Ukulele!

Hey – I finished the Uke!

Gluing up the neck

Gluing up the neck

When I left you last – I’d finished with the neck – and was ready to glue it up. So I got a cam strap out of my truck, and a bar clamp – and glued it up.

Damp sand

Damp sand

I’d sanded the body and the neck separately up through 320 grit sandpaper – then – I wiped down the uke with a damp rag, let it dry, and sanded it down with first 400, then 600 grit sandpaper. The water raises the fibers of the wood – and then they get sanded off – theoretically.

Mixing up the shellac

Mixing up the shellac

I’m going to finish the uke with what’s called a French Polish. It’s not a polish at all – bat a lot of hyper-thin layers of shellac. I start off by mixing up shellac flakes with pure grain alcohol – we’re using a 2lb cut of shellac. I mixed up 1 cup – and after finishing the uke – I can’t tell that any was used.

uke_406You apply the shellac with what’s called  muneca or fad. I have a ball of gauze, and wrap it tightly in cotton (like t-shirt fabric).

The menuca

The menuca

You place a few drops of shellac at a time on the menuca – and then rub it onto the wood. I did 9 coats on my uke – I’d guess that less than a tablespoon of shellac went into those 9 coats.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

As you get more coats on, the alcohol in the shellac will melt the previous coats, and the menca will stick or drag. When that happens you put a drop of olive oil on it – and keep going. As the alcohol dries, the oil gets forced to the surface and you just wipe it off with a rag.

uke_408Here’s after about 6 coats – it’s a pretty nice finish – not shiny like poly – but pretty deep – I like the color as well.

uke_409One of the last things I had to do was make a nut – since the one the morons at Waldork Music sent was too short. I get a bone classical guitar nut blank from Stewart McDonald, and cut it to fit.

Making a nut

Making a nut

I profiled the back a little with a file – then marked off the string positions.

uke_411And used a nut slotting file to cut the slots for the strings. I’ve got the action pretty close – but there is some buzz on the C & A strings – so I probably need to ease the back of the nut some more on those – and I might take the action down a bit more. I also profiled the saddle (also bone), and I probably need to round it a bit more – it seems a little flat – and I might be getting some buzz from there.

uke_412But it kinds of looks like a uke. Kind of sounds like a uke. I’m going to call it a uke!

 

Kevo

 

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Rally Practice Run

Well,  our fourth Ural National Rally Day is coming up September 6, and in my role as Rally Master I need to make sure the rally scorecard works – so I did a practice rally to try out the new format.

The rally is kind of a scavenger hunt – you get points for finding stuff like Roadside attractions, riding on dirt roads, eating pie, etc.

Scoresheet and Rally Flag

Scoresheet and Rally Flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To keep track of my points I had my official score sheet – where I can check off my points as I collect them. My clipboard, with a couple of rubber bands to keep the pages from flying off – and to keep my pencil handy. Underneath the score sheet is a rally log – where I track my miles for riding dirt roads, etc. On the gas tank is my Rally flag – to which I glued some little magnets so I could hang it on the bike for documenting stops – that worked pretty well. In the map case on the bars are my 4×6 cards with turn-by-turn directions to stuff that I need directions to find.

For this ride, I made a loop through Austin to pick up a few points by stopping by some points of interest. Then I shot out to Lexington  – meeting David and Laura on his Ducati along the way. We ate at Snows, then looped out to Deanville and Dime Box, then pie at Elm Creek Cafe. David and Laura shot for home then, and I took a roundabout way home to pick up a few more points on small local roads. The whole loop was about 261km.

Rally Day Test Route

Rally Day Test Route

My first stop was right around the corner at the lightbulb shop

The Idea Man at the Lightbulb Shop

The Idea Man at the Lightbulb Shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was 25 quick points, and then down the road.

The Treaty Oak

The Treaty Oak

To the Treaty Oak. This is the last of 14 oaks that were called the Council Oaks. Folklore has it that Stephen F. Austin negotiated a treaty with the local Indians here – or that these trees were the boundary between The Austin Colony and Indian lands – or that the local Indians sat here and smoked and had councils. In any case the tree is 500 years old. Some idiot poisoned it a few years ago – the limbs used to stretch out over 120 feet – but it’s hanging in there.

The Texas Capitol

The Texas Capitol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was going to collect points here for the tallest capitol – since the Texas Capitol is 11 feet higher than the US Capitol – but there are six other state capitols which are higher – so I collected points for the tallest pink granite capitol.

