Monday, December 14, 2015

The Great Bus Adventure

The Great Bus Adventure

I apologize for such a grandiose title. More, I need to warn you that this post is woefully banal. I thoroughly enjoyed my day, and I want to share my joy with others, but I know that it will be disappointingly trivial for many of you.

So, in an attempt to avoid needlessly wasting your time, or worse, provoking you to disdain, please consider this warning:


1. You have lived in a city big enough to support a public transit system AND you have been daring enough to patronize said public transit system.

2. You know how to interpret bus schedules.

3. You know the difference between "downtown" and "uptown".


Ok. I'm glad that's been settled. Here we go with today's post: The Great Bus Adventure.

I grew up in Vale (population 1,838), a small town in eastern Oregon. We didn't have any sort of public transit system, although the Greyhound bus did stop at the cafe at the edge of town for a dinner break on its way to Winnemucca. I think it was a Greyhound bus. It may have been a county corrections bus. I didn't pay real close attention to such things.

We didn't have a taxi service. The nearest train depot was about 16 miles away. We had an airport, but only crop dusters and the rare gyrocopter could be found there.

The "big city" for us was Boise, about 70 miles away. Trips to the big city were rare, and we never used a taxi or bus while there. We had relatives living there, and to my small town eyes they were rich. Everything about Boise was intimating to me: the traffic, the houses, the buildings, and my relatives.

I was perhaps five or six years old when my parents took me by train to Portland, Oregon for a weekend. I remember feeling completely in awe of the big, black taxi in which we rode to the hotel. That was the first and last time I would ever ride in a taxi.

Since then I've lived in several towns, all bigger than Vale, but none as big as Boise. I have traveled a bit. I've visited Portland and Seattle. I spent a month in Edgewood, Maryland. I've flown in airliners and taken the the MARC commuter train in Baltimore. But these were special, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. "Public transit" has seemed unavailable, economically unaffordable, and confusing.

Until today.

A little over a year ago my wife and I moved from Hermiston, Oregon (population 17,107) to Meridan, Idaho (population 83,596). Meridian is 11 miles from Boise (population 214,237).

I began work near downtown Boise. My daily commute, driving myself from Meridian to Boise, takes about 20 minutes to get there (if traffic is smooth and construction delays are low). Soon after beginning the job I noticed a ValleyRide bus at a stop very near my place of work at about 8am, the same time I was arriving. Getting off at 5:00 pm, the same bus was at the same stop.

Big city experienced folk might immediately have considered taking the bus to work, rather than driving themselves. But it took awhile for me to start considering it. How much does it cost? How do you find the right bus stops? How do you get a ticket or pass? How long does it take?

ValleyRide has a website, of course, with all their routes mapped out and bus stop locations listed. But I couldn't figure it out. The maps and schedules just didn't make sense to me. I felt frustrated looking at it all. Why couldn't I understand it? I can read and write, I've been trained as a classroom teacher, a software programmer and a lab technician. How hard could it be to understand a simple timetable?

My only excuse is "lack of experience". I'd never paid any attention to bus stop signs. Taxi service and public transit systems had never been anything other than a once-in-a-lifetime, special circumstance, clouded with unfamiliarity and thrilling risk-taking.

But I couldn't shake off the idea of trying to ride a bus, my bus, a bus that was part of my public transit system, a system that was in my town.

Today I tried it.

I downloaded all the PDF route maps that appeared to be operating on a Saturday. I studied each one, comparing times and stops, looking for a pattern, or at least a starting place. I settled on Emerald Route 5 because it appeared to begin at Boise Towne Square and ended, or at least passed by, my place of work.

After lunch today I ensured that all my downloaded maps were in Dropbox and available offline, and I drove to Boise Town Square, looking for the "Mall P&R", assuming that "P&R" meant "Park & Ride". It took a bit of looking around, but I found it in the mall parking lot, not far from the back entrance of Dillard's. The ValleyRide System map is not detailed, and Google Maps shows it off of Denton Street, which is off Brookhaven Drive, which is off Emerald Street. Emerald Street is easy to find, but Brookhaven Drive is not signed. If you're heading east on Emerald, take the first right after Rifleman Street. At the next intersection, take a right on Denton Street, and then the next right will take you into the parking lot, to the covered bus stop.

