While in not so sunny SoCal last week, I did get a chance to see Willis play a concert with Wirechoir, a five guitar ensemble, with added rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, at a church in Redondo Beach. I'm familiar with guitar ensembles from Willis' college days, but did not know the concept extended beyond academic music departments. The original Wire Choir, formed in the 70's by guitarist Tony Rizzi, featured a number of LA session guitarists, in particular, Jimmy Wyble, who came to fame with Bob Wills and his western swing ensembles. Upon his death, the Rizzi family gave the Wire Choir charts to the USC music school, where Terry Carter was studying (and Willis as well). Terry was impressed by the idea and has resurrected the guitar ensemble concept. The new Wirechoir now performs around the LA area and features some of the current crop of top guitar talent in that area.

The concert was quite enjoyable. My experience with guitar ensembles is one of mixed blessings, it's hard for the group to keep things together, particularly without dragging. However, Wirechoir does have its feces together, and kept things on a pretty even keel. Their arangement of Miles Davis' "Four" can be heard or downloaded here.


Joshua Tree Adventures

For a number of years I've visited Palm Springs and always wanted to check out Joshua Tree National Park. And now that I have my "Golden Eagle" pass, a Joshua Tree visit became more compelling. So finally this week, as part of an October vacation, we finally traveled up, and through, the park. With some trepidation on the part of my LA city girl friend, we did a short hike, a tour of the Lee's ranch, and a long drive to the remote entrance/exit of the park. All in all, pretty cool, and literally, thankfully, since the weather was stormy but temperatures pleasant. A good time to visit the park, avoiding the temp extremes of summer and possible snow storms of winter. (Click on the pics for a larger presentation).

After the initial stop at the visitor's center, then presentation of the virgin senior pass to the ranger, we were off. First stop was the Hidden Valley loop hike. This valley was used at the turn of the 20th Century by cattle rustlers, who hid their herd in the box canyon. Our intrepid hiker at the start, then some shots of the valley:

Here's a nice mini Joshua tree, and some shots of interesting plants:

Above, I thought these were yucca plants, with an unusual bloom I called featherdusters. However, while possibly part of the yucca family, the plant is more accurately called Parry's nolina. Here's another example, framing our intrepid hiker...

Joshua Tree is a popular destination for rock climbers. They've named this formation the "great burrito"...

And, finally for this portion of the trip, a neat shot of a rock window... By the way, this is not some form of sandstone, these rocks are granite!

We then drove over to Keys Point, an overlook high above the valley containing Palm Springs. Views are supposed to extend all the way to Mexico, but with overcast skies, we didn't see much. Unfortunate...

Lacey wanted to check out the Keys ranch... this is a tour conducted by a ranger and held once a day. Since it was stormy, we were the only ones prepared for the tour (we brought umbrellas, more for the blazing sun, but, as it turned out, proper protection for the intense cloudbursts we experienced). The ranger gave us a "private" tour, including the tin roof machine shed were we sought shelter during the most intense rain.

Bill Keys was an early homesteader in the area. First as a gold miner, then a cattleman, then as a "home depot" (he collected lots of junk for spare parts), somehow his family made a living and were able to survive until 1960 or so...

My favorite part of the ranch were the old trucks. A minor passion is to take pictures of these trucks, some day to collect them all into some sort of portfolio. The Mack truck has actually run in recent history (last 5-10 years).

And a shot from the ranch back over the entrance to the area.

Then we were off on the long drive to the southwestern entrance of the park. This took us across the division of high desert (Mohave) down to the low (and more desolate) desert (Colorado/Sonoran). We caught a great lightning storm and drove through pounding rain (thankfully brief). We did get a dry stop at the cholla cactus garden. Pretty neat...

Look but you better not touch...

From this exit, a short drive took us to I-10 and back to Palm Springs. Quite the loop, and a fun day. I want to visit Joshua Tree again, more great hikes to do, and other routes to take through the park.


Korean Friendship Bell

So we are driving around in San Pedro, an area I've hardly explored, and found this beautiful park high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. And in the center is the Korean Friendship Bell. This is an amazing piece of work, situated simply yet stunningly at this ocean overlook. A wonderful treat for a Friday afternoon. So here is your friend...


Mermen Unibomber

Well, it has been cold at work... 64 degrees in the office until about noon when the temp rises a bit. Sitting behind a computer, this means lowering body temps and freezing extremities. Lots of walking around to stimulate blood flow.

Off on a bit of vacation. Orange County, a Willis gig, then over to Palm Springs and a day at Joshua Tree. Don't know if and when I'll have Inet access, but if I do, I'll try to update this blog with pics from the trip.


Big Hole II

The torture never stops. After digging up the main shutoff valve to our sprinkler system for replacement, I then found, after a couple huge water bills, that the system had a major leak. But where? It's a big yard, the leak could be anywhere. However, there were a couple clues. First, none of the zones appeared to leak, so the problem was probably between the main shutoff and the individual zone valve manifold. Since I saw no leaks in the front while the first hole was open, the big leak had to be in the back yard somewhere.

This led to a guess... I had an idea where the main feed went under a cement retaining wall for the hot tub deck. Experience has shown that a pipe can vibrate against the cement and eventually leak. So I began digging. I soon found very wet soil, then as I got deeper, a pool of water began to form. Good news! But... to get to the pipe itself, I had to dig under the steps leading to the deck. Not good... the only way to do things was remove the steps... no easy task and very heavy... but with some help, it was done.

I finished digging out the hole. I also had to dig out under the front of the deck, since several distribution pipes are visible. Which is the main pipe? How will the leak be fixed? Can a new pipe be run to provide service? Not sure yet how things will go.

I turned the main valve on to try to identify the exact spot of the leak, but it appears to come from well under the retaining wall. There were some roots pushing up through the pipes, and some sharp rocks wedged close, plus a rough edge of cement pushing down on the pipes, so one of those probably wore through the feed pipe.

What a PITA! Not sure yet how to resolve this situation, and of course, what of the future? These sprinkler systems are a constant nightmare. Time to turn the whole yard back to desert!