Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander



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Blog 295: Smoky and Blue

Elkhart to Waynesville

Columbus, Indiana
From Goshen, we headed south to Columbus, Indiana, to stay a couple of nights at Columbus Woods-N-Water Campground. Nice and quiet, and guess what?—it is surrounded by woods and water—nice to experience truth in advertising.

Glasgow, Kentucky
From Columbus, we headed south in the rain (hurricane aftermath) down I-65 to Bailey’s Point Campground, another Corps of Engineer campground at Barren River Lake (about an hour south of Mammoth Cave National Park). It is a heavily wooded campground beside a huge lake—solitude abounds. They have an interesting tradition at the campgrounds that we just missed out on. The second weekend of October every year they have a “Boo Fest,” where most all campers decorate their campground sites for Halloween and many of them go all out. To many folks, this is a tradition—a chance to get together with friends and outdo each other on decorations. All kinds of activities are planned. The local kids have a break, so the place is exciting as well as quite scary! We left on Friday morning missing out on the main excitement.

Kentucky is the home of narrow winding roads, tasty bourbon, and fields of tobacco. Here is a shot of one of the cool tobacco barns.

Tobacco Barn

Chinese Buffet
The little town of Glasgow is kinda quaint, but limited in what it has to offer to sophisticated travelers like us. :’) With really low expectations on my part, we stopped for lunch at the China King and had their buffet for $7 a person. Just amazing! Really, really, good. There were close to 40 pans of really tasty Schezuan-style food. From zippy hot-and-sour soup to crab and shrimp and dozens of noodle dishes—wonderful stop.

Waynesville, NC
From Glasgow, I let the Google Maps take us the shortest route to Waynesville, NC—my bad. We poked along very narrow, very curvy blacktops for a couple hours. Beautiful country, but poor Jan was driving the bus and had to be on full alert as she guided us along the way at 15 miles an hour tops.

We chose Waynesville because of its close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had talked about seeing the colors here for years and had planned on it the year the government and the national park system were shut down. This time we made it. Our Pride RV Resort campground was just seven minutes from Maggie Valley decorated to the hilt for the fall season and Halloween—you couldn’t go ten feet without seeing pumpkins, witches, and other scary decorations. There were lots of antiques—here is a sign I found intriguing. The old trucks you will see later all came from Maggie Valley.

Flying Gas Man

Dog Park
Waynesville has a nice dog park within a manicured city park that we took the pups to several times. Here is a shot of a resting Golden.

Resting Golden

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
We had allotted one specific day to do a full-court press on shooting the fall colors. Alas, just as we had the car loaded, the rain came—first a soft mist, then a sprinkle, and the occasional downpour. However, we were out of the campground before sunrise (which never came), drove through Maggie Valley, and turned west on the Blue Ridge Parkway winding our way to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center inside the Great Smoky Mountain NP.* The ranger was helpful but not hopeful as we discussed possible destinations. He said it was not the best year for fall colors because the very warm temperatures a few months back had a big impact. He also said that because of the rain, rising winds, and lousy visibility, we may not be able to absorb the usual experience of the park. Hey, we were there, so we headed north driving adjacent the Oconaluftee River. We first stopped at the Mingus Mill, once the only grist mill for miles around. It was pouring rain, but we all got out of the car to check things out. After five minutes, both pups were doing their impression of drowned rats, and with gloomy looks led us back to the car. We drove for another hour, seeing a few colors along the river, but saw nothing but bright gray as we passed by the scenic pullouts. We accepted defeat, but decide to try again the next day.

Mingus Mill

Smoky View

*Depending upon your perspective, this where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends at Milepost 469. The Blue Ridge Parkway is its own National Park that for 469 miles links the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the south, starting in the northern part of Virginia and ending at the southern part of North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Fortunately, we had another day to explore. This time we drove through Maggie Valley but turned left instead of right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a chilly 40 degrees but the sky was clear to partly cloudy—great day for a road trip. We took the Parkway for over 40 miles. We have heard horror stories about the horrendous crowds in both the Smoky Mt. Park and the Parkway during prime season. Being there on a weekday just off season had its perks—traffic was light making things much more enjoyable.

We stopped at Waterrock Knob where Jack and I hiked the trail to the top to admire the views. Truth in advertising again—the literature stated steep and rocky and it was spot on! Nice views from the summit.

From there we stopped at several turnouts and gushed out an “ooh” or an “ahh” when appropriate. At the Pisgah Mountain, we turned around taking the back way to Waynesville and then on to our camp. Beautiful trip—I can only imagine what it must look like in a prime year! We hope to find out.

Blue Ridge Scenic

Blue Ridge Scenic 2

Funky Blue Ridge Wall

Top of Watterock Knob

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks from Maggie Valley.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

Blog 294: Casino Royale

From Cherry Creek State Park to Elkhart County Fairgounds

Loveland, CO
From Cherry Creek State Park, we took the short trip north to Boyd Lake State Park. As the name implies, the main attraction at this state park is the lake. We had a nice lake view from our site and enjoyed the many paths on which we walked the pups.

Day Trip: RMNP
Being this close, we couldn’t resist the opportunity of visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. We have been there many times, but every time is worthwhile. We took the one-way, dirt road up to the Alpine Visitor Center, and then circled back on the main drag. On the way up, we stopped by a stream and Jan built (I helped) a cairn in memory of her cousin Harlan.

Marmot

Harlan Cairn

Ft. Collins, CO
Another short drive north put us into the Ft. Collins KOA on the northwest part of the town by a major reservoir. On Labor Day, we hooked up with old Pine Island friends who have a house in Ft. Collins for a nice lunch.

Day Trip: State Forest State Park
We took scenic Highway 14 north and west bordering the Cache la Poudre along the way to State Forest State Park. North and west of Rocky Mountain National Park this isolated area is one of the prettiest places in one of the prettiest states. As we approached the park we saw three really big moose in the exact spot we viewed them several years earlier (hey, they might have been the same ones!). After a nice lunch at Walden, we worked our way back to camp.

Massive Moose

McCook, NE
From Ft. Collins, we took 14 east to 6 east and found a “city” park in McCook. The small park has sites big enough for big rigs and 50-amp power. They do this as a public service—camping is free except for tips. You certainly could tell you were in the Midwest, because about every fourth vehicle you meet is a tractor, combine, or other motorized farm implement.

Fairbury, NE
Continuing east across the plains, we camped overnight at the Rock Creek Station Recreation Area. Another isolated but very pretty setting.

Osceola Iowa: Casino #1
Continuing east and north we spent a night south of Des Moines, at the Waterside Casino campground. Clean and easy to navigate—good one-nighter.

Coralville, Iowa
Our next stop in eastern Iowa was the Coralville Dam, another Corp of Engineer campground built along Coralville Lake. Huge sites, great views—very relaxing…we spent several days there and will come back again.

Coralville Campsite

Coralville Campsite View

Day Trip: Casino #2
We drove south for an easy half hour to meet my two sisters for lunch outside of the town of Riverside at the Riverside Casino. Great catching up on families and a pretty good buffet!

Joliet Illinois: Casino #3
There are relatively few RV parks or campgrounds in this area, and the Hollywood Casino is probably the best.

Kalamazoo, Michigan
From Joliet, we headed east and dropped the coach off at the Thor factory service center in Wakarusa, Indiana, on a Friday mid-day. With our two pups and a loaded jeep, we drove an hour-and-a-half mainly north to spend time with a longtime friend. We had the chance to enjoy beautiful weather and reconnect with many old friends.

Trip to South Haven
Other good friends had recently built a house in South Haven, a two-minute walk to Lake Michigan. We timed dinner right so that we took in a beautiful sunset from their private beach.

Lake Michigan Sunset

Lake Michigan Sunset II

Beach Walkers

Dog Park
As always, we enjoy a dog park whenever we get the chance.

Mitzy and Buddy

Run, Jack, Run

Goshen, Indiana
We drove back down to Wakarusa, picked up the coach, and drove the 30 minutes into Elkhart for the yearly chassis service. After checking out this town for three hours during the servicing, we picked up the coach and headed south and east to Goshen. Here we set up camp at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds to attend a five-day Thor Diesel Rally of 135 coaches similar to ours. Lots of seminars, get-togethers, and group meals. They had a dog parade in which Jan made costumes for both Mitzy and Jack. I think the judging was rigged, as it was apparent to anyone with class that Mitzy should have won the best costume, with Jack a close second. Oh, well, we didn’t like the prizes anyway.

Butterfly and Bat

Old Trucks
Here is an old truck shot in Michigan.

Old KL Truck

See you next time.

Blog 293: Eclipse Chasers

From Cheyenne Mountain State Park we took the short drive up to Cherry Creek State Park on the eastern side of Denver. Bigger than Central Park in NYC, it shares the status of being right in the city of Denver, so one is close to just about everything. Nice, spacious campsites, trails everywhere, water to swim in or fish—just a wonderful place to stay.

Dog Park
Regular readers know how impressed I am with the quality (and size) of the off-leash dog parks in Colorado, and the Cherry Creek State Park dog park is right at the top of the list. Below are a few pics taken over several visits.

Big Stick Jack

Fluffy Pup

Reflecting Ernie

Run, Jack, Run

Run, Jack, Run II

Shoeless Mitzy

Football
Austie’s flag football team was undefeated for the season, and we got the chance to see the championship game.

Championship Opening Ceremony

Grab it, Austie!

Hut-Hut

Fishing
Jan and I (mostly Jan) watched the G-kids a few times over our stay in Denver. During an overnight stay at our campground, we took Austie and Nattie out fishing. Everybody had a great time.

Fishing Austi

Fishing Nattie

Total Solar Eclipse

Cherry Creek State Park to Scottsbluff

Early Preparation
I knew total solar eclipses were cool, but I hadn’t considered them at a “bucket list” level. Then over lunch one day (about three weeks before the eclipse), I saw a TED video of a scientist who made the case that viewing a total eclipse should be one of life’s top priorities. As he described the visual treats he saw, the totally unexpected sounds, and the intense feeling he experienced, I changed my mind. Doing a little research, I found that Denver was not far from the path of totality (200+ miles or so), so I vowed to make the journey, if at all possible. There were three main challenges:

1. Total Eclipse Glasses: Now this seemed easy, at first. Should be able to pick up a couple pair for a couple of bucks each…not! These special glasses were sold out everywhere. However, getting close to giving up (down to eight days), I found that the Grease Monkey chain (quick oil changes) was giving them away as a special promotion. I called and found that the last two pair within Colorado were at a location 20 minutes away. We jumped in the Jeep, and when we arrived I put Mitzy in my arms (hey, she is quite persuasive) and went in. The person I met hemmed and hawed a little (he said people were lined up before store opening to get their glasses), and I just kept saying how much we appreciated it and petting Mitzy. Finally, after smiling at the cute pup in my arms, he miraculously found two pair tucked away in the back of a cabinet. I thought about hugging him, but a grease joint is a macho place. Challenge Number 1 handled.

2. Lodging: As you probably guessed, hotels, motels, B&Bs, RV parks, and campgrounds were all jacking up prices (e.g., they were asking $1,200 for one night at a Motel 6!) and most all were sold out. We had decided upon going to Scottsbluff, Nebraska (all the people I had talked to said they were going to Wyoming), and I called the tourism center, the visitor bureau, the Scottsbluff National Monument, the Chamber of Commerce, and even with local knowledge could find nothing available that cost less than a first-class ticket to London. However, checking back three days before the event, a private rancher was advertising dry camping spots for $75—sold! Challenge Number 2 handled.

3. Photographing the Eclipse. Ideally you use a special solar eclipse filter, or the poor man’s version is solar eclipse film that you use to cobble together a homemade filter. I did not anticipate an issue until going to the B&H website and finding all options were out of stock, and all were backordered and not anticipated to arrive soon. Well, of course, I checked out Adorama, Amazon, and a dozen other places. Next, I called camera stores. Finally, I decided, “Oh, well, I can document the spectacle. Furthermore, I could shoot filterless during the one-minute-and-forty-two seconds of the total eclipse—good enough. Challenge Number 3 partially mediated.

Getting There
There were lots of horror stories about 600,000 people leaving Colorado and heading north to Wyoming or northeast to Nebraska for the total solar eclipse. So, we had some mixed emotions and a little angst and prepared ourselves mentally for possible traffic gridlock. In an attempt to at least minimize the potential pain, on Sunday we got the coach ready, and by 6:40 a.m. we were heading out of the park on our 214-mile trek to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Traffic on I-225 was light, modest on 70 East, and almost nothing on East I-76. Highway 52 was wide open, and although a little rough at times, we kept a good pace as we passed through the gentle fields of the Pawnee National Grassland. 71 East was quiet and smooth—almost lonely! We stopped at the Kimball Diner for breakfast (50% locals after church with the remainder Eclipse Hunters). 71 north of Kimball was a just-paved, four-lane road, smooth…easy-peasy.

We kept seeing signs along the road saying, “Expect Heavy Traffic,” but even stopping off at the diner, our journey was only four hours.

Once set up in our grassy field, we decided to check out the Scottsbluff National Monument, where Jan got her passport stamped, and then went on to adjoining Legacy of the Plains. We then drove around looking for the best place to view the eclipse and decided that where we were staying was just fine.

Scottsbluff NM 1

Scottsbluff NM 2

Preparation
I decided I would set up two cameras and attempt to get photos and video footage during the one-minute-and-forty-two seconds of the total eclipse. I was a little nervous, as it didn’t seem wise, as I had only seconds to adjust the tripod, frame the sun, manually focus, and shoot the eclipse.