The Shortest State Capitol

The Shortest State Capitol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the foundations of the original state capitol – which burned in 1881 – if I’d been on the ball I would have collected points for the shortest state capitol.

Moon tower

Moon tower

 

Here’s points for the only Moontowers still being used in the US. These were erected in 1894 – they’re 164 feet high – and the six lights up top provide illumination equivalent to the light of a full moon. There were originally 31 moontowers around downtown Austin, 17 of them survive – but only 6 are on their original locations. They still light up the city at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French Legation

The French Legation

This is a terrible picture  – but here’s the French Legation to the Republic of Texas – the oldest continually occupied building in Austin.  From here – I jetted out to Manor to meet David and Laura – and we shot up to Lexington to:

Snows' BBQ

Snows’ BBQ

Snows. This place is only open Saturdays. They cook some of the best brisket around. They start serving at 8:30 am – by 11:00 you’re lucky to get a slice of beef. We hit them about 9:20 – hardly a line. By the time we left about 10:15 – there were people out the door.

Good eating

Good eating

It’s almost criminal to get points for eating barbeque this good – but I’ll take them anyway.

This is what breakfast should look like – nothing like BBQ at 9:30 am.

Satisfied

Satisfied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre BBQ

Pre BBQ

And to make it even better there was a cattle sale in the sale barn at the end of the street – so we were serenaded by the pre-bbq being run through the chute.

From Snows we headed east to Deanville  – to the Sons of Herman Lodge. I’d tried a couple of times to hit them when they were cooking – and finally made it.

Sons of Herman

Sons of Herman

By request I didn’t take any pictures of the pits or the bbq – and I’m not at liberty to  say the pork steak was damn good – but we did actually make it there.

And then down the road a few more miles to Dime Box to see

Dime in a Box in Dime Box

Dime in a Box in Dime Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dime in a Box. In 1939 The March of Dimes kicked off their campaign in Dime Box – and this big Dime was part of that hoohah.

And then the most important stop of the day

Elm Creek Cafe

Elm Creek Cafe

For

Dewberry Buttermilk Pie

Dewberry Buttermilk Pie

Elm Creek Cafe has the best pie around. This was a buttermilk pie with dewberries and a crumb topping – my goodness – no doubt a 50 point slice of heaven.

After leaving Elm Creek I did about an hour of Odometer Bingo. I started riding, then when I came to a cross road, I’d look at my odometer – if the last number was even – I’d go right, if it was odd, I’d go left – if it was 0 I went straight. After three turns I was completely lost.

Lost

Lost

But it was a beautiful day – and everything was green from recent rains.

Still No Clue

Still No Clue

Ran down some nice dirt roads as well. I resisted the urge to look at the map to see where I was. I finally came out on a 4 lane paved road – no road sign – so I did what the odo said and went left – in a couple of miles I saw I was on 21 – and Old Texas 20 was just up ahead – so I bailed on my ODO-Bingo – and whipped off onto my favorite road of all.

Old Texas 20

Old Texas 20

Old Texas 20 was the “highway” from Houston to Austin from 1917 to 1939. This section runs from Paige to Manor – and is along the original right of way with all the original bridges.  Today it’s a great little 1 1/2 lane road. I rode this back to Manor – than hopped on its replacement – US 290 – and headed to the house.

Total the Score

Total the Score

So I got home and looked over my log – added up my miles – and totaled up my scores  – and ended up with 1454 points – I don’t know if that’s good or bad – but it was a heck of a lot of fun.

Go Ride!

Kevo

 

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Willow City Loop – Chicken Fried

50px-Old_Texas_20.svgIt’s time for our annual Campout and Toast to Coleman Davenport – so I camped out at Krauses Springs for four days. David came out on Friday morning and we did a nice ride from Spicewood, around the Willow City Loop, and into Llano for some burgers.

Spicewood to Llano and back - about 130 miles all in.

Spicewood to Llano and back – about 130 miles all in.

The route was county roads and Farm to Markets all the way to Hwy 16.

Camping at Krauses

Camping at Krauses

We were camped in our usual spot.

Sausages from Zabbicksville - and Bolners in San Antonio

Sausages from Zabbicksville – and Bolners in San Antonio

Here’s the sausages I rode up to Zabbicksville for a couple of weeks ago – along with some ring sausages Rob brought up from Bolners in San Antonio.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe roads out to Willow City were great little county roads – no traffic – though we did see a Coati Mundi – or it could have been a chupacrabra.

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And even a little well-graded dirt in the mix – which David’s Ducati handled like a Russian.

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The wildflowers were about done – but the cholla was fruiting out.

