Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving, 2007

I must say that our Thanksgiving was not the most restful and enjoyable time we have had. As disclaimer, we did get to see Clint, Marianne and Reeder as well as Brandy and Will, all of which was totally enjoyable. But since Max had to work on Thanksgiving Day, we didn’t leave until Friday. The “fastest” way to drive from SF to south of LA is down I-5 through the middle of the San Joaquin valley. That is about 260 miles of interstate that goes through the middle of the principal crop growing region of California. It was interesting to see the first few hundred thousand acres of fruit and nut trees, but that eventually got a little old. The acres of trees were eventually replaced by vast, very flat, very bare “farm land”. The San Joaquin Valley is not naturally farm land- but rather semi-desert. It is only "farm" because of the extensive aqueduct- and the fertilizing- all man-made. God didn't intend for farming to happen in the San Joaquin Valley- but this "non farm" actually produces 25% of agriculture in the US. But "real" farm country is beautiful- And the San Joaquin Valley is the ugliest farm country I have ever seen- this is country even the "mother" couldn't love. But these are commercial “farms” and that’s very different from farms in Ohio or for that matter anywhere else I have ever seen a farm. It was just miles of bare land, and I don’t think we ever did see a farm house or a barn the whole way. It was just flat fields waiting for planting as far as the eye could see.

OK, that’s not so awful. The awful part came as we left the Valley and started climbing the hills north of LA. That’s when the oil drain plug in our Honda Civic fell out, and I lost all of the oil in my engine. I was lucky in that apparently just as it was happening, I was changing lanes, looked in my rear view mirror and noticed that my car was looking like a crop duster from all of the smoke coming from behind it. I immediately pulled off to the shoulder and went to the front of the car to see a large puddle of oil forming on the ground where it was draining out of the engine. Now at this time I had no idea what was the cause, so I had to get a tow truck.

We finally got one, and I think he drove over from the movie set of Deliverance. His brain was obviously fried from drugs, his hands were black from dirt and oil, he had long filthy hair, and we couldn’t understand anything he said. He was able to pull the car up on his tow truck and drive us the 60 miles into the closest Honda dealer who just happened to still be open when we arrived.

I had to sit in the middle on the bench seat of the tow truck- without a seat belt- but tow trucks don't come with three seat belts and my only other option would have been waiting at the side of the road with my thumb out. I couldn't make out most of what the driver was saying- it would have been a little easier had he had just a few more teeth- and he would just ramble on and on- pausing every once and a while for me to say- "oh really"- or some such non response. But he ranted about a boss who did him wrong- a Michael Jackson Limo that broke down and called 11- separate tow trucks- and they all arrived- An ex- wife who calls and yells at him from time to time- most often when he is in the liquor store. His personal hygiene suffered from neglect- probably years- I'm not sure a brush had touched what use to be dreadlocks for months- There was an dreary wild cherry air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror that had seen better days. It was a very long ride. After finding an ATM machine, I paid him the $300 cash and asked for a receipt. This seemed to stump him for a few minutes, but then he found the receipt pad and was able to copy information from old receipts onto mine. Like I said, I think he had pretty well burned up most of his brain cells.

We had great luck that the Honda service department was open until late on Friday, but they couldn’t get to our car quickly and the only place to rent a car was closing soon. So we rented a car (a Prius no less) and finished the last 100 mile drive through “Greater Los Angles” to San Clemente getting there only about 4 hours later than planned. By the way, all the bad things you have ever heard about LA traffic are true. It is truly an experience to drive 100 miles through congested “rush hour” Los Angles traffic. Later that evening at Clint and Marianne’s house we got the “good news” that it was only the drain plug instead of some other catastrophic damage, and apparently I had stopped the car fast enough that there was no damage to the engine.

But we did arrive- and Marianne and Clint's new home is wonderful! And true to form- Marianne already has it decorated so it feels like home even though they've only been in San Clemente for 2 weeks. Their new home is a three bedroom (our room was ready- the new baby will share with Reeder so there will still be a room for Grama Max and Grandpa Don). The neighborhood is charming- and there is plenty of sidewalks and green space for wandering about. We understand they are not far from the beach- but we didn't wander that direction this trip.

But of course the best part of this trip was REEDER!

