Tuesday, June 26, 2007

France - School days

Zac had to work ( if you want to call it that ) Monday and Tuesday, so I went to the university with him.

I was "show and tell" for his classes. He gave them about 10 minutes to write questions to find out as much as possible about me. He only introduced me as a "guest". He also told them that no question was "off- limits" but be prepared because I WOULD give them my opinion if asked.

I didn't take long for them to figure out I was Zac's dad. After that, the questions became very interesting. I knew they would ask about the war, but there was one question that caught me off guard.

I was asked if every American owned a gun. Not being a gun owner myself, it was rather hard to explain America's love affair with guns. All they ever hear about is the gun violence in America. After hearing them talk about it, I understand their fears about coming to America. When asked if they wanted to visit America, I would see actual fear in them as they said "no".

I never once felt "uneasy" in France and it is a shame for young people (the most trusting of all) to feel their life is in danger if visiting here.

I really enjoyed my time with these young people and felt their energy and excitement about their futures. What a marvelous time in life.

I have always supported Zac in his decisions but I can say I always thought he was destined for greater things than being an educator. After seeing the aplomb he exhibited in the classroom, I put my doubts to rest. All I ever wanted was for him to be happy and in the classroom he is truly that. As a college professor he should have a great life. What more could a parent ask for.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

France - Le Mans race track

When Zac first started talking about going to Le Mans, France to teach the only thing I knew about the town was its famous race track.
Being a car guy all my life, I has been watching the 24hrs of Le Mans for many years. Back before cable and satellite tv there was very little auto racing on tv. ABC's Wide World of Sports always carried the race.

As soon as I decided to visit him, I knew a trip to the track was a "must" for me.
On Sunday after visiting the market, boarded a city bus and headed to the race track. The city bus does not go all the way so we have a very enjoyable walk of a mile or so. As we neared the track and its car museum we noticed engine noises from the race track. As we walked closer we saw motorcycles parked everywhere.

They were having practice runs for a big motorcycle race. Usually when you pay to visit the museum you are allowed to walk on the racetrack and sit in the grandstands. The motorcycle time trials were charging 18 Euros.

The auto museum was not what I was expecting.

I thought it would be just the cars that raced at Le Mans, but the larger part of it was just a very nice car museum with cars was all over the world. Only a small part was racing automobiles.

It did have the greatest American road racing car of all time.

The 1967 Ford GT40 that "kicked the Europeans butt".

"GT 40" because it was a GRAND TOURING car and only 40 inches high.

And IMHO the most beautiful race car of all time, the 1953 Ferrari.

This large megaphone clock hung from the ceiling. With a mouth of about 3 ft and an overall length of more that 6 feet, it was impressive. The "works" were in the small end and the hands extending to the large end.
The temperatures were starting to be rather nice so we just walked back toward town passing several bus stops instead of just waiting for the bus at the end of the line.

This was just an ordinary suburban street in Le Mans along the bus route.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can I have an "Amen"?

Please lend me a hand as I am about to get on my "soapbox" again.

The older I get the more I like things to be traditional. We were having pizza the other day and two young punks were at a table across from us. Now I know pizza is not "fine dining", but one of these fine young men was eating while wear a baseball cap backwards.

Baseball caps are to be worn in one way and one way only.

Worn like this!

Not off to one side!

Unless you are about to put on a catcher mask, it is NEVER to be worn backwards, and by-the-way punk, SHAVE.

While eating the only place for a baseball cap is OFF.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

France - back in Le Mans

Sunday morning we went to the "outdoor market" before we headed to the race track.
It was a walk of just over half an hour.

I enjoyed walking around and watching the French people just going about their everyday lives.

You can imagine my surprise to see this monument honoring the Wright brothers on the corner of the square. We think of them only as American heroes but their popularity was world wide.

The square is part of "old town" Le Mans. I tried to show just how difficult walking on cobblestone streets can be. It's no wonder that most older French people use a walking cane. Every stone is at a little different level and rounded on the top. I found it very hard on my hip joints.

This photo was taken in "old town" looking down to the modern Le Mans. The market square was just to the left of the traffic signal in the photo.

With no tourist walking around, one can immerse themselves in the French way of life. That is what visiting another country is all about.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

France - Angers part 2

After the castle we visited a church and decided to have pizza for lunch. Pizza is inexpensive and provides the much needed carbs for all the walking.