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Willow City – well, the loop anyway – there are actually 2 buildings in downtown Willow City – which is about 20 miles down this little twisty roller-coaster of a road.

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This area is in the Llano Uplift – which is a huge area of pink granite

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The views along the loop make it hard to watch where you’re going.

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And  a couple of hundred yards of fence with cowboy boots on the posts is just as distracting.

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After fifty miles of county roads, a two-lane farm to market road is like a super highway.

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A quick run up Hwy 16 to Llano – and we found The Burger Bar just across the Llano river from downtown.

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The special was a chicken fried hamburger  – which David could not pass up.

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And I had to do a jalapeno cheeseburger – with tots – the most magical of the fried salted potato products.  This is a really good burger – fresh ground local beef, hand-formed, well cooked on a well seasoned grill. I’d say the chicken fried burger was pretty good, too, the same patty – breaded and deep fried.

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Excellent burger, excellent ride, excellent day.

Kevo

 

 

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Bluebonnets and Hot Guts

It’s time for our annual reprobate campout, so I made a run out to Zabbicksville, Texas to pick up some sausages for our tire flaps and guts dinner (That’s tortillas and sausages for the non reprobates out there).

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Zabbicksville is about 80 miles northeast of Austin – that area is old cotton farming country.

The bluebonnets were in full bloom

The bluebonnets were in full bloom

Thanks to rains in the fall, the bluebonnets have been better than in years – and they were everywhere. One of the nice things about riding a scooter this time of year – you can smell the bluebonnets as you ride.

Corn - knee high to a cat

Corn – knee high to a cat

The corn is up – everything was green.

Zabbicksville - half of it anyway

Zabbicksville – half of it anyway

Zabbicksville, this community was  first called Possum Creek, when a guy named Lugo built a store it was called Lugoville, shen it sold the store to a guys named Karek – it was Marekville – and a guy name Zabbick bought the store in 1932 (when the building above was built), and ever since it’s been called Zabbicksville.  This is just half the town – the other – better -half is

Best Sausage in Zabbicksville

Best Sausage in Zabbicksville

Green’s is a little meat market, sausage house, restaurant, bakery, grocery market. Amazing sausages.

Smoked Pork, Beef, Pork and Beef -

Smoked Pork, Beef, Pork and Beef –

I always drive away wishing I’d bought more.  These are Czech style sausages – I’m getting hungry looking at them.  I was there a little early for lunch – they make a great sausage burger – so I decided to whip down to Barlett and eat at Lois and Jerry’s.

FM437

FM437

Nice roads out there around Rogers and Holland – rolling hills – no traffic – though I saw a lot of guys on scooters out enjoying the sunshine.

No Joy -

No Joy –

I rolled into Bartlett – and no joy – Lois and Jerry’s is closed on Saturday.

Old BBQ

Old BBQ

This would have been a likely alternative – in 1963

Road Warrior?

Road Warrior?

And down this street was this weird construction – they’ve walled everything off but the street – there are guard towers and walkways – on the other side there are oil drums stacked four high. I guess they’re getting ready for the Zombie apocalypse.

Thwarted by Zombies and the calendar – I drove south on 95 thinking about lunch – and saw the sign for FM972 – which means one thing – Walburgers – so I whipped off 95 and rode the 10 miles down to Walburg.

Sales Essenhaus

Dales Essenhaus

Dale’s Essenhaus is definitely open on Saturday – so I pulled up a table and ordered a Walburger all the way.

The Wahlburger

The Walburger

This is a dang good burger – fresh – ground up cow – with some char on the outside – mustard – pickles – lettuce – tomatoes – sliced onion – cheese – nice toasted bun.  This is a sixty mile hamburger.  And they keep your tea filled up – it’s a great place.

From Walbug I took the first county road I came to, and then turned left on each road that came along and ended up in Granger – then pushed the Ural like a bullet down 973 to 290 and back into Austin.

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Nice little ride for guts.

Kevo

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Canyonlands Tech Ride

An old friend of mine  – Dr. Steve Black – is engaged in archaeological research in an amazing area of Southwest Texas near Langtry, Texas. I provide some technical support to their endeavors from time to time – and one of my friends from work – Marcus Wilson – and I recently put together a WIFI bridge/router package to try to propagate wifi signals down into the canyon where they are working. The project has a great blog at: http://aswtproject.wordpress.com/.

I had radios, battery packs, tripods,  a bunch of stuff – so of course I decided to take the Ural.

