think chances are good that Victor will win. So the question now is, how long before we get an answer? I will, of course, share the results of the case when I learn the verdict.

The Muffler

When Victor called me last week to discuss the case, he mentioned that he saw the video of my exhaust barfing out its insides. I told him half the shops I’d talked to about repairing it had never heard of repacking the exhaust and that said they could send it to Canada for repair. Victor said they do this sort of work all the time on the Bugattis. It only makes sense: where do you go to replace the muffler for a Bugatti 39? Victor had me bring my exhaust with me so I could give it to him to fix. Rather than repacking with fiberglass they’ll use steel wool. It will sound a bit different, but it should last longer.

When I handed it over, I shook it a bit and we could hear the innards rattling around. They both knew immediately what had happened. Through the center of the can there’s a perforated steel pipe. This pipe has rusted away and could no longer hold the packing. (Rust? It took me half a beat. Water is one of the main outputs of combustion.) They’ll cut the end off, replace the perforated pipe, pack with steel wool, weld it back together and I’ll be on my way. I told them there’s no need to hurry as I’m fine running the stock exhaust for a while.

GABF

Thursday, October 6

I’d been to the Great American Beer Festival before. That was at least twenty years ago. We bought tickets at the door. The tasting glass was actually glass. You could get as many samples of beer, one ounce at a time, as long as you had the glass. Sometimes people dropped the glasses – the sound of the breaking glass had a ringing quality that allowed it to be heard over the general hubbub of the crowd. People at the epicenter would call out an “Oooooh!” that rippled through the hall. No more beer for some poor guy. This occurred with increasing frequency as the night progressed, as you might imagine.

All they had was beer; there was no food. This was back in Currigan Hall. It was just a big open space (the world’s largest rigid space frame when it was built in 1969). There was a balcony that went all the way around the inside, just a wide corridor, really. Nowhere to sit, but you could lean on the railing take in the spectacle of the next dropped tasting glass. We found a vending machine up there, Funyuns and other long shelf life pseudo-food.

That was then. Things are different now. I haven’t even tried to get tickets as they sell out so fast. This year I’m told it took sixty-seven minutes. Sixty thousand people will taste nearly seventy-five hundred different beers. It’s the largest beer festival in the country, attended by people from all over the world.

Jason was kind enough to give me a ticket this year.

I don’t make it downtown very often. Last time was for the Bronco’s parade back in February. Genae and I took the bus, the Flatiron Flyer, to Union Station. That probably would have been the easiest thing to do tonight but Genae suggested I make an adventure of it and take the train instead. We have a few free passes, so what the heck.

After an early dinner I headed to the train station. I didn’t know exactly where it is, so I just punched the address into the phone and set off. Naturally, it took me to where they’re still building another parking lot, on the wrong side of the tracks from where I needed to be. Finally in the garage, I get a prime end spot next to the stairs. As I’m stepping out of the garage, I hear a train whistle. There’s the train, pulling into the station. Several minutes earlier than I expect. On reflection, it must have been sitting there the whole time as this station is at the end of the track (for now). It wasn’t pulling into the station from the east, full of commuters, it was coming from the west, empty.

I didn’t exactly run to the train, but I did pick up my pace a bit when a fellow ran past me. I needed to validate my free ticket. The guy who ran by me was working one of the credit card machines. I looked at the other but didn’t see anything about validation. I asked the other guy if he knew how to validate my pass but he didn’t. We got on the train, sat across the aisle from each other. How much trouble could I get into for not having my pass validated?

It’s a nice car, brand new. We sat a while before the doors closed and we departed. I never went through a turnstile so I assumed somebody would come by to check for tickets. I chatted with my fellow passenger. He, too, was headed to the festival. He’d spend the evening there with his son, then Uber home to Erie. Before long our conductor arrived. I told him I failed to validate my pass. He told me what I should look for next time and took my pass, which he immediately gave back to me.