She charmed us all with her antics. We played with blocks- and colored- and read (Reeder's favorite toy is a book!)
And of course there was a walk!

Notice how careful she is about actually looking over her shoulder before turning- not quite ready for the San Francisco streets- but she's working on it.

Now for all our friends and family that come for Thanksgiving- THIS YEAR I MADE MY VERY BEST PUMPKIN PIE! It was absolutely beautiful!
And tasted great- well at least I think so- By the time we finished dinner- and got around to desert we were really awfully tired- so we ate tiny slivers- and I brought the rest home- and I'm going to throw it away tomorrow- It might be the best- but it was very most neglected as well. Thanksgiving begs for the big celebration- And I missed that- plenty of wonderful family and friends to eat and eat and eat and laugh and laugh and laugh and talk and talk and talk- until you don't think you have another bit of energy for another bite- or chuckle or word. You were all so very missed.

Don did much of the "heavy lifting" in the kitchen,
And he and Marianne made their first chocolate pie ever- and no help from me. Reeder and I were knitting in another room.

And Clint from time to time provided some needed supervision- he made sure that Don had everything under control....
And the dinner was wonderful- with all the things I have been making (though this time "I" really made very little of the dinner- but all the favorite things were there- Brandy brought the green bean casserole and broccoli rice casserole- I did the corn bread dressing and gravy, Marianne did the spinich casserole, and Don did the sweet potatoes, cranberry relish (always with a bit of bourbon) and mashed potatoes and of course the turkey- brined of course.

And Brandy and Will did the clean up! Mary Ezra- you got a break this year- but there will be plenty of years ahead!

And of course there was the lazy time of "nothing much" that is so especially wonderful with families and holidays.

And in true Grama Max fashion we stopped (Don, Marianne, Clint, Reeder and I) at the mall before heading back to San Fran for a bit of shopping.
But Reeder needs warmer clothes for these chilly California evenings.....

The drive home back up I-5 was nothing but frustrating. The overhead traffic signs said: “Holiday Traffic, Expect Delays”. Boy they weren’t wrong there. We drove through about 75 miles of stop and go traffic, standing absolutely still for about 15 minutes in the middle of it. Every now and then we would speed up to about 60 and then a mile later stop again. Most of the time we were stopping and going, often speeding up to only 15 MPH before braking again. We finally saw a wreck on the other side of the highway, but there was only one car, and it was in the very wide center median out of the way, so I guess the delays for the previous three hours were from folks going north, slowing down to look at the south bound wreck. So the trip home took about 10 hours instead of 7. It was about half way up I-5 that Max proclaimed: “We are never doing this again. We will fly or they will fly, but we will never drive this road again!” We got home around 10 p.m. and declared Thanksgiving over for the year. Thank goodness.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Old Friends

This past week we had our second visitor, a wonderful friend from our youth. I met Gay our sophomore year high school at Will Rogers in Tulsa. Gay sat behind me in Ms. Edwards' Latin Class while we struggled through translations of the writings of Julius Caeser about the Gallic Wars. If you took Latin you know that: "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" or All of Gaul is divided into three parts; the opening words of his writings. For those of you who took something more useful like Spanish or French, congratulations on studying a language that you can actually use in communication. For those of us that took Latin, we can enjoy old Catholic Masses or just be proud that we can read the writing around University emblems, or understand some obscure legal jargon.

I was 12 years old- and starting a new school- junior high. And I was in BAND- playing the clarinet. And there was Gay- so animated- so outgoing- so blond- so filled with life and enthusiasm. I was mesmerized with her energy to race right into the middle of life- not timid, not quiet, not retiring- so not me. And I loved it. It is of course true that opposites attract and there was Gay- so opposite of my timidness- and she played the clarinet too. We grew together as we moved to high school. Gay had a car and drove me to school everyday (and still reminds me that I made her late almost everyday as well). We wore our BIG curlers to marching band practice at 7am- which meant a great many bad hair days. We marched at halftime- cried when the team lost at state- and can still sing the school fight song. I was in that same Latin class and let me assure you- Don looked GREAT in the toga at the annual TOGA party.