I parked my car near the stop. I only had to wait for 15 minutes or so before the bus pulled up. I stepped into the open door and told the driver this was my first time on a bus and, "I need, I think, an All-day Local Pass"? The driver showed absolutely no impatience or scorn for my inexperience. He said the fare would be $2, showed me where to insert the cash, handed the printed pass to me and confirmed that it was good for all day, for any of the buses running today.

It was smooth traveling from then on. The driver announced each upcoming stop, making it easy to determine when to pull the cord to signal that I wanted off. About a block away from my place of work, another passenger pulled the cord, and we both got off.


I walked about five blocks to Pre Funk Beer Bar on Front Street and had a delicious Deschutes Fresh Hop and contemplated my life thus far. I knew precisely when and where I would need to be in order to pick up Bus #5. I was safe, comfortable and satisfied. The purest definition of joy!

I decided to go on walkabout, looking specifically for bus stop signs. My plan was to look for signs, study the maps on my phone, and try a transfer to a different route. If all else failed, I knew where I'd need to be to get back to the tried and true Bus #5.

From Pre Funk I headed northwest to Idaho and 8th and found another bus stop, this one with several routes posted. I scrolled through my maps and decided that Route 14 Hyde Park seemed most favorable, at least for now. It was due in only a few minutes, and Hyde Park has some great shops and eating places.

Bus #14 arrived and again I hesitatingly told the driver this was all new to me. I didn't even know where to insert the pass. He also was patient and helpful, showing me the different slots available in the pay station. We took the scenic route to Hyde Park, and about a block before Sherman Street I pulled the signal cord and sent a sweet bell tone into the wonderful bus atmosphere. A quick pull to the side of the road and the driver let me out by a sign with only one imprinted route number: #14.

I spent about 45 minutes at Hyde Park, ending up at Java Coffee for a delicious, hot mocha. The bus stop for #14 on its return trip was on a nearby corner, it was on time, and it smoothly took me back to Idaho and 8th, where I easily transferred back to my old pal, Bus Driver #5. He didn't clap me on the shoulder, or shake my hand, but I could tell from his quiet, patient eyes that he was overjoyed to see me again.

The trip back to the mall P&R was uneventful, but satisfying. I found it pleasing to follow our progress on my small-screen device as Bus Driver #5 again announced each upcoming stop. I felt like a regular. We picked up a few more passengers on the way, and I companionably gave each one an encouraging glance, telling them with my eyes that I was glad to see them, that we were on this journey together, that they were most welcome to join me on this, our very own public transit system bus.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Getting Up Early

Getting Up Early

Seven months have passed since my last post.

Seven months ago my wife and I were managing a self-storage business, living on-site, in a small town in eastern Oregon. The work was interesting (for awhile), frustrating (often), but it provided for our living. Sharing the work with my wife allowed me several days off each week. I connected with a fishing buddy, learned to fish for salmon and sturgeon. I caught two salmon, a couple bass, and one huge monster of a sturgeon (a 7-foot long sturgeon is a monster in my book).

We had deep connections there with family and friends, but felt cut off from our grown children and our one grandchild, who all lived in southwestern Idaho. Many applications for work in Idaho returned unanswered, but we decided in early May to buy a camp trailer, move to our daughter's farmhouse in Meridian, Idaho, and see what might develop.

We submitted our resignation from the self-storage business, began packing and saying our goodbyes. On the very day on which we left town, I got a phone call from a company to which I'd sent an application many weeks prior. I scheduled an interview with the hiring manager for the next day. The meeting went well and they offered me the job immediately. I started work the next day as a door finisher for a building supply business in Boise.