When we got off the train we immediately met two women who asked us if we knew how to get to the beer fest. “We think we know where we’re going. You’re welcome to come with us.” On the train he had asked me where we needed to go. I said I thought it was 14th and Champa. We’d hop on the mall shuttle and head that way. Of course, half the people on the shuttle were going to GABF. Turns out I was off by a couple of blocks. The entrance is on 14th at California.

There was a line of people, four abreast, going through the glass doors. My train companion headed to will call and I went to get in line. At first I thought it was maybe fifty feet long. But it took a jog around a corner. Then underneath the building, past service entrances, along the single row of parking, almost to 12th Street. How many people in a line two and a half blocks long and four across? And the place has been open for about an hour, so how many people were there already?

Mercifully, the line moved pretty quickly. As we made our way toward the front a steady stream of people passed us on their way to the end. Lots of guys had necklaces made of pretzels. Take a bite of pretzel between samples to clear the palate. Judging by the number of pretzels, some of these guys were serious. Some were not so much necklaces as bandoliers, reaching from left shoulder to right waist.

Once inside I headed over to say hi to Jason. His team was pouring last year’s medal winners in the back corner of the entrance hall. I had my first sample right next door, the Bleidorf Kolsch from Periodic Brewing.

I downloaded the GABF app a few days ago but haven’t played around with it. I was thinking I’d be able to check off the beers I’d sampled. Instead, it gave me all sorts of sliders. I’d have been happy with a checkbox or a 1-5 star rating. It also wanted me to sign on to Facebook. Too much bother. Instead, I grabbed a pen from Port City Brewing and circled all the beers I tried in the 32 page beer list we got at the door.

My plan, more or less, was to stick to lighter beers for the most part, avoid standing in line, skip Colorado brewers and anything I can buy at the store, and walk every mile of the show. I also wanted to keep in mind the train schedule; my choices were 9:21 and 10:21.

I’m a lightweight. I sampled only a fraction of a percent of the available beers. I tried a variety of fruit beers: watermelon, black cherry, blueberry, peach. I like my fruit beer to be subtle. These were all pretty “in your face” except the blueberry. The only dark beer I tried was a chocolate chipotle – the chocolate was just undertones and the chipotle a smoldering aftertaste.

By the time I’d made a couple laps of the place I decided I’d had enough and made my way out. I arrived at 16th Street about sixty seconds too late to grab the shuttle. I expected to see another one soon; I expected one to pass me before I walked the length of the mall. This was optimistic: I never saw another shuttle. I made it to the train station at 9:24, missing the train by three minutes.

My free pass also works for the bus. When I texted Genae to tell her I’d be waiting nearly an hour for the train she suggested I take the Flatiron Flyer and she’d pick me up and shuttle me to the train station to fetch my car. Seemed like a lot of bother, and it kept her up after her bedtime, but in the end it saved me ten or fifteen minutes. And saved me pacing up and down the platform for an hour as I didn’t see any benches.

I enjoyed the evening. The beer festival isn’t something I need to do every year but it was fun and interesting.

Broncos Victory Parade

Tuesday, February 9

It’s a bit odd, as a fan, to say “we won the Super Bowl!” Of course, as fans we contributed very little. We didn’t go to any games; the team couldn’t hear us cheering them on. But we were carried along with the team on their emotional roller coaster: happy when the team won, not so happy when they didn’t.

Timing is everything. My gig in San Francisco ended just as the city was getting ready for the big party. I was gone before they had everything set up at the end of Market Street. Being there for the preparations was a bit of a vicarious thrill. Okay, thrill overstates it a bit. But I did have a sense of being included in something big. Being there before the game, watching them put up the giant Lombardi Trophy on the building across the street, got me more excited for the game.