But that was our beginnings with Gay. She and Max have longer history than me and they both went to nursing school at O.U. It's amazing how acquaintance with old friends always seems so natural. Sure, we always catch up on each other's lives and children, but getting together was like we haven't been separated for however many years. It's always like that with Gay. We settle into a comfortable atmosphere in which she might as well been our next door neighbor who just dropped in. Gay was at a conference in L.A. and caught a flight to SF to spend a few days with us. So we made serious plans to not really do anything but get caught up, and eat and drink well. Since I still have lots of vacation I can't possible take this year, I took 2 days off. Max had to work the weekend, so she also had Friday off.

Sometimes Gay and I don't talk for months (and during some of our past- even years)- yet we pick up mid sentence where we left off before. I can tell her anything- and have. She can tell me anything- and has. It is better than confession and forgiveness- it is love- And I am most grateful.

Don and Gay had a day off together- and did what you might expect- they went to our high school class web site- yes our high school- Will Rogers High School- Class of 1967- has a web site. We were a class of a bit over 700- big urban campus- in a beautiful school built by the WPA. So Don and Gay went to the web site (at the site you can learn that our class flowers were the mum and daisies) and since we are of course also a class that is "aging" the list of "Memorials" is getting longer and longer. A little over 60 of our class have died since those years together as a "Ropers". We lost two good friends in the first wave of the AIDS epidemic- when AIDS was a terminal disease rather than chronic. And then there were car crashes and cancer and heart attack and diabetes, and two in Viet Nam- and many, many listed as unknown. But one did catch the eye. It said "Executed". Now that stops you in your tracks. So of course that is a "google it" moment. Ron Fluke was the football quarterback- and certainly in the "popular" crowd- a "joc". He was in the state championship for wrestling every year in high school. Don knew him the most- they played football together- and Don even wrestled against him (rather you might say that Don was quickly pinned by him) before Don had his growth spurt and gave up wrestling. So who could have expected- "executed". See one night Ron Fluke came home late and bludgeoned his wife with a hatchet and then finished her off with a pistol before going upstairs and killing both of his daughters- age 11 and 13. He then sat in his home with them until the next morning when he drove himself to the police station and confessed. He explained that he was in financial ruins- why even his cell phone and car was about to be repossessed- seems he was quite a gambler- and so killed his wife and daughters to spare them the embarrassment of financial ruin. He pleaded guilty at his trial and asked to be executed. The Oklahoma judge obliged and he was executed in 2001. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one- it still seems a story from TV-not the story of your high school quarterback- a cute kid you remember from the halls of your youth.

Friday we were off to Sausilito and our favorite restaurant on the Bay- Horizons.

Horizons began in 1898 as a yacht club- and after being abandoned during the 20's, 30's and 40's, reopened as a restaurant. During the 60's it was frequented by Janis Joplin (Don and my favorite) and the Beatles and then later the Rolling Stones. The mural on the ceiling was painted by the same artist that painted Janis' car:


And then we traveled on to wine country and the St. Francis Winery for a tasting.

Don was our designated driver- now I don't want anyone feeling "sorry" for him- you see Don doesn't like "tastes"- he like the WHOLE thing. So the idea of "tasting" just has no appeal to Don- But Gay I got into the experience- and could taste the citrus, and the chocolate and the oak and the pepper and the earth- in the "tastes"- What fun!

And then we decided that if we didn't dawdle anymore we could make it back to San Fran for the sunset- and we did- looking out over the Pacific Ocean at the glorious end to a beautiful day!

Our time together was drawing to a close. We walked to our neighborhood Italian restaurant-
And enjoyed fine food and wine together before saying good bye. What fun we had- again.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A San Francisco Farmer's Market

When I was very young, Mom and Dad used to take us to the Farmer's Market in Tulsa. I don't have any idea where it was, but I do remember going there with the family. It was always in summers and there would be stalls where the farmers would back up their trucks and have their produce on display. We would buy bushel's of peaches or corn or strawberries or whatever might be available. We would take it home and the whole family would work to get it ready to can or freeze for use in the upcoming winter. I remember big troughs of water with blocks of ice and watermelons getting cold. We usually bought one, and I think I remember them being as cheap as a few cents a pound. That was the Tulsa Farmer's market.

Last Saturday Max and I went to the San Francisco Farmer's Market. They hold it around the Ferry Building not far from my office where I work. It's right on the Embarcadero and on Saturday at around noon it was packed with people both selling and buying. And in contrast to the Tulsa Market, this was more of an event to be seen at rather than one to visit.