At 10:25 the partial eclipse started, and Jan and I watched the changing shadows every few minutes for over an hour—very cool. Our only regret was that our Grease Monkey shades weren’t very sexy, and there were very few people that were envious.

At about 11:47, I started the video. At 11:48, the full eclipse started, and with both cameras I quickly took off the lens caps, adjusted the tripods to frame the sun, and then manually focused for the one-minute-and-forty-two-second duration.

At least I wasn’t skunked! Here are two photos I took of the total eclipse.

Total Eclipse Diamond Ring

Total Eclipse

If you’d like to see the 3:22 second video featuring Janny’s play-by-play commentary, click here. Note that there is only audio for the first one minute or so.

The Trip Back
After lunch (our host kindly fed us hot dogs, hamburgers, and the trimmings), and then we were off. Yes, there was some going-so-slow-you-could-shine-your-shoes moments, but we still made it home in slightly over five hours.

Unbelievable experience! We are ready for Total Eclipse 2024. How about you?

See you next time.

Blog 288: Old Trains and Blue Spruce

Chalk Creek to Blue Spruce

On to Vallecito
From our Nathrop campground we headed south on 285 for 80 miles, west on 112 for 31 miles, took 160 west for 99 miles, then 501 for 18 miles, and finally took 500 for 1.8 miles. Lots of up and downs, around and overs, as we herded the coach over some of the most gorgeous terrain in the country. We ended up about 30 miles northeast of Durango, adjoining the San Juan National Forest and the banks of Blue Spruce Lake.

Blue Spruce RV Park
Previously, we had stayed five times in the general area and twice at this RV Park. Yes, we love the area and this park is one of our favorites. Once again, we were at 8,000 feet in this beautifully shaded campground with enough hummingbirds to sound like a drone convention. Along with the hummers there were hundreds of chippers and squirrels, deer galore, and many, many yellow-bellied marmots. Both Vallecitio Lake and nearby Lemon Lake are great places to picnic, stroll, and let the Pups run down by the water.

Flying Hummer

Lake Vallecito

Vallecito Lake View

Wood in the Water

Storm A-Coming

Old Train
One of the most famous attractions in this area is the Durango-Silverton train. The Pups and I dropped Jan and visiting friend, Bert, at the Durango Train Station, and then we drove up to Silverton. Three hours later we picked them up, had a nice lunch, and then drove back to Blue Spruce. The scenery is magnificent and the train ride a must-do.

Train Pulling Out

Train Coming In

Happy Passengers

While touring Silverton, we found some nice views, including this old door.

Silverton View

Old Door in Silverton

Trails
One of the very nice things about this area is the abundance of trails within the San Juan National Forest. Just one mile from the campground is the Vallecito Trail, located in the Weminuche inside the San Juan National Forest. Also, several trails are located along Middle Mountain Road that eventually leads to the ghost town of Tuckerville. One day Jack and Mitzy and I drove to the barricade and hiked our way back into the setting where this town once existed.

Wilderness Sign

Tuckerville Road Closed

Old Pot
While picnicking at Lake Lemon, Jan found this treasure of an old pot, which quickly became a flower repository.

Jan's Old Pot

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks taken in Silverton.


Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

See you soon.

Blog 284: Deep in the Heart of Texas

Davis Bayou Campground to Cranes Mill Park

From our Ocean Springs campground, we once again strode on to I-10 West and traveled across Mississippi and most all of Louisiana, stopping close to the Texas border at Vinton RV in Vinton, LA. This was just an easy-on, easy-off location for the night—just a place to rest up, and then go.

Vinton RV Sign

The next morning, we again pointed the coach west on I-10, scooting through the very light traffic of Houston, and then to exit 604 in Segun, Texas. After about an hour of taking Texas 46 to 2722 East to 2673 North, we arrived at our campground on Canyon Lake, Texas. Canyon Lake is strategically located, about 35 miles NE of San Antonio and 45 miles SW of Austin. It is a big, manmade lake created and managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.

Cranes Mill Park Sign

This place is our kind of park…small (just 30 sites), big sites, covered picnic tables, scrub country behind us, and lake views up front. Deer everywhere and lots of birds.

Corn Flowers

Bull Thistle

Oh Deer 2

Western Kingbird

For many hours over our stay, we stalked the scissor-tailed flycatcher (also known as the Texas bird-of-paradise or the swallow-tailed flycatcher) and were fortunate to get a photo or two (in reality, I probably shot 400 or more).

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Our RV-really-good-friends from Oregon were in the area visiting family, and we spent time with this crew doing a little sightseeing, and then they took us out boating on the Caribbean-hued waters of the lake. Here are a couple of hot chicks on the boat.

Boating Babes

Old Trucks
Here is one old well-digging truck from the Texas heartland.

Old Well-Digging Truck

See you next time.

Blog 283: Tarzan, Moonshine, and Shrimp Boil Buddies

Punta Gorda to Ocean Springs

Adios, South Florida
As South Florida temperatures kept nudging upward and starting to set new highs, we departed Punta Gorda a couple of days earlier than originally planned.

After fueling up at the nearby Pilot, we headed north on I-75N, took I-275 around St. Pete, and crossed over the Skybridge, taking in the great Gulf views that tall structure provides. From there we took FL589 north until it merged into FL98N. Although the weather was in the mid-90s, cloud cover much of the trip helped keep the edge off the heat. Traffic was light (for Florida) and most of the roads were in decent to good condition—great traveling conditions.

We ended our travels four miles east of Perry, Florida, at Rocky’s Convenience Store and Campground…right off the highway, large sites, nice setting—good overnighter.

Rocky's Sign

While walking Jack on a backroad the next morning, I came across a sign designating the site of a past hotel. We walked back to camp, got Mitzy and Jan, and came back to explore.

Hampton Springs Hotel Sign

The Hampton Springs Hotel was the “must go to” Florida Panhandle destination of the rich and infamous. The hotel was visited by Theodore Roosevelt, and even royalty from the Far East. The sulphur springs and baths at the resort became known for their healing powers. The luxury hotel resort eventually included elaborate fountains and gardens, a covered pool, golf and tennis courts, stables, a casino, ballroom, an outdoor dance pavilion, and a railroad depot. The hotel also had a bottling plant, which bottled and shipped water from the springs to customers around the nation, and a private hunting and fishing lodge. The hotel burned down in 1954 and the area was largely abandoned.

River by Hotel

Johnny Weissmuller
While exploring the ruins of the hotel grounds, we came across a local walking his good-looking dog.

Hotel Dog and Master

He was kind enough to share some insights about the hotel and the grounds, along with some information not readily found in the historical files. Much of the underwater filming of several Tarzan movies took place at Wakulla Springs, located about 14 miles south of Tallahassee, and some of the filming took place on the grounds of the hotel. According to the local word-of-mouth journal, Johnny Weissmuller stayed at the hotel several times, always accompanied by an entourage of several young ladies, all known for their bold and bawdy ways. Interesting stop.

Georgia on My Mind
We headed west on US98 with almost zero traffic. Five miles past Newport we headed north on FL363, then at the outskirts of Tallahassee we took the Capital Circle bypass that connected us to I-10 West. After heading northwest for close to 30 miles, we went north on 269 to the town of Chattahoochee. We then continued north three mile into Georgia to our next destination along the shores of Lake Seminole.

Eastbank Sign

We stayed five nights at the East Bank Campground, a Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Seminole, bordering Georgia and Florida. Great big campsites, grounds as neat as a pin, and all sites with views of the water.

Lake Seminole from Eastbank

Campfire

Tuscany at Lake Seminole

Mississippi Meet Up
We got an early start leaving the campground, headed west on 90, south on FL286, then west on I-10 across the Florida panhandle, a stretch of Alabama, then into SE Mississippi, where we took MS 57 south to Ocean Springs Road. That took us to our Davis Bayou COE campground, just east of Ocean Springs. After several warm days, the light-jacket weather was welcomed like an old friend you haven’t seen in ages.

Davis Bayou Sign

Davis Bayou Campground is another COE campground and part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The campground is on the east edge of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and Ocean Springs is just a few miles east of Biloxi. Our campground was home to hoards of squirrels and vast numbers of birds. We spent a lot of time sitting outside watching the action, and Jack had the Squirrel Channel on from dawn to dusk.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Brown Thrasher

Squirrel Close Up

Turtles and Gators

One of the campers towed a travel trailer with his classic car. Here is a shot of his rig and one of him standing proudly by his car with his chauffeur smiling at the camera.

Classic Car and R Pod

Classic Car Pose

Beach Walks
Another great benefit of our campground location was the short time it took to get to the beach. Most mornings we took the Pups for early morning walks alongside the Gulf.

Shrimp Boil Buddies
The campground was awash with friendly people from Alabama and Mississippi. Within a few hours of our stay we had a squadron of new friends. Before long we were all telling stories and passing life histories like we’d known each other for years. Jimmy, our neighbor, is a talented fellow and one of his capabilities is making moonshine. Not wanting to offend, Jan agreed to sample his surprisingly excellent wares (of course I was polite as well :’). The kind soul gave us a sample to go to stave off the stress of traveling!

Jan and Jimmy

Later in our stay, Jimmy and several of his lifelong friends invited us over to a shrimp boil. Jimmy cooked and everyone ate the traditional boiled shrimp with sides of sausage, sweet corn, bread, deep fried gator, and blueberry cobbler. Just wonderful. Here is a pic of that interesting crew.

Shrimp Boil Buddies

Shrimp Boil Sides

Old Trucks
Here are two old fire trucks taken in Biloxi.

Old Fire Trucks

A really fun few days! See you next time.

Travel Blog 282: The Pig Hunters

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Lake Apopka Loop
It is getting late in the season, and the youngsters are growing up! Here is a pic of an immature Little Blue Heron and Flying Tri-Color Heron taken on the Lake Apopka Loop.

Immature Little Blue Heron  II

Flying Tri-Color Heron

Campsite Bow-Tailed Grackles
Those who know me understand that I am easily entertained. Sitting outside in the afternoon the Bow-Tailed Grackles flitter here and there looking for old chips, stale crackers, or chunks of anything edible. Here are a couple pics of these avian comics.

Bow-Tail Grackle

Bow-Tail Grackle II

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEP)
The CHEP is a state park just one mile from our campground. It has five trails, ranging from a mile and a half to two miles. All trails are interconnected so you can go for a short stroll or a several-mile hike.

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center

I have mentioned it before in earlier blogs, but until very recently I was unable to take photos, as I had dog leashes in both hands. Now that Jan, my hiking buddy is back in action, she takes Mitzy and I take Jack’s leash in my left hand while holding my camera in my right hand. We have seen lots of wildlife and were rewarded by seeing a couple of immature eagles on a recent visit. And as always, vultures are everywhere, eyeing all living things with lustful looks.

Immature Bald Eagle

Vultures

The Pig Hunters
The big excitement at the state park, though, is wild pig hunting. Our schnauzer, Mitzy, is a Sweet Polly Purebred, a gentle little princess that loves laps and lives for pets (and chunks of cheese).

Sweet Mitzy

However, take her on the trail amidst the scent of wild pigs and a magical transformation occurs--her feminine curls thicken, her dainty muscles tighten, and her angelic face hardens as she turns into Thunder Dog, Huntress of Hogs. Her mild feminine bark turns into a wild savage howl as her eyes burn into the woods seeking her prey. Every fiber of this Hell Hound lusts for her porcine pleasure.

Thunder Dog

Urged on by Mitzy, Jack joins the frenzied attack, leaping, yipping, and straining on his leash like the lead dog at the Iditarod. Dragged forward, it is all I can do to keep him under control.

Pig-Hunting Jack

I think you can imagine the challenge of trying to photograph fast-moving pigs through dense woods with one hand on a shaking camera--crazy difficult you say? For sure. Almost impossible? You bet. Hah! Here are some pigs I caught in action.

Running Wild Boar

Wild Piglets

Wild Pig

What other family do you know that hunts wild pigs before breakfast?...ham and eggs of course!

Travel Blog 281: Loop de Loop

We had a chance to escape SW Florida paradise and head for Central Florida paradise.

Apopka Wildlife Loop
Back to one of our favorite places on the planet, we (Jan, Mitzy, Jack, and Alex) had the chance to twice take the 11-mile pilgrimage. We were rewarded by lot of birds and several alligators.

Anhinga

Barn Swallow

Bow Tail Grackle

Female Cardinal

Male Cardinal

Hunting Osprey

King Rail

Limpkin

Red-Winged Black Bird

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Travel Blog 280: On to Venice (Florida, That Is)

Except for business trips to Atlanta, Orlando, and Boston, we have been hanging out in the beautiful Florida weather.

Venice Rookery
One morning with cloudy skies good for photography, we loaded up the Jeep and headed to the Venice Rookery. We had been there several weeks back, but the eggs and small chicks have been replaced by big babies with really big appetites. Take a look at the great blue heron family and the big baby cormorant challenging for a snack. Also, here is a shot of a great egret bringing in nesting material and another great egret fanning.

Feeding Time

Feeding Big Baby

Cormorant

Nesting Time

Fanning Great Egret

We added to this very nice day by having a picnic in the Myakka State Forest. Life is good.

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Travel Blog 279: Beach Boys (and Girls)

The weather continues to be awesome-plus in Punta Gorda…sunny and low 80s except for a couple days of rain and high winds.

We are very fortunate to have the Charlotte Environment Park just one mile from our campground. Most mornings we head over to take a hike on one of the many trails. So far we have seen eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, vultures, woodpeckers, cardinals, robins, alligators, wild pigs, and a river otter. Just gorgeous.