Every winning team gets a big parade when they get back home. When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl we were in Phoenix so we missed out on everything. They say 650,000 fans turned out for the parade after Super Bowl XXXII and half a million came out for the one the next year. For this year’s parade, they were expecting similar sized crowds. Genae and I decided we’d join in the fun.

I’m not a huge fan of large crowds. As large crowds go, Broncos games themselves aren’t bad. For most of the people at any given game it’s not their first time there. They know where to park, how to get in and out of the stadium. Things are pretty orderly. Concert crowds generally aren’t as good. Ingress and egress are often in the dark, more people have navigational problems.

A parade crowd of half a million people is the equivalent of four Broncos games and ten arena concerts at the same time. The largest mass of people would be in Civic Center Park. A bus to Union Station was our best option. There was no possible chance of parking anywhere near downtown, and we don’t have a convenient train. We felt our best strategy was to walk to the Park N Ride, take the Flatirons Flyer to Union Station, and stay as close to there as possible.

The weather couldn’t have been better – bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, calm. We left the house earlier than our original plan, which turned out to be a good decision. There were about a hundred people lined up there before us. The Flatiron Flyer runs about every fifteen minutes.

The first FF1 arrived a couple of minutes late and took on only about a dozen passengers; standing room only. It’s a nice bus, a coach. The driver closes the door, tells the guy still on the stairs to move behind the yellow line. Everything in order, he starts to pull away from the curb. Unfortunately, an alarm is sounding: beep, beep, beep. He stops, opens the doors, closes the doors, tries again. Beep, beep, beep. Pushes some buttons. Gets on the phone. No, not a cell phone: a handset like from an old pay phone. The pear-shaped driver gets out, opens a couple of access doors, fiddles with this and that. Gets back in. Beep beep, beep.

Before long a supervisor showed up and the bus was quickly on its way. By now, some people had given up on waiting. Others ventured on to local buses to get down to Colfax. Through attrition, we’d moved up and were perhaps sixtieth in line. At a dozen per bus, we’d be here quite a while. We discussed our options. Maybe Michael could take us down and drop us off. We could get an Uber – one was seven minutes away. Or we could wait.

We waited, and our patience paid off. The supervisor announced that he had four empty buses on their way here. The next bus was, indeed, empty. When we boarded, the driver kept his hand over the money slot. We’re getting a free ride – that saves us nine bucks. A nice coach, appointed almost like an airliner: overhead bins, cloth seats, fan and light (but no tray). We were underway without any drama, fifty-six people dressed up in orange and blue.

Genae likes the navigator app on her phone almost as much as she likes checking the weather radar when it’s stormy. She shows me the map: a red spider-web. Everything going downtown is congested. Even so, it didn’t take too long to get to Union Station. I had never been there before. They recently finished the big underground bus station, but it was all new to me.

This is a bigger bus station than I expected, a concourse with at least ten gates on each side. We follow the crowd up the escalator and out onto the plaza. Amtrack and light rail lines terminate here from the north. The crowd flows south toward 16th Street. Normally, you can catch the Mall Ride here but today the Mall Ride is out of service. All their buses are lined up two by two, filling the concrete apron.

People are pushing strollers, pulling wagons, carrying children. The flow of people, a moment ago organized and directed in the bus station, like blood pulsing in a vein, is now more random. We went to the front of Union Station. People were lined up ten deep here so we went back to 16th and down a couple blocks to Larimer. Here it was only about six deep. We weren’t going to find anything better anywhere else.

We were in the second rank on the sidewalk, with three or four more between the curb and the barricade. The people in front of us had kids; the father wearing the daughter’s tiara on his baseball cap. There were strollers parked along the curb, and there were a lot of kids. There’s a stream of people behind us.

A guy comes up from behind me, says “Excuse me”, wanting me to move out of his way so he can get to the front. I ask him where he wants me to go and he has no answer. I turn my back on him. A few moment later he shoves me then steps in front of me. He now sees the strollers and kids blocking his way.

