The Correlation of Personality Characteristics and Pastry Chefs

For my university “senior project” (which in essence turned into a Master’s length thesis), I created a survey to sample the “Personality Characteristics of Marathon Runners.”  As the title implies, I wanted to see if there was any correlation between runners and their personalities.  For example, did someone who ran more than 5 marathons a year fit a certain profile, say, an introvert with an average age of 38?

Elise Fineberg - Prospect's Pastry Chef

Turns out, (for my study anyway) that I didn’t find any correlation between introverts and extroverts versus their running distances, races, etc…  This could have been based solely from my findings, or it could have been that I called my professor from Mexico on a pay-phone (after sailing down solo) from the old section of Puerta Vallarta to see if I had enough credit to pass, even though I wasn’t completely finished.  He said C, I took it for Sí, and that was that.

A decade later A few years hence, I found myself with another personality question. What is the average disposition of a chef? With the quiet seriousness that’s floating around Prospect right now, you might think they’re all biz and no fun. I tell you, it’s contagious. Walk into the kitchen, and the conversation and laughter that were bubbling out of your mouth quickly become muffled.  You don’t even have to look up before you round the corner to know it’s game time.  I was sort of walking around on egg shells for the past few days, trying not to disturb anything.

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Flames, Eco-Matting, and Sexy Scaffolding Surfers

Yes, it’s been a long time – I am in Spain – and like all good Spaniards, things always seem to get done tomorrow.  I am about to return state-side, but wanted to post a virgin attempt of a little stop motion project for Prospect.

I posted this video on Vimeo. Just over a thousand frames.  People, torches, and eco-matting – all good stuff.

Take a look and enjoy.

See you in a few…down the road.


Made in America – Forging Ahead – Part 2

It’s all about the rivet.  It takes a beating,  holds structures together, and stands up to enormous amounts of tension.

Holding Strong.

As lovely as the metal is that has been pounded and formed via Augustine and Nick’s skilled craftsmanship, it’s nothing without the rivet.  And I think one of the coolest facts about the guys and their approach to making these chandeliers has been the use of traditional techniques.

Nick adjusts the cutting blade as he makes the raw rivets.

Oil keeps the metal and saw blade from overheating and seizing up.

Obviously modern tools are used for many steps, but much of the hard work is still finished via ‘big old hammer’ and lots of muscle.

Starting out, Nick cut down a bunch of pieces of steel slugs that would become our rivets.  Using the metal saw, a light touch and five minutes later, we had our first round of soldiers.

A few last-minute measurements.

Augustine took a few last-minute measurements to verify all the holes lined up, and then he took over the frame to be drilled.  When metal meets metal, an enormous amount of friction is created, and the surfaces get very very hot. To prevent overheating, you need to cool the surfaces somehow.  Water isn’t good enough to cool the metal, nor is it a material you want to inject into raw metal either.  Thus, a combination of a few oils are used.

Drill baby drill. You can see the steam coming from the drill. The bottle is the oil.

Water + Metal = Rust. So an oil is used to lubricate and insulate from that poison of poisons, O2.

Firing up the torch.

Once the holes were drilled, we were ready to pound out the first set.  Firing up the torch, Augustine would heat the rivet up to the point where it became red-hot and malleable.  A quick, “Ready?” was shouted, Nick answered, Augustine backed away, and Nick began the pound down with his hammer.

Ready? Hammer away!

The hammer strikes don’t just land perfectly over the rivet head – nor do you want them to.  To make the rivet, you have to upset the head and flare it out so it will hold.  The same thing goes for the tail as well.

A good strike captured. You can see the red-hot slag falling to the floor.

As the rivet is beat, the metal inside the bored hole will expand, and thus, hold it in place.  So as you can see in some of the photos, the hammer comes down at different angles to produce this effect.

Augustine, working on a rivet.

Pretty amazing.  Rivets have been around since the bronze age, and they are still used today to hold together items from buildings to the airplanes that make travel so convenient for you and I.

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by on this project.  The chandeliers are approaching completion, as is Prospect.  Summer is almost here, and I tell you, I can’t wait to get a few bites when the doors open.

Next up are the finishing touches.  A screen will wrap the perimeter of the chandelier, radiating a nice, soft, warm light once it’s all said and done.

See you down the road.