Venice Dog Beach
One of our favorite things to do is take an early morning trip to Venice to hang out on the Dog Beach. Lots of good pups and nice people—both Mitzy and Jack really like it. Jan found a bottle with a message in it. I rubbed it several times, but no genie appeared. Kind of cool. The high winds had kicked up the seabed—lots of interesting shells. Below is a shot of Janny holding “sea jewels.”

Sea Jewels

Message in a Bottle

Happy Sochi

Rowdy Lab

Run, Jack, Run

Run, Jack, Run II

Surfing Pup

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from Jim’s Salvage.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Travel Blog 277: Back on the Loop

Florida Sunshine
Back in Florida we have been enjoying the nice weather, friends, and relatives. It is nice to be in one place for a few weeks.

Apopka Wildlife Loop
At least a couple times a week we drive the 7 minutes to the gate of the Loop and spend a couple hours or so slowly driving, stopping, and shooting wildlife. Primarily birds of all feathers, but also a gator now and then and the occasional otter. Jack and Mitzy are dutifully at their stations with heads out and sounding alerts when appropriate. Here are a few pics including a close-up of Mitzy.

Anhinga Reflection

Baby Duck

Eastern Phoebe

Gallinule

Gator

Glossy Ibis

Hunting Great Egret

Kingfisher

Least Bittern

Lesser Yellow Legs

Little Blue

Night Heron II

Tri Close-Up

Tri II

Mitzy Close-Up

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from Jim’s Salvage.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Travel Blog 275: Old Friends and New Places

Wakarusa, IN to Fort McAllister Historic Park

Finger Lakes
From Northern Indiana we enjoyed the fall colors as we worked our way east all the way to upstate New York. There we spent time visiting good RV-ing friends in Elmira and doing a little exploration of this area.

Quick Trip to Phoenix
During that time I presented at a conference in Phoenix where I met old friends and new ones.

Winchester
From Elmira we headed south down to Winchester, Virginia, where we had a marvelous time visiting relatives. At Candy Hill Campground we had fires most nights and enjoyed the quiet of a campground past season.

Shenandoah Valley National Park
We made the short trip down to Luray, Virginia, to act as our base as we explored this national park. Although the colors were past their prime, it was nice to travel the famous Skyline Drive. Our campground, Outlanders River Camp, was perfect for us—large property with lots of trails along the river…great place to run the pups.

Big Blue in Swamp

Window Peeper

Monticello
Being so close, we decided to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. This was a good move, as it was a pleasure to visit this icon of this famous American.

Monticello 2

Monticello 3

Janny and Alex at Monticello

Wilmington
We camped 10 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, at Carolina Beach State Park. Beautiful park adjoining the Atlantic River. During our short visit we had the chance to see old friends going back decades.

Murrell’s Inlet
Here we camped near Charleston at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, just a short walk to the Atlantic Ocean. Each morning at dawn I’d take Jack out to run in the sand and the waves.

Jack on the Beach

Jack on the Beach 2

Richmond Hill
From Murrells Inlet we travelled south into Georgia camping at McAllister State Park near Savannah. The park had just opened after some major hurricane clean-up—they lost 70% of their trees. Still, a beautiful setting, again adjacent to the water.

Dog Park
Here are a couple shots of Jack and his new friend at an off-leash dog park, and Mitzy watching the action.

Run, Jack, Run

Run, Jack, Run 2

Mitzy Keeping Watch

Old Trucks
Here are three more old trucks from Jim’s Salvage.

Jim's Old Truck 10


Jim's Old Truck 11

Jim's Old Truck 12

See you next time.

Travel Blog 274: Fall Colors

From South Dakota we worked our way across Iowa, Illinois, and then on to Indiana where we dropped off our coach to have some work done. Then we spent time visiting friends in our old stomping grounds of SW Michigan.

Fall Colors
During strolls in the woods we enjoyed the colors becoming more vibrant each day.

AZO Color 1

AZO Color 2

Mitzy in the Woods

Dog Park
There was a great off-leash dog park a few miles away, and we visited it several mornings.

Ferocious

Ferocious 2

Poodle

Run, Jack, Run 2

Run,Jack, Run 3

Running Golden

Great trip with great friends.

Ziad House

Old Trucks
Here are three more old trucks from Jim’s Salvage.

Jim's Old Truck 7

Jim's Old Truck 8

Jim's Old Truck 9

See you next time.

Travel Blog 268: Beautiful Colorado

Ridgway State Park to Riverview RV Park, Loveland, CO

Buena Vista
The trip from Ridgway State Park to the Buena Vista KOA was gorgeous. However, whoever was driving had to concentrate on the steep inclines and declines and pay close attention to curves and drop offs. Gladly the weather at our destination was wonderful—in the low to mid-80s instead of the high 90s. Although a dusty park, the views were beautiful. A nice feature was that there was a trail that started in the campground and continued up into the forest. Perfect place to let Jack off-leash and let the crazy canine run wild.

Fort Collins
We had intended camping in the Denver area, but every campground within 60 miles of Denver was booked! Never seen anything like this before. So we had to drive all the way to Fort Collins, and then we could only stay five nights instead of the ten we wanted. I guess cheap fuel and a slightly improved economy is having its impact! However, our campground (Fort Collins KOA) was a gem—great place for dogs and for grandkids. We will remember it for future family ventures.

Quick Trip to Southern California
I didn’t get a chance to experience much of the campground or the area, though, as I had a business trip to Southern California. Good client, great food, and just awesome weather made the trip a success.
 
Loveland
Our next campground was off of Highway 34 in Loveland, only 30 minutes away from Fort Collins. Highway 34 is one of the main drives into Estes Park and on to Rocky Mountain National Park. 
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
One day we violated all our rules about visiting national parks, as we visited in the middle of the day on a weekend in the summer. Telling ourselves to be patient with all the traffic, we drove into RMNP, and finding it was re-opened after washing out many months ago, we took the Old River Road, the 14-mile, one-way dirt road up to the backside of the Alpine Visitor Center. There were wildflowers all along the way, and we saw a herd of elk and a brute of a marmot at exactly the same place I saw one last year.

RMNP Elk Herd

RMNP Marmot

On our way home outside of the park we saw some bighorn sheep overlooking the highway. Here is a pic of Momma and Baby.

Big Horn Mom and Baby

Afternoon Trip

Loveland Road Trip

One afternoon we decided to check out the Poudre River area. We headed back up and past the Fort Collins KOA, picking up the Scenic Byway Highway 14. Just a gorgeous trip along the Poudre River. At Road 27 we angled back south and east around curvy roads and 12 percent grades.

Pup Strolls
Close to our campground was an off-leash dog park and a big nature area complete with miles of paths and several  ponds. Each morning we started the day off enjoying this wonderful area.

Old Trucks

Old Community Fire Truck

Old Orange Truck

See you soon.

Travel Blog 264: Sawtooth

Challis to Stanley

From Challis we headed west on Idaho 75, the pretty but winding road that parallels the Salmon River, passing by Sunbeam all the way through Lower Stanley, and then turning north on Idaho 21 at Stanley for six miles to our campground, Elk Mountain RV Resort. Another gorgeous setting with the jutting and dramatic Sawtooth Mountain Range dominating the view. Our campground was full of chipmunks and whistlepigs (that’s what folks call groundhogs or woodchucks in this area).

Chipper

Whistlepig

Morning Trip to Lowman

Elk Mountain to Lowman, ID

Just after sunrise we headed north on 21 for a mile, and then turned onto Stanley Lake Road. There we took a loop tour on Forest Road 455 that took us through a dense portion of the Sawtooth National Forest. After spotting a young buck deer and a large, well-fed coyote, we exited the lake area and again went north on 21 for about five miles before exiting on Forest Road 203 that took us through the Cape Horn Wetland—moose country. Alas, we saw no moose, but did see a pronghorn, more deer, some whistlepigs, a variety of birds, and many wildflowers that Jan enjoyed identifying.

Killdeer Family

Sleeping Lab

After about a dozen miles, our dirt road reconnected with 21 that took us up and around, down over Banner Summit, and south, all the way down the mountains into the little burg of Lowman, where we stopped for a late breakfast at a roadside restaurant. For about 15 miles the highway was side-by-side the South Fork of the Payette River, whose rushing emerald green waters produced dozens of oohs , lots of ahs, and a continuous stream of wows.

Redfish Lake
Late afternoon we gassed up at Stanley, and then drove south to check out the very popular Redfish Lake. With paved roads and lots of amenities it reminded us a little of Estes Park. After our initial exploration, we decide to get off the beaten path, turning southeast on Forest Road 210. I envisioned in my mind that this rocky path would take us above the congestion of the lake, providing a quiet location with magnificent vistas that we alone would share…well, good luck on that! The rocky road got really rocky, and my planned mountaintop view never materialized. After investing a half hour of bumpy travel, we decided to just keep going, as this path eventually connected with the highway. Just as I figured we were close, a fallen tree across our path brought us to a halt. After confirming that the tree could not be easily moved nor could we drive around it, we blew the bugle of retreat, completed a 26-point turn of the Jeep, and limped back to camp.

Trip Over

Pettit Lake
Early one morning we again headed south on ID 75 stopping by the side of the road to shoot the Sawtooth Range with cattle and fog in the foreground. We then turned west on Forest Road 208 due to Pettit Lake. Without a soul in sight we took a few pics in the brisk morning air. From there we headed south again to check out Alturas Lake. South of the lake we went off-road again taking Forest Road 204 south and west past the (very little) remains of the original Sawtooth City and on down to the end of the road at the Pilgrim Mine.

Sawtooth Range and Cattle

Pettit Lake Pano

Pilgrim Mine

A Day at the Beach (sort of)
After exploring both Stanley and Lower Stanley, touring the local museum, and taking a short drive on the highway (where Jan spotted a couple river otters playing in the Salmon River), we decided to hang out by the water. There are many, many choices within a few miles of our campground that fit that criteria, but we decided to find some solitude and headed down a gravel road to a spot along Kelly Creek. Here we pulled out our picnic supplies, set up our gear, and sat by the edge of the running creek with dozens of varieties of wildflowers all around us and the mountains in the background.

Jan Along Meadows Creek

Jan and Mitzy Along Meadows Creek

Sunrise Shoot at Stanley Lake
We left the coach at 5:15 a.m. leaving in plenty of time for pre-dawn set up on the east side of Stanley Lake just 10 minutes from camp. The moon was full, the air was calm, and as we waited we saw the gradual transitions of sky colors from grays to pinks to golds. Just beautiful.

Stanley Lake Pre-Dawn

Stanley Lake Pre-Dawn 2

Stanley Sunrise

This Sawtooth area is magnificent.

See you next week.

Travel Blog 261: Chalk One Up

After our morning expedition to the Great Sand Dunes, we headed north on 285 the 86 miles to Chalk Creek Canyon Campground near Nathrop, Colorado. Once again, a beautiful drive.

San Luis SP to Chalk Creek

Camping at Nathrop
Located north of Salida and just south of Buena Vista, this is one of the prettiest areas in all of Colorado. With 14ers all over the place (mountains taller than 14,000 feet), there were snow-covered peaks in every direction. At over 8,000 feet of altitude, our campground mornings started in the 30s and reached the high 60s early afternoon.

View From Chalk Creek Campground II

Memorial Day with the Grandies
As we had done two times before, our grandkids (and their mom) drove 120 miles to spend a couple of nights with us over the Memorial Day weekend at Chalk Creek. We soaked in the hot springs, swam and slid at the water park, paddled at the Paddlefest in Buena Vista, and quacked at the annual duck race held at the campground. Several kids quickly became friends with our clan, and together they devoured large quantities of s’mores over the campfire and other assorted candies before and after.

Another Crazy Sliding Austin

Chilly Grandma

Guardian Pup

Paddling Fun

Yikes!

Sliding Kelly and Natalie

Sweet Natty

One afternoon after the Grandies had departed, we took a drive up over the Cottonwood Pass down to Taylor Park Reservoir. As we headed up to the 12,000-foot pass, the air thinned, the temperature dropped, and the big piles of snow deepened. Can’t beat it!

Chalk Creek Campground to Taylor Park Reservoir, Gunnison County, CO

No-Name Bird

Red-Shafted Flicker

Resting Bluebird

Sassy Sheep

Pickup Pup

Wonderful holiday weekend.

See you soon.

Travel Blog 260: Great Sand Dunes

Conejos River Campground RV Park to San Luis State Park, Alamosa County, CO

San Luis State Park
We left our Conejos campground late morning, heading east to Antonito, and then north on 285 past La Jara. At Alamosa, we picked up 17 North, and then turned east at Mosca on the county road that led us to San Luis State Park. The views here are incredible, with mountains on three sides and the huge light brown sand dunes of Great Sand Dune National Park adding texture and contrast to the dark browns, greens, and whites of the snow-capped peaks.

View From San Luis Campsite

After settling in, we drove the 12 miles into the park and were soon on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. This single lane, four-wheel-drive road is flanked by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, paralleled by the Medano Creek on the west, with dunes immediately behind the creek. Narrow at parts, often quite rough, and usually steep, and always a fairly high pace required to avoid getting stuck in the thick sand. Behind the wheel, Jan’s persona transformed from the friendly, easygoing gal we all know, to the focused, determined air of the race professional. Jaw tight, hands firm on the steering wheel, and right foot cemented to the floor, she drove the course like a virtuoso violinist on speed. I calmly gave her encouragement, occasionally gasped, and grabbed hold of my schnauzer.

Jan and Jeep

Sandy Webcast
Since the phone reception at our campground was spotty, I drove to a hill overlooking the dunes the next morning to do a webcast from our Jeep. With charged MiFi and MacBook, I spoke to a group of 100-plus people who probably thought I was sitting in a cubicle somewhere. The only challenge was that every time I looked up at the mountains or the dunes, I momentarily lost my train of thought. Nice way to do business, however!

