Willapa Hills Trail

Willapa Hills Trail is the former Northern Pacific spur line from Chehalis Washington to South Bend Washington.   The right-of-way has been acquired by Washington State Parks, and now serves as a biking and hiking trail.

Chehalis River along the Willapa Hills Trail east of Pe Ell

I’m happy to say that the photo above is not a stock photo, but my picture of yesterday morning!  We are enjoying a Washington trip to see friends, family, and to enjoy the Willapa Hills Trail for the first time.  It was my intent to ride the trail from Chehalis to Raymond (my hometown).  A bit of 65-year-old realism caught up with me.  That realism has been expressed in “pre-arthritic” knees!    So it has become a ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell along the trail.

My daughter Erin came up from Portland to join me on the first leg of the ride.   We rode from Logan Street in Centralia to Rainbow Falls State Park.   I chose to ride from Centralia rather than starting in Chehalis at the trailhead, because Logan Street was the home place of my Grandpa and Grandma Henkel.   Erin and I rode the paved streets of Centralia and Chehalis about 6 miles to the trailhead.  Then we rode the trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls.  The trail was a joy.   To see this area, away from the traffic (modest though it may be on highway 6), and at a slow pace, is an experience I’ll always remember, and I’m so grateful that Erin chose to accompany me!

The required selfie as we started out on the trail

The trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls is about 15 miles, a distance I often cover at home on morning rides.  But those rides are on paved trails and start at mile zero, not at mile six.   The first five miles of the trail are paved, and the rest of the trail to Rainbow Falls is gravel.   My sixty-five year old knees learned that its not the miles but the total pedal rotations that count to determine endurance.   But we had a marvelous time!

Erin kickin’ it up on a railroad bridge east of Adna

After Erin returned to Portland, the next day I returned to the trail and rode to Pe Ell, where my wife, Terri, met me.  The knees told me I’d rode enough.  My mind tells me I had a wonderful time, despite riding half as far as I had intended.   Perhaps next spring there will be another adventure.

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Artic, Washington

While visiting family in Grays Harbor, we stayed at Artic RV Park. It turned out to be a beautiful place. I suppose that Good Sam Club would give it less than 5 stars, but I’d give it 6. Nestled in the trees, along Highway 101 about 18 miles north of Raymond, Washington, it was a surprising delight. We were greeted warmly by the owners and offered veggies from their garden! Certainly having grown up in Raymond, I never thought that I’d ever spend a night in Artic, but there we were.

This scene makes me think of my Mom, who often told the story of her “dream cabin” just a few miles down the road at Elk Horn.   As she would tell it, she was on a road trip with her parents and her boyfriend (also known as my Dad!).  When stopped at the Elk Horn, she snuggled up to her boyfriend, and said, “Oh wouldn’t that little cabin be a wonderful place to live?”  Not long after, she was living in that cabin, and making a lifelong friend with the owner, Maggie Thornton.   Of course she also said she was very happy to move out, because when the wind blew, the thought of trees crashing into that little cabin scared her to death!   And as the telling goes, a few years later a giant fir destroyed that little cabin.

Some tree hugging with a centuries old spruce tree, and a photo of my intrepid explorer, Terri!

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LaRue McGuire: Oral History Part 2

My Mom, LaRue Dorothy Henkel McGuire was born on October 26,  1916.  She lived a remarkable life of 98 years.  Two days ago, we noted the day that would have been her 100th birthday, with memories, photos and stories.

I shared my blog entry of 2010, which included a transcription of an oral history Mom shared.   At the time, I was planning to transcribe a second recording.   But I never got “around to it”.   That recording has been in storage and waiting for six years.

On this birthday, the recording needs to be shared with family!    Here it is:

Frank Henkel and his girls, Bernice and LaRue, circa 1923

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Life at Steed Pond

My morning walk often passes by Steed Pond. It’s a small bit of nature amidst my suburban neighborhood. This spring, I’ve taken to more walks, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see what’s living there, or at least passing by for the catch of the day.
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This morning four American White Pelicans were fishing there, along with a couple of Double Crested Cormorants and the usual ducks. The pelicans migrate to areas near Salt Lake each spring, and depart for southern destinations in the fall. In years past, I had been amazed to see them on the water at a golf course, but this week was the first sighting within a half mile of home.

I was pleased to see the pelicans, but had to wonder what they were finding to eat. A bit of Google research reveals that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources annually stocks the pond with rainbow trout. It turns out they are a tasty treat for pelicans. And I don’t think they are respecting the limit of 2 per day!

DWR reports that this year they’ve planted 2807 rainbow trout in Steed Pond. These trout have had an average length of 11 inches. Examining the bill of the pelicans, I’d say the trout are a right-sized snack. It’s fun to watch them fishing.

