Category Archives: Miscellany

“Trestle Dawn” Jisaw Puzzle

One of my favorite photos from my bike trip this summer is one I call “Trestle Dawn”: The orange dawn sun reflecting off the rails and tine sheets of Bridge 22.3, one of the wooden trestles on the Camas Prairie Railroad’s second subdivision between Spalding and Grangeville, Idaho, in Lapwai Canyon. Since I like it so much, I’ve made it available as a 250-piece 10×14 jigsaw puzzle on Zazzle. This image also occurs as the December picture in my calendar of Camas Prairie Railroad Trestles.


Camas Prairie Railroad Photos (115-Mile Bike Ride)

This July, I took a two-day, 155-mile bicycle trip from Moscow, Idaho, to Lapwai Canyon, to photograph the famous wooden trestles of the Camas Prairie Railroad’s Second Sudivision, a joint Union Pacific–Northern Pacific short line.

I took hundreds of photos and uploaded them to Facebook public albums. No Facebook account is necessary to view these.

Day One—the ride down, plus some views of the trestles from the highway:

Day Two—a nearly 8-mile walk down the unused rails (the rails are not used because a bridge burned in 2011 and is yet to be rebuilt):

I had a 2014 calendar, featuring the best of these photos, on Zazzle (now out of print).

01 Cover

Trip Recap:

I set out, and the only thing I noticed I forgot was my small, bike-mounted water bottle. Not a big deal, as I had my one-liter bottle and five-quart Vietnam-era military-issue collapsible canteen/flotation bladder in my backpack.

I pushed myself over the hill on Blaine road, where I also took Iverson Loop, a nod to Jake, my roommate this school year. Afterward, I came upon Genessee Valley Lutheran Church, a late-1800s building and congregation (no organ, sadly, except for a Hammond spinet that I wasn’t able to plug in). Turned out it was unlocked and open for visitors, so I when in and took pictures, trying out long-exposure tripod shots, which came off perfectly. I topped off my water here.

After leaving GVLC I continued on to and through the town of Genessee. I got a little mixed up in my Google Maps directions, but it turned out well because the way I went was easier. Plus, I found a small airfield with crop-dusting planes—including a biplane and old low-wing—that I had to photograph. After this began the descent into the Clearwater River valley on a narrow, winding gravel road.

I crossed the Clearwater on US-95, stopped at the historic mission/museum town of Spalding for pictures, then went on my way. After stopping for water at Lapwai, I met two bicyclists in Lapwai Canyon who were riding cross country from Virginia to Oregon. At this time I was within two miles or less from the trestles. Shortly thereafter, a screw on the side of the road gave me a flat tire. To my chagrin I noticed that my bike pump’s mounting bracket had broken, leaving me without a pump. Thankfully a couple from Lewiston stopped and gave me a ride back toward town, after driving back and letting me take pictures from the highway. Between Spalding and the river, we passed those bicyclists, and I thought they might have a pump. We stopped, and sure enough they did.

After airing up the new tube, I decided to head back up into the canyon, a 15-20 mile ride, even though the late hour meant I probably wouldn’t see anything. My strength gave out near Culdesac, so I pulled into town and asked an older guy I saw where I might sleep for the night. As an amazing example of how bad things can be good, he had worked on the Camas Prairie railroad for nearly 30 years serving the tunnels and bridges. He offered to take me up to the top of the grade so that I could walk downhill instead of uphill, as well as catch the early morning light. I accepted, even though I was not prepared for a fairly cold night (less than 50 degrees, in shorts no less). I only had a lightweight hoodie, so I grabbed some pine branches as an inadequate blanket. I only got half an hour of sleep, but I got up at dawn (just before 5) to begin walking and photographing the rail line. It went smoothly, except for a treacherous skirting of the brush-filled canyon slope where Bridge 21.3 burned out.

I finished on the rail line around 11:30 or so, then spent half an hour removing grass and weeds from my socks and shoes. The ride to Spalding went well, but I could tell my strength was fading fast, on top of which my phne died early that morning. The ascent up the Coyote grade nearly killed me, as I had to walk the whole nearly five-mile length with 10 percent or higher inclines. I decided going back to try to follow Google’s directions, which was a bad idea because it took me down a dirt road with many hills, and I didn’t have the strength to manage those. After I reached Genessee, I knew I probably couldn’t make the big hill on Blaine road that Google prescribed, so I decided to take Old 95 and Hwy 95 north to Moscow—another bad idea due to rolling hills.

Several hours later, nearly 8 p.m., I rolled into my parking lot completely exhausted. I took a hot soaking bath, then went to bed.