Great Sand Dunes

Medano Creek
The morning before we left the area, we got up early and drove the Pups down to a very popular section of Medano Creek in the national park. Every midday there are hundreds of people climbing up or sledding down the dunes, and many leashed pups playing in the water. At 6:45 a.m., however, we had the place to ourselves and let Jack and Mitzy off leash to follow the tracks and the sniffs in and around the creek. Great fun.

Pronghorn

Green-Tailed Towee

Great Sand Dunes II

Jack at Great Sand Dunes

Mitzy at Great Sand Dunes

See you soon.

Travel Blog 258: White Dunes, Brown Sand, Black Jack

Carlsbad, NM to Elephant Butte

We left the Carlsbad KOA and headed out on 285 North to Artesia, took US 82 West through Mayville and Cloudcroft, and then headed on to Boot Hill RV Resort in Alamogordo. The last 26 miles of the 129-mile journey was traveling up, over, and down on a 6% slope through the Lincoln National Forest--beautiful drive. The temperature went from hot to mild to warm all in a three-hour span. We set up camp at Boot Hill RV Resort on the outskirts of Alamogordo.

White Sands National Monument
We timed our 25-minute drive from Boot Hill to arrive precisely at 7:00 a.m. when the gate to the park drive opened. We drove about two-thirds of the way into the dunes finding just the right spot. We all got out of the car, walked around a series of dunes, then let dogs do what they love to do—run like maniacs in the sand.

Mitzy enjoyed it but Jackson totally loved it, sprinting like a possessed thoroughbred, he leapt, raced, cornered, turned up, and ran down the white dunes for at least 15 minutes full out. Eyes bugging, tongue dragging, his legs pumped like the pistons of a drag racer in high gear…just a pleasure to watch.

Dune Dog

Dunes and Andrews Mountains

Jackson IV

Running Mitzy

Alex, MItzy, and Jack

It was interesting, though, at this early hour we heard loud voices and laughter not far away--we assumed it was a large family gathering or a big group get together. However, we were wrong…atop some large dunes was a video set-up complete with satellite uplinks, big camera crews, and thirty or more people standing around. Al Roker, Matt Lauer, and their support team had just completed another video shoot on the National Parks! Maybe we will see them again soon.

Today Show Dune Set-Up

Elephant Butte
We took 70 West to I-25 North to camp at Elephant Butte Lakes State Park. Elephant Butte boasts the largest lake in New Mexico and they have beautiful campgrounds that overlook the water.

Critters
The campground supports lots of critters with many rabbits (including the big, long-eared jackrabbits), a few squirrels, lots of doves, wrens, Bullock orioles and numerous coveys of Gambel’s quail--a beautiful bird. I was fortunate to capture one calling a few minutes after dawn.

Calling Gambel's Quail

House Finch

The Beach
However, everyone’s favorite campground activity was our morning walk on the beach. Every day we arrived before dawn and walked along the water. The brown sand between Jack’s toes acted like a volt of electricity, turning the mild-mannered pup into a wild-eyed canine. Here is a shot of Black Jack in full action.

Beach Jack

Great stay…we will come back here again.

Blog 256: Gatorland

Gatorland is a classic tourist destination…zip line over alligator infested waters…walk-in aviary full of Amazon-colored avians…petting farm with cute goats, alligator wrestling lessons, bugs and snakes on display, albino gators, and all the hoopla of a night at the Big Top.

But what sets Gatorland apart is its rookery. For a fee, on Thursdays through Sundays during season, photographers can come in at 7:30 a.m., two-and-a-half hours before the family cars and school buses roll in. With nests of eggs and youngsters so close you can almost touch them, bellowing alligators patrolling the waters and puffing up like pro cage fighters, and constant flights of birds coming and going like planes at O’Hare on a holiday, the sights and sounds almost overwhelm.

In other words, if you like to shoot birds (photograph, that is) this is the place to be. Pics include a cattle egret, cow bird, cormorant, flamingo, great egret (and children), snowy egret, tricolored heron, and a wood stork. Jan shot the two gator photos.

Cattle Egret

Cow Bird

Cormorant

Flamingo Eye

Great Egret Feeding

Snowy Egret

Time to Eat

Squawking Great Egret

Tricolor Heron

Wood Stork

Gator

Gators

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See ya’ soon!

Blog 255: Another Quick Trip to New Jersey

This week I flew back to Jersey to work again with my client. This week was much better--flights on time...sunny skies (mostly)…and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

Apopka Lake Wildlife Trail
We can’t seem to get enough of this loop, and we drive it most mornings when it is open (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) and I am around. The most exciting event this week was watching an alligator chomp down on an unsuspecting anhinga. Pleased to get a picture off in time before the big guy submerged to drown the surprised bird.

American Bittern

Anhinga

Belted Kingfisher

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

Black-Necked Stilt

Cruising Gator

Eating Little Blue Heron

Fish Crow

Glossy Ibis

Great Egret

Little Green Heron

Red-Winged Blackbird

Soaring Bald Eagle

Hot Dang!

Anhinga-Chomping Gator

Tastes Like Chicken!

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon!

Travel Blog 253: Marvelous Marble Music Machine

Marvelous Marble Music Machine
You gotta check out this short video—amazing: http://www.wintergatan.net/# m.m.machine

Lake Apopka Loop Wildlife Trail
We are camping five miles away from this amazing preserve. The drive is eight miles of critters everywhere. With birds in full breeding plumage, it is a trek of bright colors and loud calls.

American Bittern

Anhinga

Black-Necked Stilt

Cattle Egret

Immature Great Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Snapping Turtle

Tri-Colored Heron

Alligator

Come Here, Little Schnauzer

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Mitzy on the Move

Blog 247: Dash to Denmark and Bosque Birds

Amsterdam to Billund

Jan and Mitzy drove me the hour trip from our Santa Fe campground to the Albuquerque airport. From there I flew to Minneapolis, then on to Amsterdam, then on to Billund, Denmark. Another hour drive brought me to my hotel in Aarhus, the second largest city in the country. A long, but uneventful trip.

After a shower and a couple-hour nap, I met my client for a six-course, four-hour meal. The conversation was fun and the food was outstanding. The next day I presented to and facilitated a group represented by folks from Denmark, Sweden, USA, Singapore, UAE, China, Brazil, France, and Germany. Things went great.

I was looking forward to the photo ops of the evening itinerary, as it was to start with a walking tour of a village created by bringing in actual structures from the 15th and 16th century. What I didn’t count on was that it was pitch black as we walked the unlit streets, and the houses and shops we entered barely glowed by the light of a few candles. My camera never left my bag, but it was an interesting tour followed by another outstanding meal.

Up at 4 a.m., I was in a car by 5:15 heading back to Billund to take a flight to Paris, then one to Salt Lake City, and then Albuqurque, where Jan and Mitzy picked me up and drove me back to Santa Fe, arriving around 7:30 p.m.

Chilly Santa Fe
It was cold in Santa Fe, getting down into the 20s. Mid-morning one day after my return we took a beautiful drive up into the mountains into the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness. We took a wonderful hike through the snow and mud up the mountain with a tributary of the Pecos River flowing alongside our trek.

Santa Fe Forest

Pecos Wilderness

Trailblazer Mitzy

Festival of the Cranes

Santa Fe Skies RV Park to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park

After a three-week stay (at least for Jan and Mitzy) we departed Santa Fe traveling the 140 miles south on I-25, skirting over to the little town of San Antonio, and then south six miles to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park. After settling in and after “world famous” green chili cheeseburgers at The Owl Bar and Grill, we drove into the Bosque Del Apache Refuge. Our arrival was in the heart of their annual Festival of the Cranes. As you might have guessed, Bosque is famous for its cranes (and snow geese), as tens of thousand of each species fly south from the North country to eat the corn and hay and rest and relax at this protected sanctuary. If you like birds, this place is heaven. We drove the circuit, scoping out locations worthy of sunrise shots.

We were lucky enough to spot two roadrunners up close and very fortunate that one of the usually skittish birds allowed me to take some pics (my first).

Roadrunner

Roadrunner Profile

As sunset approached we stopped just south of the Coyote Viewing Platform, listened to the commotion, and viewed the interesting behavior of lots of birds in really close proximity.

Next morning we left in the dark, with me carrying coffee in one hand and a flashlight in the other. About 40 minutes before sunrise I was in position on the Coyote Viewing Platform. After setting up my tripod, most of my actions consisted of walking in place, rubbing my hands together trying to keep warm--I later found out it was only 19 degrees! As the light finally fell, first on the mountains, then on the hills, and finally on the birds on the water, I shot for a solid hour as birds squawked and blasted off into the skies as the morning colors shifted from grays to pinks, and then oranges and reds.

Early Reflections

Incoming Snow Geese

Golden Moment

Getting Ready

3 Flying Cranes

Blurry Cranes, Cub Scouts
We drove through the refuge one last time, spotting a couple of Big Blues out hunting for breakfast. Here is one a little perturbed that a fellow photographer moved a little too close.

Testy Heron

Blurry Cranes in Flight

Cub Scouts at Bosque

Just a Pup

See you soon.

Blog 246: Rutting Bulls and Vortex Clouds

To my readers: Please note that this blog entry was intended to go before the last one but got out of order.

Chatfield to RMNP

Chatfield State Park is a wonderful place to stay, with miles of trails, lots of water, and a great dog park. The campground is loaded with rabbits, and our Mitzy took it upon herself to help the management get rid of the bunnies (or at least make them move a few feet).

Campsite Bunny

RMNP
From Chatfield State Park we drove north and a little west to Estes Park, and then on to Rocky Mountain National Park. We had been in the Park in late spring and it was beautiful as always. However, lots of snow on the mountains provided a graphic contrast to the blue of the sky, the granite color of the mountains, and the brilliant yellow of the remaining aspen. We drove up Trail Ridge Road as high as we could go (ended at Many Parks Curves) because the large snowfall closed the pass.

Cloud Cap

Cloudy Mountains

Family at Look Out

In a Rut
We were quite fortunate that the elk rut was still taking place. We spent hours watching the big bulls round up their herd, fend off challengers, and listening to the Big Guys bugling--no sound like it!

Herding Bull Elk

Bull Elk Close-Up

Hikes
During our stay at the park, we took several hikes. Here is a sunrise that started our day, some aspens along the way, a chipper chomping on the side of the trail, and a pine marten sticking his head out of his retreat (this was the first one of these cute fellows I’d ever seen).

RMNP Sunrise

Aspens

Chipper

Pine Marten

The Vortex
On our return trip to Chatfield, we came across a strange cloud that reminded me of a vortex. Take a look.

The Vortex

Great to be back in Colorado.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup

Dog Park Pup

Old Signs
Here is an old sign

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 244: Back to the Old West


Zion to  Monument Valley

Leaving Zion we toured through Hurricane, skirted around the Kaibab Tribal Lands, went by beautiful Lake Powell close to Page Arizon, and then through Kayenta to our campground at Gouldings Campground Monument Valley.

Monument Valley
We took an afternoon trip to scope out our planned trip to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribe Park. As we were heading home, Jan spotted a wild goat eating weeds along the road. Here is a picture of the handsome critter.

Monument Valley Goat

The next morning we were up super early, hoping to watch the stars. However, clouds stopped that plan, but those same clouds helped shape the colors of a gorgeous sunrise.

Monument Valley is the location of many John Ford westerns, including John Wayne’s breakthrough role in the 1939 movie “Stagecoach.” As a youngster I recall many a-time watching this and other westerns in black-and-white on a little TV in the living room with my dad. Monument Valley was often the background for the action. As one gazes out at the horizon you can almost see the dust rising from the rumbling wagons, smell the sweat from the galloping horses, sense the pilgrim fear that Apaches were right around the next rock with knives in hand, greedy for scalps. This is how the Old West is supposed to be! Wonderful place.

Monument Valley

Almost Monument Valley Sunrise

Monument Moment

Monument Pup

Snarly Monument View

Vibrant Monument

Stagecoach Movie Poster

Natural Bridges

Monument Valley to Natural Bridges

The same day of our visit to Monument Valley, we drove up 163 through Mexican Hat and Bluff into Blue Mountain RV Park in Blanding. After settling in, we took an hour trip to visit Natural Bridges National Monument. On an uncrowded road, we took the scenic tour stopping to walk and view the three natural bridges (formed by water erosion, not arches, which are formed by wind erosion). Here is a photo of one of the bridges.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge 2

Back to Colorado

Blue Mountain to Chatfield

We continued north on 163 to 191 and headed past Canyon Lands National Park and Arches National Park near Moab. We hooked up to I-70, spent the night near Breckingridge at Tiger Run RV Resort, and then continued east the next day to our destination at Chatfield State Park.

Busy, but fun!

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Signs
Here is an old sign

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

See you soon.

Blog 242: Hangin’ in the Hood (Mt. Hood, That Is)

Baker City to Government Camp

We crossed from Baker City east on 26 from the mountains and fossil-filled hills of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to the prairies of central Oregon, stopping for a short while at Bend, and then north and west to Government Camp in the Mt. Hood neighborhood. The mornings were in the 30s, climbing up to the pleasant mid- to high 60s during the day. This was a great time to be in this area, as it is the lull between summer vacations and winter snow trips.

Mt. Hood
Everywhere you look, the icon of Mt. Hood overlooks. Here are three shots of the Big Guy (the reflection was taken at Trillium Lake).

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood Reflection

Colored Leaves at Mt. Hood

Hikes
Over several days we had the chance to hike Little Zigzag Falls Trail, Trillium Lake Loop Trail, Mirror Lake Trail, Salmon Bridle Trail, and the Old Salmon River Trail. Around lakes, up to waterfalls, paralleling streams, through woods--great scenery.