Austin to Langtry - 600 miles round trip

Austin to Langtry – 600 miles round trip

The route to Langtry takes you from the Texas Hill Country, to the Edwards Plateau, down to the Chihuahuan Desert along the Rio Grande. It’s a nice transect through Texas – and especially nice because for three-quarters of the ride it’s surprising to see more than an handful of cars.

Bluebonnets and Prickly Pear

Bluebonnets and Prickly Pear

We actually had some rain last fall – so there’s bluebonnets starting to pop out just about everywhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI swung off Hwy 290 to ride down Ranch Road 1 – which is a nice little twelve mile swing along the banks of the Pedernales through LBJ State and National Historic site. Here’s the entrance to LBJ’s western white house.

LBJ Park Living History Farm

LBJ Park Living History Farm

They’ve got a swimming pool, museum, tours, and a neat living history farm – along with a small herd of Buffalo. Best of all – great roadside restrooms which are getting harder to find anymore.

Edward's Plateau

Edward’s Plateau

About fifty miles west of Fredericksburg you climb onto the Edwards Plateau – more open – rolling wide open country. Its one of my favorite places to ride.

US Hwy 90 Along the Rio Grande

US Hwy 90 Along the Rio Grande

About sixty miles from Rocksprings you ride down into the valley of the Rio Grande and the edge of the Chihauhaun Desert.  US Highway 90 parallels the Rio Grande (and Amistad Reservior), and the Border Patrol is out in force. The dirt road you see to the right of the highway is used by the Border Patrol to look for footprints. It runs for miles and miles.

Road Sweeper

Road Sweeper

And they use this to sweep the road every couple of days to they can see fresh prints. They just drag it behind a truck – and it makes hellacious dust.

Pecos River High Bridge

Pecos River High Bridge

This is the High Bridge over the Pecos. This area of Texas is often called the Canyon Lands for good reason – every drainage is deeply incised making for a rugged landscape.

 

The Low Bridge on the Pecos

The Low Bridge on the Pecos

And before the High Bridge, there was the Low Bridge. You can see the road coming down the side of the far canyon wall, and the near side of the access road on the left near the top of the picture. You didn’t cross this bridge doing 70.

Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahan Desert of Texas is rugged, with thin soils. You can see for friggin ever. It’s gorgeous.

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Cactus Flowers

And I was there at the right time to catch these cactus flowers – they don’t last long.

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Ubiquity Bullet Wifi Radio

But the reason for the trip was to set up a field network. This is a radio which is serving as as repeater to propagate wifi down into the canyon. That big rock shelter to the upper left is one of the excavation areas we want to cover.  The radio runs on the battery down below – this device ran 28 hours during testing – so it should handle the day-to-day load.  Before the end of the first day, though, 30+ mile an hour winds had pushed it over – so we drilled eyebolts into the rock to anchor it. We’ll see how it fairs.

Access Point in the Canyon

Access Point in the Canyon

Looking up into the excavation area. This device is the end point of the Wifi Bridge – with an additional radio serving as a router – so it’s handing out IP addresses. We found that we got pretty good coverage with just the bridge – so we may not need this device except when they are working in out of the way nooks and crannys.  We’ll see how they hold up in the field – but it looks promising.

Yard Cactus

Yard Cactus

I had  those thirty mile an hour winds off my right front quarter for the first eighty miles of the ride back – which wore me out – so I spent the night in Junction, TX. The next day the wind had dropped – and there was a nice cold rain – so no pictures from my long cold slog home.

Working!

Working!

But we have three bars in the canyon!

Go Ride

Kevo

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Dung Beetle Ride

50px-Old_Texas_20.svgWell, my 2006 Ural is gone, and I sold my Bonneville to a guy from Houston – why? To buy a NEW Ural – a 2013 T-model.  Like Jim down the street said when he heard those Russian valves go clattering by one morning – “you’re  a bear for punishment.”

Here's my new RPOC

Here’s my new RPOC

And with a new bike the thing to do is RIDE, so I rolled my RPOC around Central Texas for a few days.

First day's ride - 260 miles or so

First day’s ride – 260 miles or so

The first day I headed down towards the coast –

Headed into the rising sun

Headed into the rising sun

The weather was great the first day – I rode out through Rosanky, and headed down to Moulton.

Moulton, Texas and Pearl Beer

Moulton, Texas and Pearl Beer

You don’t see many Pearl Beer signs anymore  – great sign – crappy beer.

Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, Texas

Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, Texas

Just down the road is Shiner – home of Spoetzl Brewery and Shiner beer. Got here too early for the tour.

Cotton Harvest was in.

Cotton Harvest was in.

The cotton was already in down here – but there was plenty of lint on the sides of the roads.