Preserving a Tradition: Moscow Barber Still Making the Cut After 35 Years

By Jonathan Gradin

The barber shop holds a quintessential place in Americana. From Andy Griffith’s Mayberry to Moscow, Idaho, barber shops functioned as places for men to hang out, share news and keep their hair trimmed. Nowadays, this tradition is gone, save for a few local shops.

“It’s a shame that the tradition of barbers has and is fading away… Traditionally, the barber shops were a place for men to B.S. and get warm by the stove,” said Bill Jones, 71, semi-retired owner of Bill’s Barber Shop on Second Street. It was “sort of a man-cave situation.”

Jones began cutting hair in 1979, when he he sold his convenience store in Calder, up the St. Joe River from St. Maries. He said he was tired of the seven-day-a-week and extra after-hours nature of the store, which robbed him of family time. Continue reading →

Romans 8:28 and Car Accidents: A Personal Tale

My recent Feature Article Writing exercise, about a man for whom a providentially timed car wreck meant saving a family’s life, got me thinking about Romans 8:28—a verse that always seems to be mentioned in times of tragedy, whether tactful or not—and a car wreck of my own that happened more than a year and a half ago.

The oft-cited verse reads “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (NRSV 1989). Many people hear this and subconsciously think this means that everything should be smooth sailing for them, and are disappointed when problems and troubles arise. However, the wording indicates that this is not the case: God uses good and bad events to further his purpose. In this case, he is almost taking a slightly utilitarian view to fulfill the end result.

Personal trainers and bodybuilders are accustomed to the phrase “No pain, no gain”—which is part of the viewpoint this verse engenders, in addition to the contribution of positive life-goods and events. In my case, I saw the literal truth of this principle and verse in the time elapsed since getting rear-ended on July 29, 2011. Forgive me for venting with a long description of the incident, but I promise it builds to a surprising point. Continue reading →

Summer Ramblings—Been a Long Time Since I’ve Posted Here

Hello, all!

Hard to believe summer is almost over—I only have two weeks of work before I move in to the dorms (a week before school starts due to orientation leader training). I’ve had a busy summer so far, so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d prefer. Anyway, you’re probably not interested in this, but here is a rambling of my summer, with maybe some other thoughts that occur to me while typing (ignore if you want, it’s a release for me).

New Computer

Most recently—a day ago, in fact—I bought a new computer: a refurbished 21.5″ Apple iMac (2.5 GHz i5 quad-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, OS X 10.7.4 Lion), to which I will be adding a 2 TB external FireWire/USB hard drive (for backups and video editing projects), 8 GB RAM and an Apple Pro Keyboard (early 2000s—I can’t stand the new slim Apple keyboards). I bought Final Cut Pro X via the App Store and will use it next semester in a broadcast media/digital production class; also, I installed the Adobe CS3 Master Collection (I don’t really want the new CS5/6, as I am most familiar with the CS3 interface; also, I need CS3 for backward compatibility).

This computer replaces a 2003 Apple eMac (1 GHz PowerPC G4 with 1 GB RAM); the performance differences are beyond astounding! Things that took nearly forever—such as updating this blog, thanks to WordPress’ heavy Javascript back-end—are now practically instantaneous, and I can do some things, e.g. watch YouTube videos or other streaming content, at which my old computer would more than balk. I held out with the old PowerPC machine for more than a year (it was surplus from my previous school), but I finally caved. I’m still keeping that machine for old-time’s sake and for occasional use of some programs that are PowerPC-only.

As a result of the new computer, as well as school starting shortly, I hope to post more to this blog, including some class video projects and other things.

Basic Summer Status—Paint, Paint and More Paint

After last semester ended mid-May I moved to a friend’s house in nearby Pullman, Washington and began working for Phos Painting, a local painting business comprised of the college pastor at my church (Living Faith Fellowship) and several other of my church friends. This painting outfit is one of the largest in the Palouse area, with contracts to do most of the apartment painting (interior and exterior) for DABCO Property Management, as well as other projects around the region. It’s tiring work, but rewarding—I’ve lost about two inches of waistline since starting—and the people I’m working with are amazing and enjoyable (definitely one of the best work environments I’ve been in).

I typically work 40+ hours per week, doing everything from the 6″ roller (my main painting instrument) to carrying ladders and scraping/sanding/masking exterior surfaces in preparation for painting. We get things done; today I was part of a three-man interior crew that painted two apartments and a three-bedroom, two-story townhouse in Pullman while others worked on a myriad of diverse projects. Over the summer total, we collectively did more than 90 apartment interiors, stairwells and decks at a 23-building complex and the decks and stairwells at another complex.