Portraits – Prospect At A Glance – Part 2

Happy Friday to everyone.  Just moving and grooving to some We Were Promised Jetpacks, fueling my own pack up with some fresh goodness that comes out of my espresso machine daily, sometimes twice daily.  May need to cut back on that a bit.

It’s been a pretty good week, and I am hoping the weekend will bring more of the same.  Good weather, great people, and perhaps some BBQ in the old back yard.

Speaking of good people, I couldn’t resist heading back to Jefferson Mack Metal with my lights to capture a few more images of the guys in the shop.  This time I was lucky enough to snag the trio, in that Jefferson was available for a quick little session.

Here are few…




I have to say, Jefferson threw me for a loop.  We were photographing at first, and he had just his black shirt on.  Then he said, “Oh, let me get my scarf, it will ad a pop of color.”  I thought, “This is perfect.”

Turns out he used to do some modeling in Europe, and I tell you, he’s still got it man!  He was turning and working the camera no problem.  It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t really have to say anything – No directing.  He just rocked the whole session.  I tell ya, you just never know what is going to come out of people’s mouths.  Here I am, in a dirty and gritty shop with a bunch of smithies, and the last thing I expected was a comment like that.  Simply amazing.

See you down the road.


Portraits – Prospect At a Glance

Deciding to go play with my new Alien Bees strobes, I stopped by Prospect for a portrait session.  When I walk in with a few bags no one seems to take notice. The minute I get out a 5 foot soft-box that stands 9 feet in the air, everyone is interested in what’s going on.  Comments such as, “Whoa, shootin’ a commercial or something,” or “You ain’t gonna photograph me with that thing,” or just plain old, “Damn,” spill out of the guys’ mouths.  I tell them it just looks fancy, but I don’t really know what I am doing – I only brought them to make me look more professional 😉

I had a location all dialed in.  I spotted a cluster of work bins with a clear area. It was gritty and raw.  Chains hung over the metal, scrap lay about the floor, and exposed concrete dotted the background.   I returned to my gear, and heaving my bag on my shoulder, I started to walk to my spot, mulling over ideas in my head.  But in that time, a crew had moved into place, and started working in the very spot I had wanted to photograph.  Quickly realizing these guys are not going to move for a photo session, there’s only one thing to do: Deal with it and move on.

Standing tall at 6 feet 8 inches, Kevin sees it all and doesn't take lip from anyone.

Back near the entrance, the only other spot that seemed worthwhile stood by the front door.  The background was high quality plywood that had a nice grain, and I thought it would handle the lights relatively well.  Not a lot of glass for flare or reflection, and it would give a nice warm quality to contrast most of the other images I have, which are quite hard and gritty.

Firing off a few test shots, I was up and running pretty quickly.  First on the chopping block was Kevin.  He’s the head guy on the floor.  I will venture to say his official title is superintendent, but I could be wrong.  Chatting with him during the shoot, I learned that he surfs, and we instantly had a little talk about breaks, boards, and good sessions of days gone by.

He’s got a son who’s beginning his first year at Cal Poly SLO, my alma mater (ipso facto e pluribus unum…)  Heading in as an architecture major, he’s got his work cut out for him, but it sounds like he’s ahead of the curve.  Having CAD on his computer at home, he plays with it and will be ahead of most of the incoming students, and possibly some of the outgoing as well.  Jeez…I feel dumb.

Tommy Knows Construction.

Next up was Tommy.  He has been a fixture at Prospect with his sense of humor and hard work.  Something of a camera buff himself, I got a few questions on light, aperture, and other technical issues.  He proved an excellent subject, and was willing to try a few ideas.  Thanks Tommy!

Michael, aka Mark Twain, chewed on his stogies while laying down the eco-mat. All around nice guy.

As I walked through the building, I looked over and knew this guy was my next victim.  The Mark Twain of Eco-Mat, Michael had the mustache and cigar to complete the package.  I asked him quickly if I could take a few images of him, and then he could get back to it.  No more than 2 minutes.  I think I took a total of 7 shots and that was it.  Got a great look from him.

Taping drywall isn't easy at all - even though Marin makes it look silky smooth.