I read about this Farmer's Market in the Gourmet magazine early in the summer- much before we knew that we might be living here for a while. It was listed as one of the 6 best farmer's markets in the USA. I'm not exactly sure what the criteria for selection. But it is indeed an event- with some out for the adventure- and then some serious shoppers- just like any farmers' market. Because the growing season is so much longer here the "season" will last much longer than Oklahoma or Ohio (my "O" states"). It felt much more like a carnival rather than a "shopping for vegetables" experience.

On one side of Embarcadero Street are the people selling art, jewelry, and clothing. These folks set up their booths in the open and sell their stuff. Here is a picture of a group of women who were having a great time, all dressed in bright reds and blues.

In the center of the street on the area between the two lanes of traffic and the MUNI trams was a guy playing percussion. He did have a symbol, but everything else was pots, pan, buckets, lids, and bowls. He was amazingly good.
Who would have thought that this was also a great place to have your wedding pictures taken?
We've seen bride and grooms all over the city- when we walked the coast trail a couple was getting married (in very high winds) overlooking the beach- And then when we walked down to the Palace of the Arts from our house we witnessed a young man drop to his knee and propose (we felt especially lucky because we got there early enough to see him set up the camera with his friends before the bride arrived). Under the arches was a wedding party and photographer. This is a city filled with young- and the young do fall in love and get married- and each weekend we watch (rather like voyeurs).

And then at the Ferry Building on the walkways in front and to the side of it were the "farmers" selling their produce. This isn't quite like the Tulsa Farmer's market in that none of the sales people look very much like farmers. There were no overalls, no pickup trucks filled with vegetables and no one wearing a John Deer hat. But the vegetables were all there in picturesque style. The peppers are always so beautiful as were the greens, the carrots, the persimmons and pomegranates. We bought pomegranates and persimmons. They are very much in season here. Did you know that there are actually two types of persimmons- the Fuyu and the Hachiya? The Fuyu are firm and crunchy and sweet like an apple- and you can eat them just like an apple. I used them with a roast pork tenderloin. The Hachiya must sit for 1-2 weeks and soften and then when they are "mush" you use them in a bread. I have 3 Yachiya trying to ripe so I can make bread. They are not at all like the persimmon that grow in our yard- though I think I'll try the bread recipe with persimmon from our yard when we go home. Who knows maybe it will be good?

Almost everything was certified "organic". After all this is California.

We saw an Irish Accordian player- though not quite like any accordian player we'd ever seen. I really liked this accordion
-and we wanted to make sure that Oliver Delany, our good friend, accordion player, and retired lobbyist from Oklahoma City, knows that there are opportunities for employment here in SF. The street musicians (all of whom had CD's for sale- and posted schedules of concerts) reminded me of Quebec City. Now don't get me wrong- I have a soft spot for the bongo drummer outside of the Reds Ball Park- but this just isn't quite like that. Interesting- and quirky- and very San Francisco.

But inside of the Ferry Building is a whole different kind of "Farmers Market". This one is for the more sophisticated "farmer". On the inside are permanent shops that sell an array of goods that most farmers don't usually bring in.

There are shops that
make bread on site and sell it there,
Sell cheese of every variety-

Sell home made chocolates and candies-

Sell spiced olive oils (squeezed from California olives)-

I sent Don back today for Olive Oil- and Balsamic Vinegar- we forgot that he has to lug these bottles up the steep hill from his bus stop- but he- and the bottles- made it just fine. (Though he did complain just a bit).

Sell a variety of mushrooms

And even a caviar and champagne bar-I know I never saw one of those in Tulsa. In addition there is an Italian gelato shop, restaurants of every variety, a wine shop (this is California)......

Trying to get a tune up in San Francisco

We've been here only a month and the differences that this city provides have become more and more obvious. My latest experience involves health. People here are healthier than anywhere I have been, probably because the weather is so good that they can go out and run these hills. I used to be really proud of myself if I could make it to the top of the hills in our neighborhood. But almost never a day goes by when I don't see multiple people running these hills. But that's off of my current subject.