A week later we found a house that fit our needs: within 20-30 minutes driving distance from our granddaughter, friendly and safe neighborhood, a garage (euphemism for wood shop), and within our budget. We closed the purchase and moved in a month later.

The work I do at the building supply business is identical with that which I did in my parent's business from 1990 to 1996. My parents began a building supply business in Ontario, Oregon in the early 70's, and all of us five kids worked there at different times, in different capacities. When I left in 1996 to work as a school administrator, I didn't think I'd ever return to the door-building business.

But I have.

The work is tough physically, and there is a stressful pressure each day to work fast without error. I'm unable to do either thing consistently. But I enjoy working with wood, and my experience allows me to work on non-typical, non-standard doors. The management is anxious to develop written procedures to standardize the work, and I absolutely thrive on that kind of project.

I now have much less time off, however. I must leave the house at 6:30 a.m. for work, and I'm completely exhausted when I return 9-10 hours later. I've been unable to write much, or play guitar, or go geocaching or putter in my garage/workshop.

And that discourages me frequently.

But this morning I did something different. Right now it's a Saturday morning, about 7:30 a.m. I've been up since 5:00 a.m. I finished up the writing of four posts to a Bible study blog (Isaiah Chapter Eleven, broken into four parts), and I'm writing a post to this blog for the first time in seven months.

Feels good.

Normally I'd sleep in on Saturday, finally getting dressed and ready to do something worthwhile by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. But we all know how home chores, to-do-lists, meals and cleaning, and necessary obligations can eat up a day.

Writing must be pretty important to me, because when I'm able to post something coherent, even if no one else reads it, I feel good about the time spent doing it. I don't get that same feeling when I mow the lawn or fix the car or repair the broken chair. But the lawn, car and chair are still important. I want to do those things, but I also want the delight of writing.

Getting up early is probably the key.

photo credit: johnb/Derbys/UK. via photopin cc, image modified by cropping

Saturday, March 8, 2014



"You youngsters have it so easy!"

The old tumbler shook his head sadly and spat into his soda can. I laughed silently at his grumpy whine, and I got ready for him to settle into his typical reminiscing rant about the "good old days". I liked the old guy, but I'd heard his stories now for years, and they never changed.

"Ever' house has a fence a some sort, and yer tumbleweeds jest nat'rally get caught. You don't haf to no more'n step out yer front door and you got a dozen fresh tumbleweeds in nothin' flat. Hell's fire! A six-year old boy can grab more'n two or three by hisself an' still have time to play Nintendo all afternoon!"

He made another deposit into his can. I peeked around at the faces of the folks gathered round the campfire. A couple were rolling their eyes, but most were smiling and encouraging the old geezer to continue his song and dance. I didn't mind it myself. He might be exaggerating a bit, but he really was right. When we want a tumbleweed nowadays, there's almost always one in the yard, or up against a neighbor's fence. It wasn't always so easy, and the tumbler had a right to boast about the hard life he'd survived.

"Tumbleweeds in the old days had nothin' to stop'em once they got to goin'. Miles an' miles a flat land, no fences, no buildin's to speak of...nothin' for what to catch'em nor stop'em. A feller'd haf to push his horse mighty hard to keep up with'em, an' even so you'd only get maybe one or two at a time, an' you'd have miles an' miles to backtrack back to home a'fore you could enjoy the fruit a yer labor! But us tumblers knew how to do it right. We could catch hun'erds an' hun'erds in one day!"

My grandson's eyes opened wide, and he impulsively asked the old man how they could get so many.

"We boxed 'em, my boy! We'd yip an' holler an' slap our pots an' pans and the wind would start blowin' an' we'd chase those weeds right into a box canyon. The walls o' the canyon would close in an' the herd would bunch up an' slow down an' they'd come to the end a the canyon and pile up on each other an' stop. We'd have hun'erds an' hun'erds a 'em there, pantin' an' blowin an' stampin'. In one day we'd have enough weeds fer ever fam'ly in the town fer the whole week. The townsfolk would clap an' holler an' give us free drinks an' smile at us 'an the editor a the paper would print it up the next day like we was the troops comin' home an' then..."

