Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the Mendocino adventure

Alrighty, let's see if I can get through this without forgetting anything! I know I don't write as much as I used to. It comes and goes. Sometimes I don't have all that much to say but mostly lately I've just been really busy and it's all I can do to get the work in progress stuff posted at night. It's Christmas Crunch time, just over a month to get quite a few things done and I'm mildly freaking out about it. I'm sure it'll work it, it always does.

Okay, so I have to give you a little history about this. Ever since I started doing scrimshaw almost a year and a half ago, one of the first questions that engravers ask me is when am I going to learn to engrave metal. And I was always like "eh, I dunno, maybe some day." Well for the past couple months, specifically since I won that tutorial competition and actually have a little financial progress toward owning an airgraver, the desire to engrave metal has totally caught fire in me. I think about it. I dream about it. I want it. Well it may take some time before I actually get my hands on a top of the line pneumatic graver, but...

Sometimes life brings you what you need when you least expect it. :-)

My friend Rod, a flutemaker and engraver, recently acquired an old pneumatic graver, vise, and compressor at an unbeatable price, and I jumped on the opportunity to buy these items. I'm still working toward the Airgraver, but I now have something on which I can learn, practice, and no doubt make a LOT of mistakes!

Me and Rod:

I left here Saturday morning and drove up to Mendocino, a cute little town a little over 200 miles northwest, on the coast. I took my chances and took the Taurus (which thankfully survived the trip, that car's a trooper). It's rare that I'm not travelling with a car load of chickens and not in a hurry to get somewhere, so I took a lot of "alternate routes" on this trip (more on the way home). Instead of taking I-5 all way to Williams before getting on 20, I took 16 out of Woodland. I must say the Capay Valley is really quite pretty, what a nice area. What a shame that Cache Creek Casino is such an eyesore in the middle of an otherwise sleepy looking farming valley. And I saw a bald eagle flying along Cache Creek. There was absolutely no place to pull over and try to take pics.

I arrived in Mendocino around 2pm Saturday afternoon and got a tour of the workshop and R's home. His shop is fascinating. There is pretty much every tool you can think of, and it's this jumble of stuff, but everything's in its place. Fascinating! I tried out a few different types of pneumatic tools at R's engraving bench that evening. It was a bit like being tossed in the deep end without knowing how to swim, but that's not a complaint, I was just totally overwhelmed. I was trying to cut scrolls, meanwhile wondering "shouldn't I be learning straight lines first?" Well, skilled engravers have my utmost respect now, because at the moment I can't cut a scroll to save my life. Straight lines I can sort of manage. It's a whole different beast than scrimshaw, different tools, different hand position, just all around different. There is one engraving technique (called bulino) that uses dots (and lines) and that will have some similarities, and I think I'm really going to enjoy that, but the scrollwork I still can't quite get my head around. It's going to take a LOT of practice!!!

I brought my microscope, and on Sunday we set up all my "new" (old) equipment and I got to try out the new goodies, so I played around with various techniques until I was so tired my focus was just totally shot and I kept slipping with the graver and making scratches. It's a lot to take in! It's so exciting though, and I can see this could definitely turn into an obsession, especially once I get a handle on what I'm doing. Right now I just don't have a feel for the tools or how to handle them, so that'll come with practice. There are certainly engraving classes out there that would help but I don't have the moolah for that so I'll learn as much as I can through studying on my own and see where that gets me.

Mendocino is a pretty cute little town. Being able to walk around town is a very strange concept to me, as is going to a bakery every morning for breakfast, but that was fun! Like, you could actually get around there perfectly well without a car. Huh. The weather was unpredictable, in typical coastal fashion. I'd wake up to sunshine coming in the window of the workshop (I stayed at the shop) and by noon it would be overcast again, only to clear up later, etc.

This is a pic from Sunday, it was brutally windy when I took this:

I had some spare time Monday morning before I had to leave so I took a walk around town and headed out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Standing on a cliff overlooking rocks and waves below certainly gets the adrenaline going. That kinda scares the bejeebers out of me, but I walked right up and peered over the edge anyway. Here are some pics from Monday morning's walk, including a turkey that seems to have adopted the town:

I left late that morning, and at Rod's suggestion I took the "Comptche Ukiah Road" back over to 101. Wow, when he said that road is "intimate" he wasn't kidding. It added an hour to my drive, and at times was little more than a paved single lane path through the forest.

It was absolutely fun though, winding through redwood forests, dipping into picturesque farm valleys that time seemed to have forgotten, soaring up mountains that overlooked some of the prettiest vistas I've seen. My poor car though, there was a hairpin switchback road going up this mountain and I think my car was panting by the time we reached the top. It smelled hot. I stopped and popped the hood and checked all the fluids. All was well so I let it breathe for a while and I walked around and took some photos:

On hwy 20, somewhere east of Clear Lake, I was thrilled to bits to see a herd of elk alongside the road. I always see those "elk crossing next 4 miles" signs and think "yeah right" and then they promptly prove me wrong, but usually they're way the heck far off in the distance. Ah, there they were just a stone's throw from the road, conveniently by a wide pullout area! Sweet! So I stopped and took 133 photos. :-) I love digital cameras. Between these and the pics that BK sent me a while back, I ought to be well stocked for life with elk photos. This is just a small sample:

I decided to take 16 again, being not in any particular hurry, and I pulled over at a place I'd spotted on the way up there. I was driving along thinking "this place is BEAUTIFUL, I would love to ride a horse here." And whaddya know, it just so happens to be called Cowboy Camp, and it's a trailhead with parking for horse trailers! OMG!!!!! I want to go ride here!!!! Please somebody let's go ride here!!!! It's two hours away. Question for those of you who have horse-camped. If there are no corrals where do you put the horses overnight? I suppose there are trees out on the trail where you could high-line, but assuming you wanted to return to the trailer at night, and use the um, facilities there... I'm imagining horses pawing incessantly if they were tied up. Anyway, I want to ride there. Some day...

Sadly, there were no cowboys inhabiting Cowboy Camp that day. Foiled again. ;-)

So I got home Monday evening, exhausted, and slept very well and for a very long time that night. ;-)

I don't have the engraving equipment set up yet. I need a stool of some sort on which to set up the vise, so I'm shopping around for that and will get it set up hopefully within the week and will take a pic when it's ready to go! And then I'll set out to engrave every metal object I can get my hands on. Bwahaha, nothing is safe! ;-)


Anonymous said...

I spent many nights sleeping in the horse trailer with my horse tied to it. I loved falling asleep to the sound of a horse munching hay nearby. They pretty much behave if you've tired them out on the ride. The only time I got in trouble was tying to an overhead line. There were 3 horses tied to it. The next morning there were 3 horses wandering around together, still tied to the common rope. In corrals, they kick at the horse on the other side of the fence. You learn to arrange water buckets and hay nets so the horses can't get in trouble, and you learn just how long the rope can be so they can lay down if they want to, but not hook a leg over it. Just keep the haynet filled and they're happy.

Sounds like you had a good adventure. I sure enjoyed the pictures. JJ

Anonymous said...

Elk! You got fantastic Elk shots. I am so jealous. They are never close enough for me to get shots of them. Way to go! -BM

Katherine Plumer said...

JJ- I am laughing imagining how many flakes, um no bales Shylah could go through in a night. She is the labrador of horses. ;-)

BM- thanks, I was so excited they were so close!

Anonymous said...

J and I went to Mendocino for my b-day three years ago...we stayed at the "Sea Rock Inn". It was wonderful there! I think we may even have some of the same "photo shots" you have :-) Hehe.