Fruit Loop
This part of the world is the home of many orchards and vineyards. We made the loop heading east, north, west, and back south, stopping at the Wy’East Vineyard for a little tasting.

Sisters Garden RV Resort

Government Camp to Sister's Garden RV Resort

After a pleasant drive south, we set up camp at Sisters Garden RV Resort. A garden it was--flowers everywhere, and as well cared for as the best botanical gardens. During our stay I had a quick trip to New Jersey to do business with a long-time client.

Eagle Lake

Sisters to Merrill Campground

After Sisters, we headed down 97 and filled up at Gordy’s Truck Stop at LaPine--can’t beat diesel at $2.49! We took 31 south--beautiful drive. At Lakeview we picked up 395 south, and then down into California. My original plan was to continue down to Likely, but at Alturas I navigated incorrectly, taking us west on 299. We continued on through Canby, and at Adin picked up 139 south, planning on going down to Susanville.

As we headed south I remembered some excellent reviews of a Lassen National Forest campground at Eagle Lake, so we took Forest Road AI on a gorgeous drive through the woods. At the south end of the lake we found Merrill Lake Campground, part of the Eagle Lake Recreation Area. Huge, flat paved sites in the woods, full hook-ups, fire rings, and an easy walk to the lake. Hardly anyone there. Wonderful place.

I got up early one morning and headed for the lake in 30-something degree weather hoping for a nice sunrise. The nice sunrise didn’t materialize, but I had a great time shooting this little bird. He had no fear of me at all, in fact, I found myself having to back up to focus.

Eagle Lake Beach Bird

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

We took a half-day trip to Lassen Volcanic Park, taking two roads of a scenic byway there and back. Only moderate traffic on a holiday, so it was a pleasant 30-plus-mile drive through the park. Not a well-known park, but very worth visiting. Here is a shot of Lake Helen and Lassen Peak.

Lake Helen, Lassen Volcanic National Park

On the way to the park we saw a very large, very healthy black bear run across the road directly in front of us.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup

Madeline

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 241: To Hell and Back

Canyon Pines RV to Mountain View RV

We took 95 South to Weiser, Idaho, then took the 201 shortcut into Oregon, then on to I-84 West. The day was clear and the traffic was light as we rolled along the eastern side of the home of the Ducks. At Baker City we set up camp at Mountain View RV Park and settled in for a few days.

Baker City to Hells Canyon Trip

Mountain View RV to Hells Canyon

We had visited Hells Canyon from the Oregon side a few years back, but were thwarted from getting the full impact of the region as Highway 39, the Wallowa Mountain Loop, had been washed out by flooding.

Our intent was to take Highway 86 east to Oxbow, on to the dam at the end of Hells Canyon Road, then backtrack and go up Wallowa Mountain Loop to Joseph, then back north, west, and south to our campground.

However, less than three miles eastbound into our journey in our Jeep was a sign stating that 86 was closed ahead due to a new fire. Therefore, we backtracked a little before heading north to La Grande, then north and east on Highway 82, the first leg of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. We passed through Elgin, then Wallowa, stopped for a latte at the Blue Banana Coffee Shop in Lostine, then on to Enterprise, then Joseph. The further east we got, the prettier the scenery, as the prairies and rivers turned to mountains and streams.

We headed south at Joseph, down and around Wallowa Lake, then stopped at Wallowa State Park for a hike then a stroll. At the Park we saw a Pileated Woodpecker hunting for lunch and spawning Kokanee Salmons in the stream, the landlocked version of the Sockeye Salmon.

Spawning Salmon

Pilieated Woodpecker

Driving back to Joseph, we headed east on the Wallowa Mountain Loop through forests and along streams past Salt Lick Summit, ending up at Hells Canyon Overlook. Alas, the supposed-to-be-magnificent view was shrouded in a blanket of smoke. Oh, well, it was a magnificent ride.

Joseph
Because of the size of our excursion, we spent the night at a delightful motel and RV park (no we did not drive the rig--we stayed at the motel) less than a mile north of town. The next morning the smoke had cleared, the snow had fallen, and the view of Ruby Peak sparkled among the snow and clouds and fog. Joseph also has a half dozen or so bronze statues lining the main drag. Really cool place.

Ruby Peak

Ruby Peak 2

Bronze Cowboy

Return Home
For a little variety, instead of exactly backtracking, we headed north and west at Elgin on Highway 204 up into the Umatilla Wilderness. We turned southwest, but instead of passing through Pendleton, we took the back roads to Mission, and then on to the Old Emigrant Trail that eventually lead back to I-84 that we took back to our campground in Baker City.

Ruffed Grouse

Lip-Lickng Coyote

To Hell and Back

Hells Canyon Trip

What a difference a few days make! We awoke to a cold but clear day with not a trace of smoke in the air. We headed out east in the early morning chill on Highway 86 determined to complete our travel goals of a few mornings earlier. At Mile Marker 44 we found the reason the road had been closed--the earth on both sides of the road for several miles was scorched like land along the path of Sherman’s March to the Sea. We passed through Richland and drove by Halfway on to the Oxbow Dam, where we had stayed at an RV park several years ago.

Our original intent was to continue on the east side of the Canyon and go to the end of the road at Hells Canyon Dam. Instead, we took the dirt road on the west side of the water, 13 miles until the road ended at Copper Creek. Since we had decided we wanted to go see what the Hells Canyon Overlook had to offer in clear light, we were faced with retracing our steps to Oxbow Dam, heading back west on 86, and then going north and east on Forest Road 39. I estimated that this 42-mile trip would take us at least an hour and a half. However, my handy Oregon atlas of back roads showed another option: Hess Road was an 8.3-mile shortcut that would take us within five miles of the Overlook--a no brainer. Yet, there was a price to pay for this “convenience” of shorter distance.

Unsuitable Sign

True to the sign’s warning, this national forest road was not for the faint of heart--narrow, rocky, curvy, and steep, it rose over 3,800 feet in the short trip. We were rewarded with wonderful views (many straight down), especially along the hairpin curves that held us over the canyon. Actually, it was a lot of fun, especially since we met no other vehicles.

Here is a photo from our Hess Road journey, and one from the Overlook. After lunch we took a hike then returned back to camp. Great trip.

View from Hess Road

Hells Canyon Overlook

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 240: 7 Devils to Heavens Gate

Missoula to Grangeville

Heading south from Missoula on 93, we turned west on 12 at Lolo, crossed over Lolo Pass, across the border into Idaho, over to Kooskia, and took 13 down south to Grangeville. The trip was only 179 miles, but with the very curvy roads it took us over five hours. Beautiful journey, but it felt good to set up camp just outside of Grangeville, Idaho.

Grangeville Day Trip
From Grangeville, we headed south on 95. It was a cloudy and rainy day, and we were rewarded with dramatic, cloudy skies. Here is a pic that Janny shot right outside of Grangeville, and one I took a little further down, just before the burg of White Bird.

Janny Grangeville Scenic

White Bird Scenic

Exiting at White Bird, we turned right after the bridge to take the White Bird Grade (Old Highway 95). The seven-mile stretch averages over a 7 percent gradient. Along with being a lot of up and down, the road constantly zigged and zagged like a Labrador pup unleashed in a meat market.

The Battle of White Bird Canyon occurred in the valley that the drive overlooks. The Indians easily won that opening battle of the Nez Perce War but were later decimated by the vastly superior numbers of the U.S. Cavalry. As was too common the practice, the war was started after the U.S. government reneged on its treaties, lied on its intentions, and stole from the tribe.

Returning to White Bird, this time we turned left after crossing the bridge, taking Road 493 in the Nez Perce Forest for the 17-mile scenic drive to Pittsburgh Landing along the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Wet and chilly, misty and gray, the colors in the landscape sparkled like the eyes of youngsters on Christmas morning.

High Tailing It

On to Riggins

To Canyon Pines

The trip from our Grangeville location to our campground south of Riggins was short but pleasant. Our Canyon Pines campsite was right on the Salmon River backed by the White Bird Ridge. We quickly fell into a pleasant routine: work in the morning, trips into the national forests in the afternoon, early evening sitting outside and enjoying the river and the busy Kingfishers. Here is a shot of our campsite view plus some fishermen across the way.

Campsite View

Fishing

Ponderosa State Park
On a day trip, we took 95 South to 55 East past McCall. We entered Ponderosa State Park and took the loop around the park, searching for red fox among the towering Ponderosa Pine. We found no fox, but found several deer along the way. We took a hike before we picnicked overlooking the water. Very nice park.

Forest Trips
Our trips into the Nez Perce and Payette National Forests included taking the Smoky Boulder Road and Mud Creek Road loop down to Rubicon and New Meadows, taking Rapid River Road to the fish hatchery and beyond, taking the rough and rocky Race Creek Road up past Cold Springs and Cow Camp, and taking the 7 Devils Drive, up past 8,100 feet and on to the Heavens Gate Lookout, where we walked a trail among the remains of an older fire and saw new fires staring in the east. Beautiful scenery with horses and cattle running wild, a deer here and there, and flocks of quail scurrying among the brush. One sign summed up our forest travels: “Caution! Steep, Narrow Winding Road.”

Steep Narrow Winding

Distant Fires

Fires Past

Grazing Horses

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pups 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

See you next time!

Blog 239: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Columbia Falls RV Park to Jim and Mary's RV Park

After a great month in the Glacier area, we headed south trying to project regions where there might be little or no smoke from the surrounding fires. We took 206 South, connected to 35 South, which took us around big Flathead Lake. At Polson we jumped on 93 South, which took us all the way down to Missoula, MT. Pleasant and pretty journey.

Bitterroot Road Trip

Trip to Conner, MT

With the Bitterroot Mountains on the west paralleling our journey, we headed south avoiding Highway 93, taking back country roads most of the way, down past Lolo, Stevensville, Hamilton, and Darby, to the little town of Conner. Along the way we took valley roads and mountain trails to check out places like Lake Como and Lost Horse Creek.

Barn and Mountain

Barn and Mountain and Horse

White Horse Reflection

Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

One afternoon we took a gorgeous drive heading east on Highway 200 for about 30 minutes. There we turned onto the Garnet Forest Road (also known as the Garnet Backcountry Byway) heading up and around on gravel for 11 miles. Here we viewed the well-kept Garnet ghost town before heading southish on another path. Bear Gulch Road was a one-way, seriously winding trail of sorts, composed mostly of rocks, holes, and bumps. After an hour-and-a-half or so we covered the 16 miles to civilization and returned back to camp via the Interstate.

National Bison Range

National Bison Range

We drove north on 93, and then west on 200 to the National Bison Range. I was a little hesitant to go there, as the hard copy and online publicity about this destination was secondary or tertiary to other NW Montana “must do’s” and usually verbiage was limited to one or two lines. Boy, was I happily surprised to find this awesome 19,000-acre national wildlife refuge.

Misty Morning Mountains

As a light rain drizzled, we drove the 21-mile loop up along the mountains and through the valleys, constantly being serenaded by meadowlarks. We saw only a half dozen cars over our two-and-a-half-hour journey, allowing ample time for photos and gawking. Along with bison of course, we saw several pronghorn, a coyote, a flock of ruffed grouse, small herds of mule deer, and a black bear devouring berries.

Meadow Lark

Pronghorn

Coyote

Mule Deer

Black Bear

I’d highly recommend this place to all nature lovers. It made our last day in Montana a memorable one.

St. Regis Paradise Scenic Byway
After the National Bison Range we continued west on scenic 200 West, until just south of Paradise the highway turned into an “official” scenic byway, the St. Regis Paradise Scenic Byway--tall, treelined mountains, rolling rivers…you know the schtick. Hard to describe, but worth trying.

Pups
Here is a Dog Fight shot and a Happy Boston from Columbia Falls Bark Park, a brown dog from the Missoula Pup Park, and a Truck Pup from a parking lot.

Dog Fight

Boston Pup

Brown Dog

Truck Pup

Old Sign
Here is an old sign from the Old Sign Reserve.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old Montana trucks.

Old Rusty Truck

Old Tank Truck

Old Yellow Truck

See you next time.

Blog 238: Fire on the Mountain

Map of Glacier

Since my last blog, we have been exploring the million-acre Glacier National Park and the surrounding northwest Montana area with friends. Small fires in the eastern part of the park initially burning 1,500 acres have expanded into larger fires burning over tens of thousands of acres. Firefighters from all over the country armed with explosives, water-dumping helicopters, and lots of guts have worked round the clock trying to control damage. With over 100 fires burning now in the west, depending on wind direction, the air quality ranges from slightly irritating to difficult to breath.

On the negative side, the fires stress the wildlife, put people and man-made structures at danger, and are a bummer for sightseeing tourists. On the positive side, the fires (at least in the park) are removing old, often diseased trees and planting the seeds (literally) for new, healthy growth. It will be a few years, but the change continues.

Going to the Sun Road
In spite of the fires and smoke, we had several nice drives on the spectacular 50-mile Going to the Sun Road that crosses the park east to west.

Right before Logan Pass, we watched a family of mountain goats forage and play.

Baby Goats

Goats

Later, in the same location, we saw a herd of Bighorn sheep troop down the slope in single file.

Grazing Sheep

Sheep Herd

Hidden Lake Trail
Right at Logan Pass we took a gorgeous hike on Hidden Lake Trail, which coincidentally ends at Hidden Lake. With Clements Mountain imposing upward, we walked through the wildflowers of the alpine meadows (named the Hanging Gardens), stopping often for the photo opps that kept getting better.