I said, “I know how you can get in the front row. Get here early.” He gives me a blank stare. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t get here early. Too late for you.”

No more blank stare. “I’ll kick your ass!”

I chuckled. “Really? You’re going to kick my ass in front of all these people?”

“You could have just gotten out of my way.”

You could have just not been a dick.

Undeterred, he worked his way to the front. The guy next to me, not tiara guy, is with his wife and young daughter. “Good thing for him my daughter is here.”

Every now and then, a couple of police motorcycles would pass slowly, lights flashing. The crowd would get excited then realize it was nothing. There was something going on across 17th from us. A few minutes later some paramedics wheeled out a guy on a gurney. Finally, at about 12:15 we could see the first fire truck over the heads of the crowds. The parade was under way!

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How do you get the job cleaning up after Thunder?

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Engine 18 – Kubiak, Manning, Ware, Mrs B (with trophy), Miller

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The receivers

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Defense!

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How many people in this picture don’t have phones?

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Eng77ine – Karl Mecklenburg

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My Arvada tax dollars at work! We got a better deal than Littleton!

After the last truck went by, we spilled past the barricades. The general flow was to follow the parade. We swam upstream, back to Union Station in search of lunch. We stood in line for fifteen minutes at Acme Burger. After placing our order, Genae went off in search of a place to sit while I waited for the food. I waited so long she thought I’d wandered off. I kept thinking our order would be up soon, then I realized how many orders they had lined up. And more kept spilling off the printer.

It was easy to spot our order come up. We ordered onion rings, which turned out to be unique. After the rings, the cook put up a burger, told the guy assembling the orders what it was – “original, no onions, no sauce”. So that’s our rings and Genae’s burger. But the burger ends up in someone else’s order, and my buzzer hasn’t buzzed. Another burger gets put up: “Western burger.” That’s mine. My buzzer buzzes. They’ve messed up. My burger and our rings are in the bag with an order of fries.

I tell the clerk it’s wrong, he looks at the ticket, calls out “I need an original, no onions, no sauce.” The cook responds, “I already gave you one.” “Give me another.” So we get a bonus order of fries. It took us a half hour to get served. I heard quite a few people ask for their money back. But what can you expect when there are a half a million people nearby?

Back at the bus station we found ourselves queued up for the FF1 behind about a hundred and fifty people. We considered jumping to the end of the Longmont bus queue when they were boarding but we remained patient and were again rewarded. “I have two buses for FF1!” One was a regular local bus, the other was a coach. We got on the coach. Again they weren’t taking any fares. When we rolled out the driver announced that today was a free day until 8pm.

Watching the news reports, I couldn’t believe how many people showed up. Initial reports had the number at a million. Now they’re saying it’s more like 780,000. Either number is mind-boggling. There are only about five million people in the entire state.

Lake Haiyaha addendum

One thing I forgot to mention…

On the hike out, I paused to catch my breath. A little bird, a gray jay, approached. First it landed on a tree branch six or eight feet away. Then it hopped to a closer branch, and then to one just inches from where my right hand rested on my trek pole. It sat there a moment, then flew away. It quickly returned, and repeated its movements.

Next, rather than flying away again, it flew up to look me right in the eye, hovered momentarily about a foot from my nose then returned to the branch. It did this hovering maneuver twice. I’m quite accustomed to having birds come begging when I’m eating, but this was a bit unusual. I don’t know if it was looking for food, or if this was some sort of defensive move. I understand they rear chicks in winter. Was our track close to its nest, or was it just curious?

Last Week’s HPR Video

I’m not the most creative guy when it comes to putting these track videos together. I have three basic types – a lap, a highlights reel, and ‘passing fancy’. This time I opted for the latter – nothing but making passes and getting passed. Every pass from all three sessions.

When I was driving, I never realized I was ever more than fifth car in line. But studying the tape, I see I was 18th in line at one point. That’s a lot of cars on track. I also couldn’t help but notice that every time I make a mistake, it messes me up for three turns. Something to work on.