Marin is helping with the drywall, and although he was a bit hesitant at first, a few jokes from me and his cohorts allowed him to open up a bit.  Lucky guy is getting married soon, and I am sure the food and festivities will be amazing, as it’s going to be a double wedding with his cousin!  Never heard of that before, but hey, two parties into one?  Sounds amazing.

I know it's been a rough day, but don't do it man!

And finally Ravi.  What can I say that hasn’t been said.  Chef extraordinaire, business partner, construction foreman… the list goes on and on.  That being said, when he picked up the hammer, I wasn’t sure if he was wielding it as a tool or weapon?!  If a weapon, I think he was looking for some self-inflicted pain.

Food Rock Star - he'll never tell you that - but taste his food and you'll understand.

More to come!

See you down the road.


The Cowboy and Concrete

There’s a sticker on the big metal carts that the tradesmen bring to house their tools while at the job site.  It reads, “Honor Labor.”  Hell yeah.  For some reason, I feel like the American Dream has been a little tainted this last decade.

The trucks arrived with a vengeance, and soon after they were pouring.

We’ve gotten to where people don’t want to put in the hard work it takes to accomplish a difficult goal.  We want our desert, and we want it now.  Here, take this pill to magically get rid of your fat while you sit watching the latest celebrity fall from grace from cocaine or an extra-marital affair. (Now that’s livin!)

But when a line of trucks appeared, cresting over the hill and rumbling their way down Folsom towards Prospect, I knew I was in for another day of good old fashion labor.  Why concrete, and why so late in the game?  The original floor plan that was cast needed an augmentation or sorts.  The kitchen floor was recessed from the rest of the restaurant, and it required a lift for many reasons.

I really had to watch where I stepped. It was easy to get tangled in the wire re-bar.

As soon as the trucks parked, bam, the guys jumped out and prepared the piping to run the concrete inside.  Tools such as floats, 2×4’s, wrenches, and shovels made their way in as well.  As the truck’s cylindrical mixer rotated slowly, the sloshing aggregated material waited to become part of something more than itself.

Let her go!

The signal was given to release the concrete, and after a little “tickling” of the pipe, the stuff poured forth.  Out came the newest, viscous, and very permanent addition of Prospect.  Watching these guys do their thing proved pretty amazing.  When you dump three trucks of concrete onto a floor, you better have your plan already formulated.

Once it starts flowing, you better be ready!

Out of all the people to photograph, one stood out – The Cowboy.  He also happened to be the lead man, and a little surly as well.  I suppose you have to be when leading a team.  He barked orders, but he stood in the thick of it too, literally.

The Cowboy, doin' his thing.

Standing tall.

Watching these guys baby a material that looks lumpy and stiff, into something buttery smooth and level – in less than a few hours – was pretty amazing.  And as they finished up, a little stiff themselves, sweat and exhaustion coating their faces, they looked back at their work and smiled.

Smoothing it out to some buttery goodness.

Honor Labor

See you down the road.


Seaport Stainless

Ahh, ever since my days on the sailboat, I have had a love affair with stainless steel.  I know you are just shaking your head at me, wondering what the hell I am talking about, so let me explain.  Stainless Steel = Amazing.  Understood?

From left to right, Ryan, Ravi, and Ray discuss logistics and answer any final questions.

When something is exposed to the salty elements of the ocean, wind, sun, and waves day after day, year after year, and ceases to rust, well, to put it lightly, “You had me a hello.”  Thus, I (and you as well!) can appreciate the craftsmanship, knowledge, and specialty of Seaport Stainless, builders of shimmering, custom-made, kitchen equipment for the food service industry.  Translation:  They are outfitting Prospect’s kitchen with any and everything stainless.  Which is a ton of stuff.

Father and Son, standing in front an expensive "toy."

These guys do it all.  And when I say guys, I mean father and son team Ray and Ryan Doving.  Ray started the business, and completed their first major job in 1977.  Like any son, Ryan went off to experience his own life for a while.  After graduating from UCSD with a degree in Computer Science and working three years as a software engineer, he eventually migrated back towards the shop (where I am sure he spent his earlier years welding things he wasn’t supposed to, or taking the dogs on long walks).  Now he actually gets things done, as he is the lead CAD guy, manning the brains of their new $600,000 Bystronic CNC laser cutter.  Gulp.  600K.  That’s a lot of dough.  But hey, you gotta keep growing to stay ahead of the curve.  And ahead they are.