I never ran up hills- I would work up to a walk on Reilly Road- but had gotten real lazy the last couple of years and just walked the flat stuff- and then only 2 miles of flat stuff. LAZY! But here- I can't get to a single restaurant without a hill- and a walk- and I love to try new restaurants. Besides I promised Brandy I'd get into shape and it rather seems now or never- So I'm walking (crawling might be a better description of me on some of these hills) in San Francisco. We live at the very top- so even though I walk down (to eat, to shop, to go to church) there is always a walk back up in order to get home.

I have tried to walk these same hills and it's been tough. The first realization was when I was hiking with Matthew and Sharon in Muir Woods. Then Max and I were climbing some steep hills and I was really having trouble. I think my problem is that my pacemaker needs a little tuning up. Once I start working hard my heart speeds up like it is supposed to, but if it gets too high, the pacemaker drops the rate back down to my baseline of 65 and keeps it there until I relax. This same thing happened with my first pacemaker, so I know it can be fixed, but first I need to see a cardiologist.

I'm always really frightened when Don has problems with his HEART. Now when it is his back, or shoulder, or hip, or knee, or toe- I just tell him to suck it up and quit complaining (I try to say it in a nice sort of way) But not the HEART- then I am frightened. And I really don't like the pale, pasty, cool skin sort of response when we've been out walking/hiking. And we're getting those here. We've found other walks that aren't so steep- And we're trying to get in with a cardiologist- But for now I just have to live in that "always a little frightened stage". I think that Wednesday morning in November (it was the morning after- you know- the morning after Bush won and Kerry lost...) That was the worst morning of my life- And when anything is going on with Don's HEART I'm frightened all over again- even if he does try to reassure- And not look quite so pale (which is tough since Don looks pale even at his healthiest).

So I looked up a number of cardiologists that are part of my insurance. The first group said that they aren't taking any patients, so try someone else. The second group said that they would see me, but first I needed to have a local personal care physician. So next I started looking for a PCP and called several and finally found one that would see me in only about a week. Well, that appointment was last Friday, and it was another one of those San Francisco surprises.

I got there a little early to fill out the paperwork, paid my co-pay, and sat down to wait. I got into an exam room about 20 minutes after my appointment time (not too bad) and sat down to wait. Finally about 40 minutes later, Dr. William Nabor came in and apologized for being so late. It seems he was having a bad day too. But then he said: "It's good you are my last patient today so we can talk and get acquainted". It turns out Dr. Nabor was born in Jordan and went to medical school in Russia before coming to San Francisco. He is part of the UCSF medical staff and works in a small office not far from the medical school. He works in his practice by himself with a receptionist and no other help! There is no nurse! He took my blood pressure, listened to my heart etc. He took down my history, wrote down my current drugs and then filled out the insurance paperwork himself. I asked for a flu shot, so he went to the refrigerator to get the vaccine, got a syringe from the cabinet, filled it and gave me the injection. I spent over an hour with him talking. I told him about my heart attack and so he told me about his. He told me I was very lucky to have a nurse as a wife because she called 911 just like you should. He being a doctor thought he might be having a heart attack, but drove to his brother's house and then his brother drove him to the hospital. He almost died because he waited so long.

This guy was really fun to be with. I have a follow up appointment week after next and the wait is so long because I will be out of town, not because he wouldn't make time for me. He then wrote me a note of introduction to a UCSF cardiology group and is going to call them to ask them to get me in this week because I need to have my pacemaker checked.

San Francisco is full of surprises.

PS: Some doctors for my home health patients actually make house calls. And there is one group of doctors that don't have offices- they just go to the patients home. Go figure- Guess it's just life in the BIG CITY!

PSS I called the cardiology office this morning and to my surprise they asked me to come in today at 2:30! I met first with a Nurse Practioner who was extremely well trained in how to tune a pacemaker. This wasn't a Medtronics person, but a nurse that works in the practice. She told me they don't like to use Medtronics technicians because they often are technical experts, but don't really understand the medical issues. After doing a lot of testing on my pacemaker, she brought in the cardiologist who was also an expert on pacemakers. They discussed my situation, asked me lots of questions about my problem, jointly came up with a solution and then did the tune up. And it worked. As I walked home from the doctor's office (remember Max has our car) I looked at the hills in front of me and decided to test their work. It was wonderful. I was able to walk up the hills just like a real person in good health. I HAVE BEEN TUNED UP.