Hidden Lake Trail Wildflowers

Hidden Lake

Ground Squirrel

Past Logan Pass we drove through the blackened tree trunks and charred earth of recent fires on down to St. Mary’s. From there we drove north and then west into Many Glacier, where we hiked the Swiftcurrent Trail around the lake and by the lodge.

Also Within the Park
Also within the park, we took drives on Camas Road up toward Polebridge, once taking a National Forest road up the mountain. On another drive, we saw this young bear outside of Fish Creek Campground.

Young Black Bear

We hiked along the shore of Lake MacDonald and also took a cruise of the lake. Another time we took the Trail of the Cedars as a break from hunting for critters.

We took several short full-day trips outside the park.

Hungry Horse Dam
We drove past Hungry Horse Dam and saw this impressive cloud from the eastern fire in the park.

Smoke Viewed from Hungry Horse Dam

Big Loop
Another time, instead of returning to our camp from St. Mary via the Going to the Sun road, we looped around the park first on 89, then 49, and then on Highway 2, following the hairpin curves into East Glacier Park and back around through Walton into the small town of West Glacier, and then back to Columbia Falls.

Flathead Lake

Twin Lakes Map

Our hike to Twin Lakes in the Jewel Basin was cut short about two-thirds of the way up the mountain by a sizable streak of lightning followed immediately by an attention-getting boom of thunder. Being fast learners, we quickly turned around eyeing the boisterous skies while we steadily moved through the rain. (Mitzy chose to make the journey in my arms instead of walking.)

Flathead Lake Map

We moved to Plan B, driving to and then exploring the town of Bigfork at the northeast corner of Flathead Lake. From there we circled this very big lake, heading south to Polson, and then back up the western side.

Kootenai Falls
On yet another day, we took a big day trip, first heading west on Highway 2, taking our time enjoying the scenery of this sparsely traveled road. Right outside of Libby we stopped at a museum and wandered among the old cars, trucks, railroad equipment, etc. Stopping from their restorative work, three volunteers gave us the past history and the future plans of this old locomotive.

Old Locomotive

Traveling past Libby we stopped at the Kootenai Falls trailhead for a picnic in the woods. From there we took the short but pretty hike to both the Kootenai Walking Bridge and then the Kootenai Falls. We are fortunate to have visited many waterfalls in the West, but this one ranks right toward the top.

Kootenai Falls Map

Kootenai Falls

From there we backtracked to Libby, and then picked up highway 37, a scenic byway that hugged the eastern coast of the Lake Koocanusa all the way to Rexford then to Eureka. Just southeast of Eureka we spotted more fires.

Eureka Fires

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Closing Comments
Glacier National Park is an awesome hunk of the United States. If you are interested in visiting, I suggest you come soon--all the glaciers are predicted to be gone within 20 years.

Blog 236: Wide Eye on the Big Sky

Red Lodge, MT to Columbia Falls, MT

With very wide eyes we have been awed by the big skies of Montana. From Red Lodge we journeyed to the northwest entrance village of Gardiner. Searching for bears up Jardine Mountain we found bull elks playing in the tall grasses surrounding a lily pond.

Staring Elk

Toward the peak of the mountain on a very narrow trail amidst thousands of wildflowers, but not much else, our journey came to an abrupt end as we heard the unmistakable sound of a sidewall blow out. Out of cell-phone range and the AAA’s of the world, I cautiously unloaded the back of the Jeep with fingers crossed, raised the spare tire compartment lid and was pleased (no delighted) to find a full-size spare full of air, along with what looked like adequate tire-changing gear. Relieved not to be trekking eight miles or so down the mountain, Jan and I took our time and changed the tire successfully.

We had several more off-road excursions and day trips, e.g., a hike to Palisade Falls and a drive on the Bridger Range scenic tour as we moseyed on to Bozeman, visited Dillon and its ghost towns, meandered over to Basin, the home of the radon-oozing old mines, promoted as cures for whatever ails one. We viewed the silver and gold and copper mines of Butte and Anaconda, and ventured up to Columbia Falls, the gateway to Glacier National Park. Everywhere were mountains and valleys and lakes and rivers and wildflowers and critters…what more could you ask for?

Big Sky Pano

Ghost Town

Palisade Falls

Pica

Pups
Here are a couple of pup picks.

Pup 1

Pups 2

Old Signs
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are six old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

Old Truck 6

See you soon.

Blog 235: Wild Week in the Wild West

Cherry Creek SP to Cody

Buffalo Bill Rides Again
From our (almost) cosmopolitan park in Denver, we traveled among very light traffic north and west to Cody, Wyoming, with an overnight stop in Casper. Along the way, between Shoshoni and Thermopolis, we passed through the Wind River Canyon, a spectacular trek through a steep, colorful canyon adjoining roaring waters. It definitely deserves its “scenic” designation.

Our campground was within the city limits of Cody. Its claim to fame is Wild Bill Cody, and the town celebrates its Wild West heritage with daily shootouts and a nightly rodeo. Cowboy boots, hats, and smart bandanas are the appropriate attire for this gateway to yesteryears.

Yellowstone Loop

Yellowstone Loop

One early morning we traveled west from Cody the 50-plus miles to the eastern entrance into Yellowstone. We made our way to Lake Yellowstone, north through the Hayden Valley to Tower Junction, west through the Lamar Valley, and out through the Silver gate close to Cooke City. Within Yellowstone we saw (from a distance) a momma black bear and her two cubs, and (very up-front and personal) hundreds of bison in the Lamar Valley crossing the road within spitting distance.

Ponderosa Campground to Red Lodge KOA, US 212, Red Lodge, MT

Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel Loop

We took a road trip into the Bighorn Mountains, sighting a male moose in a flower-laden meadow having his lunch. We stopped for a hike up to the Medicine Wheel, a culturally important site to many Native American tribes, and a religiously significant location for some. Below is a nice pick of the wheel that Janny took. Throughout the year, hundreds of ceremonies of all kinds take place there. Along the path upward to the Wheel, we saw a really large harem of marmots standing up like meerkats sounding their alarm to warn of our coming, scurrying to their holes seeking cover, or just laying on rocks studying our behavior.

Janny Medicine Wheel

Path to Medicine Wheel

Mr. Marmot

Moose in Meadow

We stopped at a lodge in the woods for a tasty lunch (we were the only guests). On our return we took a road less traveled, passing by a dinosaur dig, moving by ourselves up and around on gravel, dirt, and rocks. About a quarter mile from the end of the earth, we spotted a group of pronghorn with the painted mountains in the background. They were kind enough to pose for me. Finding our way back to paved roads, we returned to Cody. Gorgeous trip.

Pronghorn

Beartooth Highway
After packing up our gear we drove the short 70-mile trip north to our campground seven miles north of Red Lodge, Montana.

Just outside of Red Lodge is yet another scenic byway, the Beartooth Highway, that leads to the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. Five minutes into our early morning journey west, we spotted a slow-moving procession…cattle? No too small…sheep? Could be, but wait…a herd of goats. We slowed to a crawl with Mitzy at full alert as we passed four goat herders and their four, proud-looking, goat-herding dogs, as they guided their four-legged cargo along the way. Check out Janny’s short video clip.



Yes, the scenic highway was scenic with mountains and valleys, meadows and wildflowers, streams and lakes.

Bear Tooth Scenic 1

Bear Tooth Scenic 2

Off the Beaten Path

The Good Shepard

Our final stop was a fire tower that commanded vistas from all four directions. The blues and reds and yellows of wild flowers were magnificent, the finest display I have ever seen. However, the harsh light and strong breeze didn’t make my photos worthy of publishing. Yet, I did catch a decent pic of this Clarks Nutcracker.

Clarks Nutcracker

We returned the same way, admiring the sights from a different point of view.

Pups
Here is a marmot-sniffing Madeline, plus one other pup from the Pup Reserve.

Marmot Sniffer

Pup 1

Old Signs
Here is an old sign from Wyoming and one from Montana.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are six old trucks from Wyoming and Montana.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

Old Truck 6

Slightly exhausting, but wonderful week.

See you soon.

Blog 234: Days in Denver and Stanley Sneak-Away

Estes Park to Cherry Creek

Days in Denver
From Estes Park we curved east on Highway 36, connected on 66, then took I-25 South, east on 470, and south on I-225 South to Cherry Creek State Park, an oasis of green tucked away within the Denver metro area.

Dog Park
Within Cherry Creek State Park (along with a lake, model airplane field, miles of trails for biking and hiking, a campground, and so on) is an off-leash dog park that we took Mitzy to a couple of times. Large and small, handsome and not-so-handsome, happy dogs from all over walked/ran/romped the park. Check out these pups.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4

Pup 5

Critters of Cherry Creek
The campground had critters of all kinds. Luckily for us, Mitzy made it her duty to rid our site and the campground of all bunnies, squirrels, and other two- and four-legged critters.

Robin

Magpie

Northern Flicker

Prairie Dog

Grandkids
For us, Denver is synonymous with grandkids. Here is a pic of Austie batting a double in the playoffs, Nattie taking the water challenge, and the Backyard Soup they both made with grandma’s encouragement.

At the Bat

Nattie in Hose

Backyard Soup

The Stanley Hotel
Just a little variety from our rustic camping regime :’), we drove back up to Estes Park taking Austie and Mitzy along with us. We spent two-nights at the Manor in the pup-friendly, kid-tolerant, historically designated hotel. Here is an early morning shot from the verandah and a shot of a marmot from RMNP.

Stanley Foggy Morning

Marmot

Old Signs

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Fun week! See you soon.

Blog 233: Mountain Mitzy: Elk Hunter

Cheyenne  to Estes Park

On to RMNP
From Cheyenne we strolled south and west making the transition from the plains to the mountains. For the last 30 miles our constant companion was the roar of rushing water from the Big Thompson River that paralleled our trek up around curves as we climbed up to 7,500 feet. Our campground adjoined Rocky Mountain National Park with the appropriate snowcapped mountain vistas.

Mountain Mitzy: Elk Hunter
Interestingly, a metamorphisis occurred as the air got thinner and the mountains got closer. Mitzy, our sweet, refined, laid-back lap-pup transformed into an intense canine, a focused tracker of wild beasts. Maybe it was the change in the air, maybe it was the haunt of ancient ancestors, maybe it was the odor of primitive beasts. Whatever the genesis, you could feel the concentration ooze from her pores as her heightened sense of smell and eyesight sought out the majestic elk. Every nerve cell was on alert, every muscle was attuned--even her eyebrows were set to full readiness. It was all I could do to constrain her from leaping from our vehicle and ripping her prey to shreds.

The Elk Hunter

Not a Step Closer!

Grazing Elk

Touring and Hiking
Over our week stay, we toured most all the main roads and a few of the non-main paths north and south, east and west. Along with a multitude of elk, from our car and the side of the road we were fortunate to see moose and bighorn sheep. In early morning we started most days on the trails. Working to gain our stamina at altitude, we started with short, level strolls building up to medium-intensity hikes. Over the week we hiked Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, Cub Lake, Lily Lake, Fern Lake, and Coyote Valley. Sometimes we saw critters, almost always we were in the presence of spring flowers of multiple shapes and colors. Here is a shot of Morraine Valley and a panorama that Jan shot.

Morraine Valley

Jan's Morraine Valley

Critters

Running Momma Moose

Momma Meets Baby

Kissing Mama and Baby

Bighorn Environmental

Bighorn Close-Up

Bunny

Chipper

Green-Tailed Towee

Posing Squirrel

Pups

Guido

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Signs

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Magnificent week--just hard to beat our national parks.

See you soon.

Blog 231: Midwest Moments

Here are a few pics from our stays with friends in Indiana and Michigan.

Pups
Here is a shot of Mitzy checking out a chipmunk, Guido and Polly on the run, a pup at a car show, a camping pup, and Jack the farm dog.

Mitzy and Chipper

Pup

Camping Pup

Jack the Farm Pup

Critters
Here is a displaying Tom trying to attract hens, frolicking horses and a couple of farm cats.

Displaying Tom

Frolicking Horses

Farm Cat

Another Farm Cat

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are a couple of old signs from Michigan.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks all taken in Michigan.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 229: Just Another Cathedral

Photo Tour

Portree

Heading north from Portree, we stopped by a small herd of sheep (mainly rams) standing by the side of the road. Only mildly curious, these handsome ruminants stared and occasionally posed for our lenses.

Handsome Ram

Our first planned stop was Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, a place for intrigue and several murders over the centuries. We toured inside the castle and strolled outside among the vibrant flowers cast upon the grays and browns of the setting. From there, another stop at St. Mary’s Church Graveyard, a place so old you couldn’t read the writing on many of the gravestones and markers.

After dinner we back-tracked our trail from a couple days earlier to revisit Eilean Dornan Castle at evening to see this castle lit up.

Eilean Dornan Twilight

Our small group met at 3:35 a.m. for a hoped-for morning sunrise hike up to see the Old Man of the Storr. However, we postponed this trek until later because of the rain and probable slick conditions. However, mid-morning the rain stopped and the skies lightened, so we headed off to this local nature-made iconic structure. An hour up and an hour back changing 3,500 feet in elevation on a sometimes steep, sometimes slick, almost always windy path we trekked along watching our steps and bracing our backs from the wind-tunnel-like gusts of air. Here a couple shots.

Driving up to the Old Man

View of Old Man

Inverlochy Castle
Tuesday we had a marvelous lunch at Inverlochy Castle.

Chess Anyone

Glasgow Cathedral
I titled this blog entry “Just Another Cathedral” in jest. Check out the Glasgow Cathedral.

Just Another Cathedral

Just Another Cathedral 2

Photog at Work

Fisheye View

Conwy
We stayed at beautiful Conwy in Wales.