"Oh, what's that? You need an inch of solid steel cut by noon? No problem."

"Fine cuts aren't a problem either."

Ryan and Ray were kind enough to lead us around the premises, and show off all the cool toys and some of the current work.  Walking onto the shop floor, the first thing I noticed was how clean everything was for an industrial trade.  Panning left and right there were kitchen hoods and countertops in varying stages of completion.  It seemed as though everything had a “Prospect” written on it somewhere – including half the finished pieces in the warehouse.  We all migrated toward one piece, and Ravi asked questions about functionality, refrigeration specifics, and requested some minor alterations.  Smiling like a giddy kid on Christmas morning, his stoke is palpable.  It’s been great to watch him bounce with more energy now that the restaurant is really coming together.  I can tell you, all he really wants to do is get back in the kitchen and make amazing food.

A few more questions about the goods.

Hang on Ravi, your kitchen is almost there! These are actually photos of Seaport's first big finished job in 1977.

Heading around for a loop and back over to the laser cutter, we got a peek into the guts of this machine to watch it in action.  Under the hood of this thing is like looking into the future.  Glowing purplish blue, CO2, Helium, and Nitrogen are combined under a vacuum and pumped through glass tubes.  As they travel to the tip of the laser cutter, it’s hit with a high dose of voltage.  The result:  Freakin’ Laser Beams.  As the material passes under the laser, it’s instantly cut, and never really gets too hot.  It’s all very scientific.

Look! It's the internet! A series of tubes and pipes. Just look at all the information! Nope, just gas in a vacuum being combined and sent to cut inch thick steel.

Is that nitrogen, or are you just happy to see me?

If you could see this machine pump out whatever you want it to make, your jaw would drop to floor like mine.  Not only does the speed and efficiency startle you, but the astounding finesse of its accuracy will blow you away.  Once a sheet of metal is laid down and put into place, the mechanized dance begins – at a blistering speed.  The arm works its way back and forth, from corner to corner with a quickness that no human could ever equal.

Once fitted on the tray, the steel is ready to go.

The point where the laser is actually cutting the material is 1/8000 of an inch, and the super intense beam can blaze through up to an inch of solid steel.  Plywood isn’t an issue either.  In fact, this thing can cut through pretty much anything it wants.  James Bond wouldn’t stand a chance…unless it was Sean Connery…then just maybe!

At the helm, Ryan controls the progress of the cuts. For the lighting nerds out there, I was at F11 @200th with three lights. One up high and gridded tight for the guys faces. Once behind Ryan's head lighting the inside of the laser cutter. And the third camera right lighting the front of the cutter.

But in all seriousness, it was a pleasure to visit the grounds and meet a family run business.  They’ve been around for over 30 years, but you know, they still face challenges like everyone else.  It’s only through hard work, planning, and perseverance that Ray and Ryan have come through these times with more business than ever before.

My kind of people.

That’s what life is all about.

So untie the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  –  Mark Twain

And don’t forget your stainless.

See you down the road.


Cuttin’ It Up

Rob saws through a few steel frames while throwing sparks at me.

Life continues to roll on inside Prospect.

Progress made has been great, and I continue to find amazing things to photograph as the story unfolds.  The inside structure is taking shape, and the idea is coming to life.

Sparks are flying and love is in the air!  Don’t know about that last one, but the latter is definitely true.

Foot steps, hammering, the rise and fall of the blade cutting steel framing – all of these reverberate throughout – and I am amazed to see the skeleton emerge.  I have to walk a little more tentatively now that work has started.  Dawning a hard hat, I peruse around and try not to get in the way of so many who are making this possible.

Rob, Kevin, Tommy… the list goes on and on.  They have started the story, and I look forward as it unfolds.

Today’s words are a bit short.  As I am feeling under the weather (boo) I don’t have much to say.

Maybe that’s a good thing?…

Please enjoy the imagery.

At 200mm, I was well clear of the sparks - unlike my 14-24mm lens that took a few to the glass - oops.

A worker installs some electrical lines.

Rob threads in a screw to pull it all together.

I am sure there will be a much prettier attendant at the front when Prospect opens her doors!

Always wear your hard hat, or you could end up like the unfortunate soul below...