Most pizzas in France are served with an egg on them.

I shot this photo of Zac and Matt as we wandered the streets of Angers. Everyone walks in France and I found it very pleasant to roam the streets.

Who can resist ice cream from Italy? Good thing we are doing so much walking.

If I haven't mentioned it before, Matt is from England and teaches at the University with Zac and Emily. They all work out of the same small office and have become very good friends. Emily and the other Emily ( both from the northeast in the US, [the other Emily is teaching high school in Le Mans]) had plans for the day and could not join us.

The girls had visited with me at the bar the night before and Matt had laid back as he knew we would have today to visit.

Matt and I hit it off right away. I can't stand the English accent that is portrayed on American tv but found his refreshing

We visited a museum with tapestries. Not my cup of tea, but the boys enjoyed it and I got some much needed rest. The "old rugs" were hanging in a large room and I sat most of the time while they viewed each one.

Zac and I had coffee and Matt had "a spot of tea" before we boarded the train back to Le Mans. It was a wonderful outing and visit.

As Matt and I talked, I mentioned the lack of pickup trucks in France and asked about them in England. He responded with, "Oh, pickups, those are the SUVs with trailers on the back. No, not many in England". I thought I would die laughing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Zac's Dilemma

Zac had been accepted into the 3 Phd programs (Penn State, Ohio State, and Albany) he had applied for but only two had sent there financial packages to him.

With the date to accept their offer fast approaching, he was a little concerned that the last offer would not arrive in time to make a decision.

Luckily the last offer came in the last full day of my trip.

While we were touring the castle of Angers, I had to stop and take a break from all the climbing and walking.

While I rested I took this photo of Zac as he sat and pondered his future. The offer from Ohio State and Penn State were about the same so he ruled out Ohio State because of its enormous size. When the offer from Albany finally arrived, he decided on Penn State.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

France - Angers

I will continue with my posts about my trip to France to see my son with what I consider the gem of the trip.

We had invited Matt to join us for the day. When Zac said we were heading to Angers to see a castle, I thought it was just an another old large residence. Boy was I wrong.

After exiting the train station, we entered downtown Angers. A very modern city.

So you can imagine my surprise when we walked a few blocks and rounded a corner to see this. A 13th century castle.

The castle has a "dry mote" as it is about 100 meters above the Maine River. The dry mote kept the enemy from carrying ladders up to the side of the wall.

This is the drawbridge that was used to cross the mote. I really didn't understand what all this meant until we went inside and took the tour.

A thought this was just a wall around a military encampment, like we have all seem in old western movies.
Upon entering, I came to realize this WAS the entire town of Angers.

There was a room with about a dozen models of the castle showing its different configurations over the years.

These are a few pictures of the buildings inside the wall (it ranged from about 110ft to 200 ft high).

Inside the walls was a self-sustaining city. Fruit trees, vegetable garden, and herb gardens.

The castle overlooks the river to control its waterway.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Deck-day 4

Today I wrapped up the deck by underpinning it.

Sometimes it is the little details that no one notices that make one job look a little nicer that the next one. You really can't see it in the photo but the two panels on the right have the outside boards on the lattice work running toward the center at the top and the two on the left do the same. This centers your vision on the middle of the deck.

This photo shows the post I added under the deck to match it top post I had added to break the long span.

I wanted to be able to store stuff under the deck. I thought about putting hinges on the panels but I also wanted to remove the panels when I move the deck. Hinges would have to be unscrewed and that leads to sloppy screw holes. Plus 7 sets of hinges would add almost $75 to the project.

If you enlarge this picture you will see the "spikes" I used. They shove in flush but I pulled them out so you could see them. All 7 panels have 4 holes drilled and the spikes inserted. Holes were then drilled in the posts so the spikes can be a "slip" fit.

Remove the 2 top spikes and the panel can be tilted down.

Remove the 2 bottom spikes and the panel can be tilted up.

Remove all 4 spikes and the panel can be removed. At $.08 a spike the 7 panels cost $2.24 for "hinges" the fit my needs.

I am not telling you this is the way to build a deck but just showing you how I built mine.

I spent about 35 hours building the deck. Heck, that means it only cost about $20 an hour to have "all this fun".

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