Conwy

Tywyn

Blue Door

Smallest House

Dolgoth Falls
At the train station we met this handsome pup named Milo. Next we shot the narrow gauge train.

Milo

Narrow Gauge Train

London
Jan and I split from the group and spent a fun day in London hitting many of the tourist spots, including a ride on the Eye.

Eye Shot

Distant Eye

Pups
Here are some pups from my Pup Reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is one shot from the Old Sign Reserve.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Not many old trucks in Scotland! Here are three from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 227: Mainly Critters

Pups with Purpose
Here are a couple recent Pup shots. Meet Bogey, Clyde, and Daisy.

Bogey

Clyde

Daisy

Squirrels on the Move

Squirrels

Birds
Here is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a Grackle, and a Cardinal.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Grackle

Cardinal

Old Sign
Here is an old sign from out West.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 221: Jammin’ in the Projects

Since my last blog entry, I’ve had quick trips to Alameda, Herndon, and Deerfield Beach. Here are some beach pics, a neighborhood get-together, a black cat in a tree, and the usual pups, a sign, and old trucks.

Deerfield Beach
Here are a few pics from an early morning on Deerfield Beach.

Deerfield Beach Sunrise

Treasure Hunters

Deerfield Beach Cafe'

Early Morning Photog

Projects Jam
Happy Hour entertainment is a staple of the Projects, and a recent gig had over 100 participants. Here are a couple pics from the jam.

Neighborhood Jam

Neighborhood Jammers

Black Cat in a Tree
Our 16-year-old Mexican cat, Chico, loves our neighborhood. Here is a shot of one of his buddies, Jet, a feral black cat stalking prey in a tree on our site.

Black Cat in a Tree

More Pups
Here are a couple of pups from the Pup Reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign from out West.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 216: Bosque Birds and Bad Big Bend

Bosque del Apache
We spent a very enjoyable Sunday out shooting before dawn, exploring the reserve, taking a canyon hike, and watching the birds and the sun come down. Here are a few pics and a very short video. This is a great place--we will be coming back.

Sandhill Cranes Launching

Landing Snow Geese



Big Bend National Park
From our campground just north of Bosque, we headed south on I-25 through Los Cruces, and then crossed into Texas at El Paso, taking I-10 to Van Horn for the night. The next day we arrived in Study Butte, just north of the western entrance to the Big Bend National Park.

For years, I had talked about going here; the huge park remotely located in the Southwest corner of Texas right on the Rio Grande. This year we made it! Over the next couple of days we took a 4-wheeling journey in a remote part of the park (wait a minute—the whole park is remote!), took an hour long drive in the dark so that we could take a pre-sunrise hike, and toured around this amazing place taking in the vistas. We’d planned on staying another day, but the crazy cold weather drove our decision to drive out. I hope to come back.

Big Bend Scenic 1

Big Bend Scenic 2

Yucca

The Window

More Pups
Here are four more pup pics from the Denver bark park.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4

Old Sign
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

See you next week.

Blog 214: Most Awesome-ist Old Truck Day Ever!

Sunday was our last full day in Trinidad, Colorado, and we took full advantage of this fruitful location. As we headed out in our Jeep mid-morning, you could smell the rust and peeling paint from old trucks as they waited to be discovered, and discovered them we did. We hunted, located, and shot 67 trucks in just one day! It doesn’t get much better than this for an Old Truck Photographer, his Trusted Assistant, and two Canine Colleagues.

Of course, this profession does not come without peril, as this pic demonstrates.

One Step Closer...

Furthermore, athletic prowess is sometimes required to get the shot. Here are a couple shots of a llama “guarding” a junkyard--I took these and others standing up through the sky roof of our Jeep handholding a 500mm lens while Jan drove (slowly) forward.

Llama Head Shot

Llama in Junk Yard

Note: I put most of those pics in my Old Truck Reserve to be parceled out in future blogs, as the old truck hunting is not the best in some of the places we frequent.

On to Taos
Midday Monday we packed up and headed out south on I-25 taking Highway 64 westerly across the plains and through the zig-zaggy route of the Santa Fe National Forest. Our campground was located on the west side of Taos, conveniently located about a mile from the Taos Brewing Company. We stopped by a couple of late afternoons and here are a few pics.

Two from the Band

Brewery Patron

Brewery Trio

Guitar Signs
Just a half mile away in the opposite direction of the brewery was a guitar manufacturer. Here are a couple of fun signs outside the business.

Guitar Sign 1

Guitar Sign 2

Day Trips
One afternoon we drove the “Enchanted Circle,” driving an 84-mile loop through Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire before returning to Taos. Another day we drove 79 miles down and back to the historic town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Here is a scenic shot by the side of a road, an old mill, and a fun/sad sign hanging from a very old building in the town of Mora.

Road Trip Vista

Old Mill

Turn in Your Guns

More Pups
Here are four more pup pics from the Denver bark park.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4

Old Sign
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

See you next week!

Blog 213: South to Trinidad

Quick Trip to Grand Rapids
I spent two days working with an existing client in Grand Rapids. An excellent session with great people.

Goodbye to the Grandkids
We spent our last few days with the grandkids watching baseball games and making s’mores over campfires. Here is a pic of Nattie, Austie, and a cute pic of Mitzy.

Nattie

Last BB Game

Mitzy in Field

South to Trinidad
On Friday we packed up our campsite in Denver and drove a straight shot 200 miles down I-25 to Trinidad, just north of the New Mexico border. We set up camp at Trinidad Lake State Park overlooking the lake and with a view of the mountains.

Saturday right after daybreak we took the Pups and hiked the Long’s Canyon trail in the chilly (high 30s) morning air.

Day Trip
Mid-morning we loaded into the car with the Pups, water, a picnic lunch, and some camera gear heading west on Colorado 12 on the section called the Highway of Legends. Some Aspen and Cottonwood retained their leaves and the bright yellow added nice contrast to the blues of creeks, lakes, and the vibrant sky.

Road Trip 1

Road Trip 2

Road Trip 3

Road Trip 4

With the Purgatoire River at our side, we passed through Valdez, Segundo, Weston, and Zamora. At Stonewall the highway turned north, taking us by Monument Lake and around North Lake. With the mountains of the Spanish Peaks always in view, we headed up into the San Isabel National Forest. At Cuchara Pass we turned off the pavement and took the rocky dirt road up the mountain among the trees and through the snow to Cordova Pass at 11,248 feet. The perfect 80-degree weather of Trinidad had gradually lowered and at this point it was in the low 60s. Leaving the Pups in the car, Jan and I hiked the Vista Trail further up the mountain to a viewpoint from about 12,000 feet within the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area. With West and East Spanish Peaks to our right, their three cousins to our left, Wade Canyon before us, and Hicks Canyon behind us, it was one fabulous vista.

For a little variety we took a dirt road, North Fork Road, back half of the way. Great scenery, marvelous weather, and a few old trucks made for a spectacular road trip.

Junkyard Dog

Junkyard Horse

More Pups

Here are four more pup pics from the bark park. You’ll see Jerry with a Pup faster than he is, plus a bonus shot of Mitzy in the flowers.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4 Plus Jerry

Mitzy and Flowers

Old Sign

Here is one old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 211: Bark Park Bonanza

Quick Trip to San Diego
I participated in my business partner’s excellent conference in San Diego where I did a workshop and a speech. Quality event with a great bunch of people.

Bark Park Bonanza
Chatfield State Park has a magnificent dog park—250 acres of trails along ponds, by trees, and through brush. We took our Pups there three days in a row and I was lucky to get a few pics—in fact I will feature some of these pup pics over the next few months. Here are five to start with plus a fall refection from one of the ponds.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pups 3

Pup 4

Janny's Best Friend

Fall Reflection

Play Ball
Here is a shot of Austie on the diamond, Nattie on the sidelines, and Nattie at night.

Austie at Second base

Nattie on Grass

Nattie

Old Sign
Here is one old sign (again from George’s place)

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 210: The Greatest Show on Earth

Farewell to Oregon
I flew to Philly on business with a great client. Upon returning, we loaded the bus and headed east after almost two months of exploring beautiful Oregon. We parked at Salt Lake City for three days while I flew off to Houston to work once again with my friends at NASA. From there it was one night in Rifle Gap State Park outside Rifle, Colorado, then on to Chatfield State Park in the SW of Denver.

Here is a hodgepodge of different Oregon pics that I didn’t publish before.

Campground Pup

Ocean Stream

Underwater Urchin

Waterfall Stream

Hikers

The Greatest Show on Earth
The last time I went to a circus there were operators at the switchboard and tubes in televisions. However, when the chance to go with grandkids to the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth was offered, I agreed as quickly as a Florida politician accepting a free trip to Texas. Yes, there were motorcycles racing in a cage, some really funky dance routines, and some blaring techno music every now and then, but there was still the sequined ladies atop galloping steeds, lions and tigers hungrily eyeing the guy with the whip, flying trapeze artists stories above the ground and, of course, the parade of elephants. I had a great time!

Sadly, no cameras were allowed, and my old iPhone is no match for fast-moving objects in dark scenarios, so please excuse my one shot of the action that turned out acceptable only on very small screens. You can also see the results of a busy night at the circus.

Greatest Show

Sleeping Austie

Old Sign
Here is one old sign (again from George’s place--see Blog 206)

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 209: Beaching, Duning, and Flying the Coast

Another week of hiking above/on/around Oregon’s beautiful beaches, driving ATVs on the sand, and flying above the coast in a pre-war biplane.

Overlooking the Bay
From Bandon we trekked north a short distance to Winchester Bay where we parked directly overlooking the bay. Here are a couple harbor seals and the marina.

Harbor Seals

Winchester Bay

Dune ATVing
We rented an ATV and cruised the dunes adjoining the ocean.

ATV Alex and Jan

After a few days we took another short trip up the coast to Florence, where we stayed for several days.

Racing Pups
The Pups got to stretch their legs many times over the week, churning sand as they ran along the ocean waves. During one walk, Jerry met a frisky young female with some terrier genes and they started to frolic.

Wanna Race?

She Is Fast

Flying Pup 1

Flying Pup 2

Flying Jerry

Biplane Rides Along the Oregon Coast
Our friends had taken biplane rides at Florence a few years ago and strongly encouraged us to do the same…we are very pleased to have agreed to go up in this open-air, two-seat Stearman biplane built before the Second World War and used as a trainer for the U.S Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy. Sam Spayd, the pilot, sits behind you as you step back in time, feeling the wind in your face and imagining yourself nervously searching for bogeys as you admire the views of the vibrant Pacific coast.

What a hoot! Just a great experience…for those of you bucket-listers, you might want to add this one. Sam is not only a great pilot and a fun guy, he is a database full of facts on flying, the Oregon coast, and lots of other interesting information. Check it out at AeroLegends.com then give Sam a call…tell him Alex sent you.

Biplane

Janny Ready for Takeoff

Janny Takeoff

Janny in Black and White

Landing

What a Flight!

Alex Thumbs Up

Sam in Mirror

Seascape from Plane 1

Seascape from Plane 2

Lighthouse

Sam Spayd

Old Signs
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week. I am not sure that I can stand any more fun.

Blog 208: Beach Walks, Forest Hikes, and Sandy Canines

After a couple more days enjoying the Gold Beach area, we moseyed up the Pacific Coast, setting up camp two miles south of Bandon where we continued hiking the woods and walking the outstanding beaches of Oregon.

Oregon Coast
During the week we took four different beach walks. As with many scenic places, the photos don’t do them justice, but here are a few attempts.

Beach Scene

Rocky Peep Hole

Seagulls

Driftwood Pile

Beach Art

Pups and Sand
There is almost something magical in nature when pups are put in contact with sand…my hypothesis is that the small grains between their toes trigger a neurological reaction that induces a more primitive state. For example, Jerry assumes his full 200-pound warrior hound persona as he runs like a cheetah after prey. And Mitzy transforms herself into a total beach queen as she struts besides the waves tossing attitude in all directions like a Kardashian at a dinner party. Here are a few shots of them with their buddy, Madeline.

Flying Jerry

Don't Mess with the Princess

Back Off Blondie

Running Madeline

Fungi in the Forest
On the Oregon Coast Trail, which parallels the ocean, we ran across a wide assortment of fungi. Here are a few of my favorites. Also, we found a lone Indian paintbrush among the greens, browns, and yellows.

Fungi 1

Fungi 2

Fungi 3

Cool Fungi

Indian Paintbrush

Old Signs
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 207: Big Trees, Old Boats, and Naked Ladies

We spent the entire week at a campground on the Rogue River 10 miles inland from the coastal town of Gold Beach. Chilly temps and sometimes fog greeted us at sunrise, transitioning to sunshine and light jacket warmth in the afternoon, with our evening campfires minimizing the chill. A herd of black-tailed deer also called our campground home, and they frolicked as a family most evenings for our entertainment.

Big Trees
We hiked four trails this week: Old Redwood Stand Trail, Rogue River Trail, and Myrtle Trail, all nearby, and the Redwood Nature Trail in Alfred A. Loeb State Park east of Brookings. Along with rivers and streams, each of these trails shared one commonality--lots of big trees. Here are a few shots to show you what I mean.

Alex in Big Tree

That's a Big Tree

Gary's Private Collection

Day Trips
We also took several road trips, including a trip to Agness, where the official welcome sign lists the population as “Small.” The post office was empty, the general store was closed, but the fishing lodge was open. We stopped and visited with Mary, the owner, after she had put the laundry out to dry and did the initial preparation for her evening dinner--she was expecting 6 or 7 fishermen to show up. Along with sharing her knowledge of the area, she gave us a bag full of vegetables as we departed.