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Drivemode – A lifesaving app!

Hello.  I’m Duane, and I am a smartphone user who drives a car.

So far as I know, there is not a 12-step program for folks like us, but there is a great app!

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I’ve been using Drivemode for Android, and it enforces good habits for me.   It is feature rich, and here’s how I use it:

1) My cars activate Drivemode via bluetooth when  I start the car.
2) I am appointment driven, and as soon as I start up,  a single tap will initiate navigation to my next appointment!  Marvelous!   Just what I’ve needed for a long time.
3) I’ve set incoming calls to go to voicemail immediately and the caller gets a text saying I’m driving.  Wonderful.   They know I’m operating safely, and I implicitly encourage them to do the same.
4) I’m never tempted to look at an incoming message from SMS or Messenger.   Drivemode just reads me the message.  Cool.

There are many more features.   Check it out:  Drivemode.com.  Be safe!

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Woodwork Outside of a Piano!

The past few days, the woodshop has been put to work on a project that is not a piano!    In December we installed new hardwood flooring and planned that we would fabricate baseboard molding on our own.   I favored a lighter contrasting wood, and my creative wife suggested a laminated baseboard with a walnut detail.    I endorsed her idea despite the extra labor.   I’m going to like it!

Here’s the flooring as completed in December:   20151225_184524

Here’s the baseboard in process in the shop today:

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It’s put together with poplar and walnut.   With exposure to light, the poplar will darken.   I’m looking forward to seeing it with some polyurethane finish.

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Thoughts on Smoke Stacks

Sometimes I think I was born 70 years too late.  70 years too late to participate first hand in the excitement of the industrial age.  Every day, though,  I touch work that was created decades ago, and have the opportunity to behold the  craftsmanship and industrial techniques of piano manufacturing. The work that I do today, rebuilding old instruments, is the same work that was done by original craftsmen decades ago.

As I work, I frequently run across lithographs of piano manufacturing facilities – sometimes stenciled inside a piano lid, and sometimes in historical marketing materials and ephemera. Always, I find these industrial lithographs to be ironic when viewed against today’s  environmental strictures.  All of the representations of factories show very active smokestacks. It would seem that the smoke, which could have been edited out, was prominent because the smoke implied industrious productivity!

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Sometimes I think I was born 70 years too late!  But I did come along at the back end of the industrial age. From Riverdale elementary school in Raymond, Washington when I attended from 1958 to 1962, the expansive south-facing windows provided a fine view of the Weyerhauser mill across the river. I could freely daydream from my hard wooden desk watching the smoke patterns against the occasionally blue sky.

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Later, when I was in high school, I washed the sidewalks of soot and sawdust in front of The Dennis Company every Saturday morning. One of the old timers in town came by one day and asked if I knew what I was cleaning up! “Sure,” I said, “dirt”.

“No,” he said, “that’s Pay Dirt!”. I learned something about industrial era economics and attitudes from the old guy. He knew, even though I did not, that all that soot and sawdust meant paychecks for everyone in town.

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This is your brain

A theory on the learning of complex manual tasks suggests that we need 10,000 hours of practice to master a complex skill. For instance, playing tennis, flying an airplane, playing the piano, or driving a car. A theory of brain science suggests that the nervous system of homo sapiens did not develop primarily for thinking, but for appropriate reaction to learned stimuli. I think these two theories are closely related.

From 1974 to 1978, I spent approximately 7,000 hours mastering the skill of driving a transit bus (Metro Transit, Seattle) while meeting the needs of riders.

This afternoon, I was driving my Dodge RAM pickup while towing my piano hauling trailer. That’s the closest thing I own to a bus. As I was slowing for a right turn, I simultaneously approached a bus stop. I observed two girls there waiting, and as I approached, their subtle change of posture indicated they wanted to board my bus! AUTONOMOUS BRAIN! STOP IT! You are not driving a bus, and haven’t since 1978! My thinking brain quickly engaged, and caused me to look in the rear view mirror, where a UTA bus was approaching one block behind me.

Don’t you just love thinking about your brain? flxible

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New Musical Fun

Once a barbershopper, always a barbershopper? It could be.

A new barbershop chorus formed in Davis County, Utah in 2014 … but they forgot to let me know. Well … I found them anyway, and I’m ready for some old fun repeated and some new fun with new friends.

The chorus is the North Front Sound. You can visit their website, or have a look on Facebook

Last night was my first performance with them. We shared a venue at Northridge High School in Layton, UT. For me it brought back many fond memories, and it was just plain fun to be a part of an enthusiastic and talented chorus.


Throw-back Thursday? The photo below was from a “few years ago”.

ThatOldQuartetOfMine

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Occasional observations of Duane McGuire