This ends in two weeks as I prepare to move back into my dorm and attempt to transition to the school life. The only hard part about moving back to the dorms will be the lack of a fully-stocked kitchen available, in which I can cook anything anytime I want to. I love cooking, from cookies to entrées like my mom’s famous oven steak (recipe to follow in separate post) or the chuck roast I cooked this week. Over the summer, I’ve made peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate-chip/peanut-butter-chip cookies and others, as well as the aforementioned oven steak and tonight’s scratch-made Sloppy Joes.

Highlight: Organ Historical Society Convention—In Chicago!

This summer I was extremely privileged to be named one of seven 2012 E. Power Biggs Fellows, an award by the Organ Historical Society to allow a young person to attend their first OHS convention, all expenses paid. The convention (July 8-13) was a six-day affair of back-to-back recitals in the Chicago area on a multitude of instruments in a plethora of styles. These included a late-1800s Hook and Hastings, several E.M. Skinner organs of various sizes(including the Schantz rebuild of the Rockefeller Chapel instrument), two theatre organs (a silent film and concert on the 3/10 Wurlitzer at the Tivoli Theatre, Downers Grove, and the mammoth 5/80 composite organ at the Sanfilippo residence in Barrington Hills), a Möller organ installed in the Carl Schurz High School and many others, 30 in total.

One feature of the convention that left me awestruck was the hymn singing, which reinforced why I love the pipe organ and prefer traditional styles of worship, even though I attend a contemporary church. Almost every one of the recitals featured a hymn, which was sung by the whole audience with only organ accompaniment (except one concert that featured a brass quartet as well). Most of the attendees were church musicians, choir directors or choir singers, so they knew the hymns well, including the last-verse descant lines and intricate harmonies. The sound of 40+ such people in a high-ceiling church with good acoustics  singing their hearts out with the firm foundation of the pipe organ is an experience that can only be believed in person, and which is anything but boring or dull as modern church label it.

My favorite concert was Jonathan Ortloff’s concert at Sanfilippo’s Friday night, a popular program with a mix of humor and serious music-making, all under the auspices of Ortloff’s considerable dexterity and musicality. Songs included “An American in Paris”—not the actual Gershwin piece, but a medley of Gershwin songs, including “I’ve Got Rhythm” and “How Long Has this Been Going On?” played in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The former started as a typical jazzy theatre organ solo, then returned after the latter (which was played with the Hazleton “dirty” sound) in the guise of a Widor-esque Toccata! Also played were “Moon River,” a Stravinsky transcription and the Hymn “Earth and All Stars,” which the whole group sang. The hymn opened with the “Star Trek Fanfare”; Ortloff used the organ’s vast tonal resources to convey the items described in each stanza (boiling test tubes, pounding machinery, loud trumpets).

One of the more emotional recitals was Wednesday morning at Carl Schurz High School, a large Whitelegg-era Möller in a 2,500-seat live acoustic. John Sherer played a program to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The recital opened with Elgar’s “Empire March” and Edwin Bairstowe’s “Elegy,” both of which were written in 1912. Next were three short numbers heard aboard the ship that fateful day: Sousa’s “El Capitan” march, Offenbach’s “Barcarolle from ‘The Tales of Hoffman'” (played two hours before the iceberg collision on the ship’s orchestrion [player organ]), and Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which was played by the ship’s band on the deck as the lifeboats were being launched. The first two were played quite well, but a bit more swinging feel could have made the Berlin pop a bit more. The best part of the program was entitled Music to Honor the Titanic Victims and featured Joseph Bonnet’s poignant piece “In Memoriam” as well as the concluding hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” This hymn, which speaks of protection in nautical endeavors, was especially suited to the occasion; between the words, the context and the beautiful harmony, I nearly choked up with tears on the last verse.

The trip had too many exciting things to recount here, but I will recall one last thing: I had the privilege of pumping the Hook and Hastings organ in Valparaiso, Ind., during James Russell Brown’s performance. The first piece (Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featured the organ’s electric blower; however, the remainder of the 45-minute recital was played using wind supplied by the old-fashioned pumping mechanism to the side of the organ. A long handle attached to feeder bellows provided air to the main reservoir, just like in the old day. It was hard work, but very fun and rewarding!


Well, this post rambled on longer than I meant and—at the same time—not long enough to cover everything. However, I’m tired, and you’ve probably given up reading, so I’ll stop here and wish you all a good night/morning/whatever time it is if/when you read this. I’ll post the recipe to oven steak in a day or two.

Thanks for reading this far in my uninteresting ramblings…