This poor fellow wasn't with the unions and slipped through the cracks. Nah. Where else but San Francisco can you find a glittering skull in the trash?

See you down the road.


Almost Up To Speed

I can, on occasion, get ahead of myself.  For instance, when I sailed my 26 ft Pearson Ariel 4000 miles to Mexico and back, I had a moment to face my mortality during some unsettled weather.  As 40 knot gusts howled furiously and waves crashed about, I had never encountered anything like the mean ocean I saw before me, and thought (even if momentarily) that I might not make it.  Under duress, I decided to write down everything I wanted to do in my lifetime. Yes, I wrote my bucket-list at the ripe old age of 23.  After returning from Mexico and finding safe harbor, the list emerged, and a funny pattern raised its head.  It went something like this:

1.  Run Marathon

2.  Start Running

3.  Hike Appalachian Trail

4.  Buy Hiking Boots

5.  Become Independently Wealthy

6.  Find Job

And so my list went down the line.  Big goals first.  Starting out second.  I’ve always wanted the end results quickly.  I am willing to do the work, but a bit impatient sometimes (OK, most of the time!)  Once again, I find myself wishing to post my most recent photos of Prospect, only to reign in on the stampede of imagery.  I’ve decided for once, (big sigh) to be patient.

What follows are the long drives, late nights, and good beer consumed brain storming and contemplating where we want this to go.

Adam Typing and Ravi contemplating.

Our guru of words, Adam has a uncanny ability to be loquacious, amusing, and provocative all in the same sentence. To me, he is the William Jefferson Clinton of my friends and colleagues; he can say just about anything, and I’ll love him for it.

The stark reality that it doesn't matter where and how you meet - just as long as you meet.

Like I’ve said before, this project is about the forging of friends, co-workers, trades, and artists who’ll provide the collective effort to realize Prospect. Everywhere you walk within the building, names start popping out at you.  A family owned operation, Val Betti kept springing up on hats, shirts, and even home appliances.  I am not sure if the power supply is totally necessary for the circa 90’s microwave, but one thing is for certain:  The burritos will be hot!

Setting: Nuclear

Once I was described by a friend as, “A rock of change.  But a rock nonetheless.”  Maybe that’s where my love of construction sites comes from? Everyday something happens – something changes – a wire gets installed, a piece of sheet rock is hung, or concrete is poured.  Materials take shape and form out of ideas, mathematics, paper, pencils, computers, and more.  For a dreamer like me, it’s paradise.

The end result of years of work in the form of text, pictures, lines and paper.

Visited daily, the plans are referred to constantly.

A hand crafted space idea of immense proportion isn’t born overnight; nothing great ever is.  Planning, hard work, drafts, and re-drafts all require attention to detail. Getting to know Prospect and her story – setbacks and triumphs alike – I have come to realize that everyone involved has paid their dues.

With a little more patience, Prospect will be open for business – and like the hottest girl around – she’ll be worth the wait.

It seems the proverb is proving true once again.

“Patience is a virtue.”

See you down the road.


Made In America – Forging Ahead

Working on a different project, Nick is a skilled craftsman himself. The shirt says it all!

Working on the Prospect project allows me to meet all sorts of people from varied walks of life. Some are engaging, and some not so much. The majority are of the first kind – like the workers of Jefferson Mack Metal – who are wonderful people.

Augustine,  a blacksmith at the shop and Kathy’s husband (the general manager of Boulevard) is taking on the project of constructing hand forged chandeliers for the restaurant’s interior.  Pumped for the chance to document the creation of these handmade pieces of art, I couldn’t wait to begin.

I arrived early for my meeting with Ravi and the guys, and poked my head in to the shop.  I was in photographer heaven with what I saw:  Tools, dirty and gritty looking stuff everywhere, this little shaft of natural light to accent the guys working, crazy looking machinery that, I swear, sounded like Mumra The Ever Living (I have waited so long to get in a Thundercats reference in!) when it beat down to shape molten iron at will.  I could hardly contain myself.

Before we could begin, Augustine had to go over a few of the safety issues first.  “Always watch where you are going.” he trumped in his accented voice.

Beautiful to listen to, he is the Antonio Banderas of blacksmiths.

Looking serious and ready for work, Augustine is a master craftsman.