The old man's story faded to an end. He stopped mid-sentence and let his words dry up as if the incoming tide of memories had just washed out the fragile story of his life.

I drained the last of my cold coffee and walked out of the fire's light to stand next to the creek. I listened to the water running over the rocks until the cold of the night drove me back to my tent.

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Tumbleweeds by Milt Reynolds is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tolerance: The Definition Has Changed

Tolerance: The Definition Has Changed

The New Oxford American Dictionary has not caught up with the change, but the modern, popular definition of "tolerance" is radically different (I believe, dangerously perverted) from the "old" meaning.

Oxford defines TOLERATE as "allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference". The word originated in the early 16th century from "tolerare", Latin for "enduring pain".

TOLERANCE is the ability or willingness to tolerate something, to "endure the pain" of the existence of something.

What is the new definition?

According to D. A. Carson, "tolerance" has changed from accepting that lots of people have different views, some of which are wrong, to agreeing that all views are equally true.

What difference does this make?

A diametric difference!

Mark Driscoll recently wrote an essay about the changing definition of "tolerance" that helps explain the ground-shifting difference between the "old tolerance" and the "new tolerance".

The old view of tolerance was based upon three assumptions:

  1. There is objective truth that can be known,
  2. People believe they know what that objective truth is, and
  3. Disagreements, dialogues and debate will give everyone an opportunity to learn, grow, change and possible arrive together at the truth.

The new view of tolerance refutes all three assumptions:

  1. There is no objective truth than can be known,
  2. People do not have the truth but only what they believe to be the truth, and
  3. Disagreements, dialogues and debate are useless and lead to needless conflicts and prejudices

Anyone else notice how intolerant the "new tolerance" appears?

It denies moral absolutes by holding to the moral absolute that there is no moral absolute.

It denies that anyone knows any truth.

It denies discussion or debate.

If "tolerance" truly has changed its meaning for us, is that because there is no other word that accurately represents the new meaning, or is it because there is no better way to change people's minds than by controlling word definitions?

What other English word captures the intent of the "new tolerance"? What other word means to agree with every opinion and to discourage disagreement or debate?


That's it. The modern world's highest virtue has become "agreeability". One person says coffee, and all the world must say coffee. Another says yes, and all the world must say yes.

Even as I write this I must make my examples benign, lest others erupt in hostile "tolerance". When a person's value or power is threatened by disagreement or debate, their response is to gather a mob and throw stones.

The other word that comes to mind at this point is "insanity". Conformity to a common opinion of coffee versus tea will never happen for humans. Why do we think it can happen with morality? We will never reach a concensus concerning some moral opinions. We will never be without the need to disagree, dialogue and debate.

If you wish for no conflict, don't call it "tolerance". Call it for what it is: "agreement".


Photo credit: stevendepolo via photopin cc

Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Door

New Door

Here's some pix of a new door I installed in our new home:

Inline image 2Inline image 1

I mounted a bipass track on the living room side of the opening, hung a 32-inch hollow-core door, and concealed the track with a 1x6 piece of hemlock.

Applied a thick coat of oil with a rag, let it set for about 10 minutes, then buffed it smooth with another clean rag. The next day I did the same to add a second coat. Being impatient and pushed for time, I installed it. It feels smooth and dry, kind of a satin finish. The instructions on the tung oil container said to add daily coats to get a glossier finish.

My next project is a kitty litter cabinet. We want to conceal our kitty litter box in the house. We've seen several examples:

We bought a 24-inch bathroom vanity cabinet at Home Depot. I'll replace the sink top with a piece of nice birch plywood, edged with a strip of hemlock, finished with tung oil. The cabinet is painted white. I'll cut a hole in the side of the cabinet and install a kitty door:

I'm so excited about having a work schedule, and space, to work on woodworking projects! We invested in a nice compact table saw...I think it will be good enough for what I'll need it for, and it's small enough to fit in our storage unit: