Thursday, April 8, 2010

Super Auntie, Super Winds

Yesterday I went out to Palm Springs (Indian Wells, to be exact) to have lunch with my Auntie Tanis and Auntie Anna. Anna is actually my great-aunt, as she is my Grandmother's sister. Here she is out by the pool, where we had few nice chilled glasses of white: Anna just wrapped up her annual golf outing to the area, with her friends from Pine Brook CC in Calgary; she played 18 holes of golf every day for 10 days straight. This might seem like a lot of golf, but here's the catch: Anna is going to be 86 years old in a few weeks. My Grandmother, Virginia, is going to be 96 in June and their brother Joe is going to be 100 in September. Talk about long genes! Anna is in fabulous shape, especially her strong lean legs, which look like they belong to someone half her age. She has participated in an osteoporosis study for the last 12 years, where they have confirmed she has the bone strength and density of a 30 year old. Did she play sports when she was younger, they ask her at the study? No, just work on the farm and riding her horse Bingo to school. "They didn't have sports at school then," Anna tells me.

What is Anna's secret? We would all like to know! Besides good genetics, she plays a lot of golf, and does two sun-salutation-like stretches at the foot of the bed every day; she says she "hates to see those crumpled-up old people," so she stretches to keep her back in shape. She keeps her weight down, has never smoked, drinks white wine, plays bridge, is very social with groups like her nursing school friends and Daughters of the American Revolution, and does crossword puzzles. She also laughs plenty, plays the harmonica and the "mouth organ" (mouth harp), and will sing and dance a jig any time she can.

Anna insisted that I stay overnight and go to happy hour with the gang, which of course I did. I wish I had more time to spend with my relatives, most of whom live in Alberta! So off we went to happy hour at the Hog's Breath Inn in La Quinta, which is owned by Clint Eastwood. They had an upright piano being played by the keyboardist from the 60's band The Turtles (1967's "Happy Together"); he was rattling off song after song, with no sheet music. Anna wanted him to play something Scottish or maybe Irish, and so here she is singing and dancing to the "Bonnie Banks" song, the keyboardist watching her while he plays:

Ann's long genes come from the Orkney Islands off the far north of Scotland; she's like a little Scottish sprite, full of good humor and smiles and fun; Anna goes to Westray Island there (population 550) to see our relatives there every few years; one of these years I want to go with her... fascinating corner of the world.

We told our waiter she had a birthday coming up, so Anna was thrilled to be serenaded with Happy Birthday and get a little cake and ice cream; later we had a hard time getting out of the restaurant; everyone stopped her to either congratulate her on her 86th birthday or compliment her singing:Meanwhile, at every corner in our neighborhood, you could find fantastic country clubs and magnificent flowers and water features; these bouganvilla hedges were perfect and so vibrant; there are two matching waterfalls on either side of the car entrances here; impressive.... While it was 80 degrees and bone dry, you could still look up at the snow on top of Mt. San Gorgonio:At the entrance to the Palm Springs area, the windmill turbines keep multiplying; there are more than 4,000 of them now; they stand 150 ft tall, and each blade is half the length of a football field; these supply all of the power for the Palm Springs area and the Coachella valley; there is Mount Baldy in the background:Here is a shot I took while driving; you can see the density:
And another shot, with Mt. San Gorgonio in the background; this is a very windy pass, so it meets the minimum wind speed requirements, I think it's about 21 MPH. You can really feel the wind blowing your car around. Too bad they are not cheaper though: each one of these turbines costs up to $300,000. That would mean the value of all of these 4,000 windmills is $1.2 that is an investment; but a great long term alternative to fossil fuels....
Post script: here is a link from the NYT today re wind power; I have to get more megawatt info on the PS area:

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