The Blessing Hotel

The Blessing Hotel

My destination for lunch was Blessing, Texas. The town was created in 1903 when the railroad came through. The local rancher who platted the town put in to the Post Office to name it Thank God – but they rejected that and sent back the name Blessing. The Hotel was built in 1907 (by the same rancher), and it’s still operating pretty much the way it was then.

The entry hall at the Blessing Hotel

The entry hall at the Blessing Hotel

Rooms are about $35/night – no TVs, no radios, no WiFi. In the back is the Cafe.

Hotel Blessing Cafe Plate Lunch

Hotel Blessing Cafe Plate Lunch

Where the ladies lay out a spread every lunchtime. Pretty dang good green beans, turnip greens, potatoes, cream gravy and fried chicken – all you care to eat – and cobbler to boot.

Tres Palacios Bay

Tres Palacios Bay

Since Blessing is only 15 miles from Palacios – I made the run down there just to get a picture by the water. They have a nice bayfront – and you can see the weather was miserable.

Running up to Halletsville

Running up to Halletsville

From Palacios I ran back through El Campo and up into Halletsville, where I spent the night. Halletsville is the only town in the world named Halletsville.

TX20__13101002They do have a nice courthouse.

 

Bad sign - good food

Bad sign – good food

And while the Bel Air Cafe does not have much of a sign

Chicken Fried Chicken

Chicken Fried Chicken

They serve one monster chicken-fried chicken.

Day 2 - Halletsville to Mason, 275 miles

Day 2 – Halletsville to Mason, 275 miles

The second day I ran from Halletsville up to Mason, over the Devil’s Backbone, down to Mason, then up across the Edwards Plateau northwest of Harper.  It was a nice day’s ride.

Lots of oilfield trucks

Lots of oilfield trucks

The area around Gonzales and Shiner is in the Eagle Ford shale play – so there were oilfield service trucks all over the place.

Prickly Pear Tunas

Prickly Pear Tunas

Getting off onto the little Farm to Market roads cut down the truck traffic a lot – and the prickly pear tunas were ripe – time for jelly!

Edge Falls Crossing

Edge Falls Crossing

Coming into Kendalia I took a loop out Edge Falls Road – and made the crossing of the Guadalupe.

Kendalia General Store

Kendalia General Store

And I had the good fortune to hit Kendalia right at lunch time – so I had to stop at the Kendalia General Store. Catfish was the special

Kendalia Burger

Kendalia Burger

But I couldn’t pass up the Kendalia burger.

West of Harper

West of Harper

One of the best roads of the trip was Ranch Road 385, west of Harper. I saw one car in two-and-a-half hours of riding.  The road runs up over a peninsula of the Edward’s Plateau.

Coming down off the Edwards

Coming down off the Edwards

And then within a couple of miles – it drops right back off and down into the valley of the Llano River. The photo doesn’t do it justice – I rode up and down this a half-dozen times – the view was amazing – the road just drops away and BOOM -there it is.

Way down at the end

Way down at the end

I took 1871 on into Mason, and checked into the motel. The gal at the desk didn’t seem too thrilled  – and I was pretty grubby at that point – but she put me in a room in a different building, down the hill, past the RV park – as far away as possible – squint and you can see the office up at the top of the hill.

Santos Gorditas

Santos Gorditas

But the ladies at Santos Taqueria are still making the best dang Gorditas you can find in the Hill country – so I drowned my sorrows with a combo plate.

Day Three - Mason to Austin - 184 miles

Day Three – Mason to Austin – 184 miles

On the third day I ran back to Austin, up through Pontotoc, Bend, Lampasas, and then down the Lampasas River through Oakalla and then to Andice and back home.

Not foggy

Not foggy

The weather man had been threatening big rain for two days – and I’d lucked out. The third morning the air was thick – it wasn’t foggy – this is condensation on  my camera lens.

Pontotoc School

Pontotoc School

Right off the road in Pontotoc are the ruins of the old school.

Flowers at the School

Flowers at the School

It was a nice morning, no traffic.

RR 501 Headed to bend

RR 501 Headed to Bend

And when there’s no traffic you can stop in the middle of the road and take pictures.

Along the Lampassas River

Along the Lampassas River

This road along the Lampasas River was a treat. It ran right down next to the river – through a tunnel of trees. And you can see even here morons throw their trash out the window.

Andice General Store

Andice General Store

And since I was close – and it was lunchtime – I stopped in at the Andice General store – no picture of the burger – ate  it too fast.

Home

Home

It was a great ride.

Kevo

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