Matthew and Sharon Lucas:

It is official. Matthew and Sharon did some double tasking while taking their vacation to Hawaii. One was a great vacation and the other was a great honeymoon. Yep, they got married while in Hawaii on October 26. They are planning parties to celebrate with family and friends in both New York and Cincinnati sometime in the Spring or early Summer. So we will keep you posted on the upcoming celebrations and give you plenty of notice if you want to join us in either location. Here are some pictures that they have uploaded on Matthew's picture website. If you want to look at others of Hawaii, here is the website address:

Sharon is a "girl" from Long Island. She went to an art academy in New York and has a degree in animation though she hasn't done work in animation. She is an expert in fashion photography retouch (this month's cover of GQ was "finished" by our own Sharon Lucas). She's why all of us strive to attain such impossible beauty standards- the models wouldn't look so good without Sharon and her special skill. But for now she's looking at a career change- (it is amazing that one so young is changing careers-But then Don and I are just a bit too stable- I've been nursing for 36 years- and he has been at P&G for 30- BORING!)- anyway- she completed a certificate program in TREES- now if that wasn't a sure bet to win her new father-in-law's heart (Marianne was a shoo in with Don when it became apparent she was the "handyman" around the house and she loved to work side by side with Don- I'm rather partial to the "he does the work and I stay out of his way"- these girls really know how to reel in the affection of their father-in-law). Anyway- back on track Sharon is an Aborist! Currently she is interning at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden- we promise a tour if the weather permits when we have the party in New York- we now know an INSIDER! And Mary Jo and Mary- she knits! And cooks! And to top that all off she loves our Matthew! When we met Sharon it was "love at first sight". We understand that for Matthew it was also "love at first sight"- it just took Sharon a bit longer to catch up. But we're all the same page now- And absolutely delighted.

Can you imagine a place more beautiful than this tropical paradise for a wedding?

So we welcome Sharon Lucas (yep- she's changing her name- a real old-fashioned girl!) And we look forward to meeting her friends and family in New York (and we hope that many of you can join us both in New York and in Cincinnati as we celebrate this New Family!)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Brandy Has A New Job!


Brandy has a new job! This is all so very exciting. Brandy will separate from the Air Force in December and will join the manufacturing firm Veeder- Root in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She will be working as a manufacturing engineer. Will will continue with the Air Force until next summer and then he will join Brandy in Pennsylvania. We are excited about this new beginning for Brandy! Join us in congratulating her.


Altoona Building

Altoona, Pennsylvania is home to Veeder-Root's 160,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Employing over 250 people, this ISO 9001 certified facility produces mechanical petroleum computers, meter registers and tank level sensing devices. The facility is home to a wide range of manufacturing processes ranging from the die casting of molten metal to the manufacturing of sophisticated electronic measuring devices. In order to produce this diverse range of products the facility uses equipment ranging from manually operated drills to computer controlled millingand electronic pick and place equipment.


Where is Altoona Located?
Altoona is located in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Central Pennsylvania. Penn State University's main campus is 40 miles to the north. Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the nearest large metropolitan areas,are within a two hour drive of Altoona. Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore are a 3-4 hour drive away. In fact, Altoona is located within a 500 mile radius of 50 percent of American consumers and 45 percent of Canadian consumers. The I99/Route 220 corridor linking the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-80 places Altoona in the center of Pennsylvania's newest emerging growth area.

What's it like to live in Altoona/Blair County?
A city of 50,000 in rural Blair County, Altoona's economy was originally based upon railroad and transportation. Today, Altoona mixes this heritage with a variety of manufacturing industries, farming and tourism.

With much of its surrounding landscape unaltered, Altoona has much to offer for lovers of the outdoors. Blair County's forests, brooks and hills,along with four state parks, allow ample opportunities for fishing, hunting and hiking. Abundant recreational facilities include two family amusement parks along with golf, skiing, boating and horseback riding.

Ranked as the fifth safest city in the United States, Altoona is also rated in the top fifth of metropolitan areas for low cost of living. Surrounding Blair county offers a large variety of housing at affordable prices. Altoona's educational system offers an award winning school district, the 115 acre Penn State Altoona campus and a variety of private and technical schools. Cultural activities include a Symphony Orchestra, vibrant community theatre, art museums and the Horseshoe Curve Rail Passage and Railroaders Museum. All of this in a friendly community setting that pleasantly mixes the best of rural and small city living.