Obviously, passing cars is more fun than getting passed. I admit to enjoy passing Corvettes and Mustangs, BMWs and Acuras. But for some unknown, irrational reason I really get a kick out of passing Porsches. Boxsters, 911s, 944s, doesn’t matter. I really like passing Porsches.

Alton Brown Live

Genae and I went to see Alton Brown do his thing at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I really had no idea what to expect. What does a famous TV cook do in a theater? Sing and dance?

Yes and no.

That is, he sang and played guitar (and saxophone!) and did some standup comedy. All about food and cooking. And even without any sort of kitchen equipment (except a mini fridge) he managed to whip up some ice cream and pizza. But no dancing.

Before the show

Before the show

But let’s back up a bit. The entertainment began well before the show started. There was a video screen above the stage, pure white and seemingly not in use. Every now and then a sock puppet showed up briefly. As it got closer to showtime, the puppets appeared more frequently. Then they started belching and farting. Made the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles seem tame in comparison. I was thinking it was directed at those of us in the audience stuck at 12 years old, but it turns out the little guys represented yeast. Then the lights came down and he walked on stage.

Alton Brown tweeted this picture early in the show.

Alton Brown tweeted this picture early in the show.

He made a couple of jokes about the Super Bowl – “I lost a hundred bucks last night, so I know how you feel!” And a couple jokes about pot brownies. Then launched into his show.

For the musical parts, he played guitar and sang. He did a love song to caffeine and a blues about pork chops, a rocker about wanting an Easy Bake Oven and a complicated lullaby about how easy it is to cook.

He had two big set pieces that required a participant from the audience.

The first was to make ice cream. He had constructed a device from plastic 5 gallon water bottles and fire extinguishers – a CO2 extinguisher on one end and a water one on the other, with a canister in between made from the bottles. The water one had chocolate milk in it instead of water. And the canister in between (held together with duct tape) had holes along the top for vents. He made sure to explain what the vents were for, then rotated the canister to angle the vents toward the audience. Then he passed ponchos out to the folks in the first couple of rows.

A member of the audience pulled the trigger on the chocolate milk side while he did the CO2 side. Ten seconds later, after a fair amount of noise and venting of chocolate laced CO2 over the folks up close, he pulled the tape off and scooped some of the contents into an ice cream cone. He had the volunteer taste the concoction – chocolaty and … carbonated!

This operation made a bit of a mess, so they took a break to clean things up.

The other big set piece was brought out after singing his song about the Easy Bake Oven. During the song they lowered an Easy Bake Oven from the rafters and he stopped the song: “I said 12 feet high!” The prop guy showed him the plans: “Two marks means inches, one mark means feet. Two marks!”

After the song he told us the story of his first Easy Bake Oven. His parents wouldn’t give him one but he got a hand-me-down from a cousin. This was old school – not one but two 100 watt bulbs. (Now I think they’re 40 watt.) But now that he’s a famous TV cook with means, he scaled it up a bit. I could almost hear Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor saying “More power!”

He unveiled a big contraption – the Mega Bake Oven. Built on a big steel frame he mounted 54 par 64 lights. Those are the ones you see over the stage at heavy metal concerts. They’re 1000 watts each. Half on top facing down, half on bottom facing up. With a conveyer in between, operated by a wheel like you’d find on an old pirate ship.

He selected another volunteer to help him make pizzas. After they tossed the dough, slathered on the sauce, piled on the cheese, pepperoni, and beef jerky, she worked the wheel to move the pizzas back and forth for three minutes to bake them while he showed slides of the building of the Mk 1 prototype Mega Bake. On stage was the Mk 3. “Don’t ask about the Mk 2 … I’ll just say ‘litigation'”. We were close enough to smell the pizza. Smelled pretty good.

Alton Brown is a very entertaining and talented guy. We had a great time.