28 February - 30 April 2003

Effective March 3, 2003 I became a full time, regular, clock punching employee of Baldini's. This is the first "real job" that I have had since I quit Harrah's in June of 1996 to join the Peace Corps. I'm defining a "real job" as being one that is permanent, non-contractual in term ("employment at will" if you will) and not a volunteer position. I will be doing the same job that I was doing for them as a temp with Accountemps, Slot Accounting. The only difference will be my hours and a nominal increase in pay. My hours have been 6:30 to 3:00 while working temp but many times my co-worker of boss had to complete the days work to keep me from going into overtime. I will continue those hours on Tue, Wed and Fri but on Mon and Thu I'll start at 8:30 or 9:00 and work to job completion. On "good" days where everything is going well I should get out within the 8-hour day. On those days where everything doesn't work out I will leave when it's done and then take off early the next day to stay at 40 hours per week.

I did another road trip on 29 March. This time I took Highway 88 across the Sierra at Carson Pass. I then turned onto CA 26 before reaching Jackson, CA. This is a very twisting up and down road that provided Cousin MINI and opportunity to strut her stuff once more. Joined CA 49 at San Andres and followed it to the southwest until reaching CA 4 where I turned to the west and Stockton. All the orchards and California poppies were in bloom and the drive out of the foothills into the Sacrament Valley was very pretty. I got the impression that green paint had been spilled in the valley but it was running up hill rather than down, the farther downhill I drove the greener everything became. We are just starting to see some evidence of spring in Reno but California was beginning the peak bloom. Highway 4 becomes a city street, and I saw no signs that would have directed me through town, so I lost the highway somewhere in central Stockton. After wasting about 10 minutes I decided to go south on I 5 to I 205 then I 580 then finally CA 13 to reach Oakland my final destination for the day. I had contacted Ryan & Brittni, two former Peace Corps colleges, about visiting them to catch up on Peace Corps gossip. They had attended the B-6 (our Bulgarian Group designation) Reunion in Chicago last October and I had been unable to do so. So we drove across the Oakland Bay Bridge, through San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge, south along the cost to CA 92 at Half Moon Bay and back to Oakland via the San Mateo Bridge. All this time we were talking about where and what our former Bulgarian Peace Corps volunteers were doing. I have been in contact with only about 6 of the B-6 group and didn't know much about the others that had been in Bulgaria with me. This also gave me an opportunity to take a couple of pictures of Cousin MINI with the Golden Gate in the background, to show her off to Ryan & Brittni and to see a part of the coast that I had not seen before. It was also a great visit with former Peace Corps colleges that I had not seen since we were in Bulgaria. On Sunday I got up early and left when Ryan had to take Brittni to the airport. The drive back was a direct return on I 80 with the cruise control set at 65. An example of a drive versus the motoring of the day before and a confirmation that -"The Interstate Highway System makes it possible to drive from coast to coast and see nothing".

I also got Cousin MINI some new "summer" shoes. These are the new wheels that I have spoken of once or twice before. I first talked to the US distributor about wheels for a New MINI over a year ago before the cars were even being sold in the US. He had a wheel that would fit and it was OK but did not really "grab" me. Then I went through all the problems of buying a MINI or a VW Golf (I was going to use those wheels on it also). When I finally bought my Cooper I contacted him again about wheels for the New MINI and he said that he had a wheel that was made especially for the New MINI and attached a picture to the e-mail. Well this new wheel did excite me and I ordered a set in mid-February for delivery by the end of March. Minilite of England makes the wheel and the company got its start by making magnesium wheels for the original Mini in the 1960s. This wheel is aluminum alloy but has the same appearance as the original wheels. I wanted one that was unique to the MINI and in the tradition of the now Classic Mini; these wheels I think do that. It was my intent to mount them around the beginning of April when winter is usually over but I got them in mid-March and they looked so nice I had to put them on. At this time I am using the stock tires with the new wheel but will go to a slightly wider tire when I need to replace them. Some people are not getting very good wear out of the stock tires but mine look good so far with about 3,500 miles on them. The stock rims are now sitting in my bed room/living room studio apartment waiting for a good cleaning. I will buy some winter tires in October to put on the stock wheels and use them from October to April. But then again April may be a bit optimistic, as you will read in the next paragraph.

The weather was wonderful for the trip to San Francisco but it was so nice that EVERYONE there was out on the streets. Traffic was very heavy and the drive across town and then down along the coast was all stop-n-go. But that only lasted for the weekend in Reno; the change was dramatic as we got 2" of snow during the night of April 2-3. The passes over the Sierra had mandatory chains required from the 2nd through the 4th and the ski resorts were very happy with over a foot of new snow. Since then we have had our normal changeable spring weather with some days very summer like and the next day trying to slip back into winter. The weekend of April 12-13 was like that with rain in Reno and snow again in the Sierra, lots of snow in the Sierra. Then on Good Friday morning it became a mixture of rain and snow here in the Truckee Meadows once again. There was no accumulation on the ground but it was snowing hard as I drove to work. The same conditions existed on the 22nd but I was at work before the snow started this time, no accumulation in the Reno but the mountain passes were back to chains required. I am trying to get motivated to do some bike rides in May when, or maybe that is IF, the weather finally gets nice.

Three views of Cousin MINI with her summer shoes - Minilite of England wheels. My visit to Oakland and San Francisco, CA with a photo-op of Cousin MINI and the Golden Gate Bridge.

My other project for the last month has been to re-type the Letters from Bulgaria that I sent "home" while I was in the Peace Corps. I sent them to Shirley and she made copies for other OFCers. When I got back from Japan she gave me the originals that she had saved, not all but most of what I had sent. I said that I would put them on my web site but have been putting it off for these last two years and finally started that effort. I have completed about half of them so far and will keep working on them with the hope of having them all up on my site within the next 3-4 months.