“Right,” I thought to myself, “no problem when I’m looking through the viewfinder of my camera trying to frame a shot up, not paying attention to where my feet are headed.”

“Don’t touch the furnace.  It’s at a temperature of about 2800 degrees Fahrenheit.”  He nodded over to the red-hot beast.

“Got it.  Note to self.  Don’t melt flesh off body.”  Mentally tallying the ways I could die.

“Also, don’t put your hands near anything that’s moving or looks dangerous.”  he said with finality.

“OK,” I thought, “don’t mess up just this one time.  Don’t touch anything, ask questions, obstruct their movement, say anything offensive, or be a general pain in the ass in any way, shape, or form.”  With the final instructions, we started to walk over to begin. Then we stopped short.

“I almost forgot,” he said with his pointer finger in the air, as if a trick question almost fooled him, “you need safety glasses.  Here you are.”  As he handed me these ocular plastic shields, I had to laugh a bit.  It wasn’t attune to wearing a helmet while skydiving, but it felt pretty close.

Ready for forging, these slugs will be pounded into the outer perimeter of the chandelier.

With the furnace glowing red-hot, Augustine pulled out some round iron slugs that would momentarily be pounded into the rough shape that would form the outside of the chandelier.  As he found the correct tool for picking up the red hots, I shimmied here and there to get some photos while clearing myself of any danger.

Augustine dialed in the zone, hammering away.

Standing eerily in the corner and painted red, as if to warn ignorant souls of its power, a belt driven hammer was turned on with a flip of a switch.  This machine has been crafting metal and scaring young children for over a century. Impressed and intimidated, I gave the machine (Mumra) room to spare.  As Augustine transported the readied metal and began to work, I was amazed at how quickly and effortlessly he turned, pulled, and tweaked the metal and machine.  Feathering the amount of pressure via foot pedal, Augustine skillfully pounded, shaped, bent, and warped his medium into a discernible form.  Happy with the outcome, he repeated this step over and over.

Using a century old belt driven hammer, Augustine's idea takes shape.

Now that all the pieces were roughed out, they had to be re-heated and bent into shape.  How do you bend a piece of metal to the exact shape you want it? Well, you have to build a one of a kind template and tools to get the job done. Heading over to the table with a red-hot piece of forged iron, Augustine laid the metal down, grabbed a hammer and vice like tool, and with the help of a few others, bent the metal into its pre-formed shape.

Using manpower alone, this piece of metal was bent into its proper shape.

Super-heated metal, being bent to form.

Once the pieces are bent into shape, they get re-heated again, and sent over to a hydraulic press to really flatten them out.  When the press touches down and lifts off them again, the rush of oxygen produces a flame that looks pretty cool. Timing it right wasn’t as easy, but I managed to get one sequence off without a hitch.

The press stamps out any imperfection, and really flattens the piece out.

It seems like the routine of the day was as follows:  Forge, fire, press, hammer, bend, repeat.  I have to say I had a blast in the shop.  Even Prospect’s architect came by to chat about the design and take a gander at the progress.  I think for Ravi and everyone involved, it was fantastic to see ideas start to become reality.

Augustine and Ravi talk shop.

As the day was coming to a close, I slowed down to look around.  I wanted to cover some details.  I just love all the hidden little stories that float around. There’s so much history in this shop, and here are two of my favorites.

This set of tools is well-worn, but they seem alive, just waiting to help make something grand.

A close up of a metal saw. I took this image only a few inches away from the blade with my macro lens. It's so fine you can see the shavings!

Both of these images were from my 100 mm macro lens.  I can print these images up to around 24 inches (2 feet!) wide and they would still be around 240 DPI (dots per inch.)  That would be incredible sharp and realistic.  I could go even bigger, and I still wouldn’t worry about sharpness.

Doing a mental checklist of the images I wanted to capture, I felt satisfied.  I had met fantastic people, and had a great space and light to work with.  There’s not much more a photographer could ask for.  Packing up and heading out, I heard something.  It was almost evil.  As I looked back, Mumra was at it again. I raced back to capture Augustine hammering out a last round of slugs, but this time I chose to focus on the old set of tools.  It’s a nice juxtaposition of old verses new.  The end result is still the same, and after all, nothing says blacksmith like an anvil.

One last look at the big red machine and its master.

I hope you enjoyed the blog.

See you down the road.