Laundry Day at Agness

Old Boat Motors

Farmers Market
Our visit to the weekly farmers’ market furnished us with veggies, flowers, and I bought a quart of local beer (by the time I got around to shooting the beer, it was all gone!).

Veggies

Flower Girl

Miscellaneous
Here is a shot of an old boat, hiking Madeline, and a shot of a band at the Beer Festival.

Old Boat

Cute Madeline

Beer Fest Band

Naked Ladies
These might not be the naked ladies you anticipated, but Naked Ladies they are! These beautiful flowers are all over the area. I’ve thrown in a Canna shot as well.

Naked Ladies 1

Naked Ladies 2

Canna

Old Signs
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 206: Eccentric George’s Hideaway

From Diamond Lake, we drove a couple hours on 230 SE to 62 south, between the Umpqua and Rogue River National Forests with big pines bordering the road and the Rogue River splashing alongside. From there we connected to 23, then 234 and 99, camping just south and a little east of Grants Pass with our campsite directly on the Rogue River.

Raines Falls Trail
Bob, the camp host, recommended this trail, as it was one of his favorites, plus the salmon had been sighted going up the falls. So at 6:00 one morning, the four of us drove the 40-plus miles north and east through the towns of Merlin and Galice arriving at this trailhead in the Siskiyou National Forest. The four-mile trek was on a bluff overlooking the Rogue River. At times it was steep and winding, rough and rocky, but gorgeous, nonetheless. The only minor disappointment was that there were no salmon attempting to climb the falls.

Raines Falls Trail

Jan & Jerry Trail Blazing

Rafter from Trail

Hiking Mitzy

On the Rogue
One morning we took a jetboat ride (often at 40-plus miles per hour) down the Rogue River, 18 miles into Hells Canyon. Another morning we braved the rapids and piloted and oared our own small raft down the Rogue on a three-hour slow float. Both were lots of fun. Here is a pic of the Five Floaters.

The Five Floaters

Eccentric George’s Hideaway
Although everything here was very enjoyable, the highlight of the week was meeting Eccentric George. Jan and I and the Pups were out one afternoon hunting old trucks and stopped by the side of the road. A fella pulls up and asked what we were doing. When told, he asked if we wanted to see a really cool truck. Of course, we agreed, and then followed him down a long gravel lane to a place that looked like the first alien invasion.

For three hours George showed us around his “acreage of wonder” talking nonstop as fast as a rapper on speed. We learned about his childhood, family, and his work history as a logger and ironworker. We were told the history of the house he moved, the barn he fixed up, the old gasoline station he bought and is restoring, the bridge he bought, his wives and girlfriends, the old trucks he owns, his personal philosophy of life, that he lost 100 pounds, and how he made an iron casket that he uses as art but eventually wants to be buried in. He proudly boasted that he and his son have started a custom casket business and solicited Ozzie Osborne as his first client (he offered a discount if Ozzie wanted each of his “freak kids,” as he called them, to have one as well). And on and on. Just amazing.

Here is a shot of George by his casket, his really cool barn, Jerry in his rocket ship, and a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang structure that George built for his daughter.

George with Casket

George's Cool Barn

Pilot Jerry in Rocket Ship

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Old Signs
Here are two old signs from George’s place.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks from George’s place.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

New Coach
We recently bought a new coach! I don’t want to bore folks with little interest in RVing, however, if you want to see more, click here to get some inside shots of our new digs on wheels.

Thor Tuscany

See you next week.

Blog 203: Grand Teton National Park

Quick Trip to Chicago
I started off the week flying to Chicago for a three-day engagement with a great client. Glad to have been there, but gladder to return to the West.

North from Colorado
After two-and-half months in Colorado, we packed up the bus and headed north on I-25, easing our way through the heavy Denver traffic. At Fort Collins we took Colorado 14 west, and then headed north on 287 into Wyoming, passing through Laramie, Rawlins, Riverton, and Dubois before setting up camp at the Grand Teton RV Resort, just six miles east of Moran Junction within the Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton is a beautiful park and one of our favorites. The Teton range appears like elite guardians, standing ramrod upright protecting Wyoming from any dangers from the west.

We spent three very full days up way before dawn sipping hot, black coffee watching sunrises with cameras atop tripods in the chilly air, and then heading out searching for critters, taking traditional routes, special photog secret headings, and off-road (are you crazy!) paths less traveled.

Many of our trips were bordered with wildflowers framing the scenes with a thousand colors. Mountains and meadows, streams and rivers, waterfalls, forests, and hills…makes my eyes sore just recounting the vistas. Just a wonderful time.

Landscapes
Here are some pics of iconic locations: a couple of sunrises at Oxbow Bend and three from Schwabacher Road. The third shot from Schwabacher is of Jan, patiently awaiting my return after I spent an hour (maybe two) following a momma moose and her baby (pics later) along the Snake River.

View from Oxbow Bend 1

View from Oxbow Bend 2

View from Schwabacher Road 1

Vew from Schwabacher Road 2

Jan at Schwabacher Road

Critters
During our time in the area, we saw lots of birds, plus bison, elk, moose, pronghorns, prairie dogs, a coyote, dusty grouse, a badger, and a very handsome yellow-bellied marmot.

Bison at Mormon Row

Baby Moose in Thistles

Coyote Along Mormon Row

Dusty Grouse on Signal Mountain

Momma and Baby Moose

Pronghorn

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

This and That
Here are a few pics from road trips, including a shot Jan took of Trapper Viewing Otter--Hint: look at the clouds.

Gros Ventre Road Hills

Gros Ventre Road Landscape

Hay on the Road to Dubois

Mitzy Teton View

Trapper Viewing Otter

Cairns
Years ago Jan started the custom of building cairns in special places to honor special individuals that have passed on. This week we continued this tradition, building three cairns along and in the Gros Ventre Creek where it cuts across historic Morman Row within the Grand Teton National Park.

Millie Cairn

Frida Cairn

Bo Cairn

Jan’s Old Signs
Here is a fish sign that Jan took a fancy to.

Jan's Old Fish Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old Wyoming trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week (oh, I hate to leave this place).

Blog 202: Grand Canyon West

Sunday morning Austie and Auntie accompanied Jan and me as we flew from Denver to Las Vegas. Here we rented a Jeep and drove the 121 desert miles to Grand Canyon West in Arizona. Here is a pic from a scenic view stop along the way.

Scenic View

Grand Canyon West obviously is a part of the Grand Canyon, but not a part of the national park. It is owned and managed by the Hualapai (pronounced WALL-uh-pie) tribe.

Hualapai Ranch
We stayed for two nights on the property, based out of cabins directly on the Hualapai Ranch. Here is a view of the cabins at dawn (that’s my shadow), a shot of the sunrise, and a view from the cabins.

Sunrise View of Cabins

Hualapai Ranch Sunrise

Haulapai View from Cabin

The ranch is a replica of an Old West town, complete with jail, gallows, saloon, general store, and more. Cowboys direct the activities, such as fast-draw contests, roping, arrow shooting, horseback riding, chuck wagon rides, and bonfires. Short on help, with busloads of rowdy Chinese converging on the ranch, the sheriff deputized Austie to help keep things in control. Over two days he stared down would-be troublemakers, showed strangers card tricks to keep them calm, and pulled his gun more times than I can count. He helped lock up several strangers, plus Jan and me, and helped to hang Auntie. He was one busy hombre. Here are some pics of Austie in action.

Lawmen

Jan in Hoosegow

Strung Up Auntie

Here is a pic of the ranch chuck wagon plus a crusty old cowboy.

Hualapai Ranch Wagon Ride

Crusty Old Cowboy

Grand Canyon Skywalk
The four of us experienced the Grand Canyon Skywalk, strolling at 4,000 feet suspended by glass and steel with a great view below your feet of the canyon floor. No personal cameras allowed, but here is a pic taken of us by the on-duty photog, plus a stock photo to give you a better feel for the place.

Skywalk

Under Skywalk

Guano Point
Another pretty stop at Grand Canyon West is Guano Point. Here is a shot of the head bird, plus a scenic view.

Guano Point Head Bird

Guano Point View

Helicopter-Float Trip
To end our visit to Grand Canyon West, we took a helicopter ride over and through the canyon, and then landed down by the Colorado River. Here we took a float trip on the canyon floor before flying back out via chopper. My pics did not do this wonderful excursion justice.

Grand Canyon Chopper

A return drive and flight, and it was back to Denver.

Jan’s Old Signs
Here is one old sign from Colorado.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 201: Meadow Morning

Meadow Morning
Jan and I took off early Saturday morning to a nearby open space for a stroll through a woods and meadow. Colors leaped from the ground in the form of flowers and other flora.

Stacked Flowers

Flowers and Flora 1

Flowers and Flora 2

Flowers and Flora 3

Flowers and Flora 4

Flowers and Flora 5

Flowers and Flora 6

Flowers and Flora 7

Flowers and Flora 8

Flowers and Flora 9

Mini-Family Reunion
Twenty or so family with a few close friends spent the afternoon enjoying a warm Colorado day chatting and eating, running and playing.

Nattie Meets Archer

Taylor in Field

Archer, Charlie and Jerry

Jan’s Old Signs

Here is one old sign from Colorado.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 198: Stormy Weather

Late one afternoon the temperature dropped, the wind raised, and the thunderboomers came rolling in like the barbarians sacking Rome. Wow! Colorado is gorgeous!

Stormy Weather 1

Stormy Weather 2

Stormy Weather 3

Stormy Weather 4

Stormy Weather 5

Odds and Ends
Here is a shot of a spiderwort taken on a walk through a nearby meadow, and another hummer pic taken outside our front door.

Spiderwort

Hummer

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are a couple of old signs from Colorado.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Trucks: The Allstate Brothers

See you next week.

Blog 197: Top Gun Wannabe

Morning Walks
Our campground has numerous trails to walk and wander. Here is a rock formation, lupine, and a cactus in early bloom.

Campground View

Lupine

Early Blooms

Hummer
We have a Russian Olive right outside our front door, and our feeder attracts hummingbirds all the day. The speed and maneuverability of these aerodynamic critters would make a Top Gun jealous. Here is a shot of one female fueling up.

Hummer

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are a couple of old signs from Colorado.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from recent trips.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 196: Quick Trip to NASA

Quick Trip to NASA
I had a great two-day session with some professionals from NASA in Houston. As you’d expect, they were as smart as “rocket scientists” and quickly grasped the business concepts and skills and honed them to their environment.

As a youngster I was a huge fan of science fiction, devouring most of the works of Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and others. So I was especially delighted that my friends at NASA were kind enough to arrange a private VIP tour for me. I toured the original Apollo Mission Control, the active Space Station Mission Control Center, and two exact replicas used for astronaut training, the Space Station as well as the now retired Shuttle. They shared with me lots of stories (I shan’t share) and invigorated me to anticipate the Orion spacecraft and (hopefully) a mission to Mars in the next few years.

Alex in the Space Station

Apollo Mission Control

In the Shuttle Commander's Seat

Shuttle Control Panel

Space Station Mission Control

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Jan and I and the Kids took a day trip out and around Florissant and Cripple Creek. At the Florissant Fossil Beds we walked a trail and learned about the fossilization of giant redwood trees and other insects, birds, and animals. Very interesting place.

Fossilized Redwood Stump

Old Homestead

From there we worked our way down to Cripple Creek, home of big-time gold mining and lots of casinos.

Cripple Creek

On the way home we decided to take a shortcut and work our way through the Pike National Forest. Lots of fun as the narrow forest roads became skinnier, rockier, and crooked-er…sure glad for clearance and 4WD.

National Forest Trail

No Shooting Sign

No Motor Vehicles Sign

More Baseball
Here are a couple of pics from the baseball tournament.

I Got It

Jan and Pups at BB Game

Bathroom Break

Jan’s Old Signs
We ran into a number of great old and newer signs at Cripple Creek and other stops along our day trip.

Blue Front Grocery Sign

Thunderbird Inn Sign

At Large Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 195: Nature Girl Meets War Hound

After a quick trip to Irvine for business, time was spent on walks, at playgrounds, and at baseball diamonds--it is playoff season you know! Here are five shots from the past week.

Baseball Boys at Play

Sliding Nattie

Spring Rose

War Hound

Nattie Loves Nature

BTW, Nature Girl doesn’t really meet the War Hound--I just thought it made a good title for the blog. ☺

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 194: Back to the Trails

Spruce Mountain Trail
Finally, Jan and I are back hiking! We worked our way around the meadow through blooming wildflowers, then up the mountain through groves of pines, and then down the switchback trails, with vistas all along the way. Here are three pics from the five-and-a-half-mile Spruce Mountain hike. We will do it again.

Spruce Mt. View 1

Spruce Mt. View 2

Spruce Mt. View 3

Nattie
Here is a shot of granddaughter, Nattie, at play.

Nattie at Play

Old Sign
Here is one old sign we ran across while shooting old trucks.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from this past week.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 191: Snowing, Blowing and Baseballing

Snowing
Yikes! Here is a pic Janny took from our coach looking out.

May Snow

Blowing and Sliding
Here’s a shot of Janny training young Natalie in the art of blowing bubbles, and one of Nat sliding.

Blowing Bubbles

Sliding Nattie

Baseballing
Here is a cartoon pic of Austie making a nice catch.

Nice Catch!

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 189: A Grasshopper, a Cat, and Three Old Trucks

Busy week, but here are some unpublished pics.

Giant Grasshopper in the Woods

Grasshopper

Steve the Cat Posing

Steve

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 188: Web Spinners

Early Morning Webs
While on early morning walks in Florida, we were often greeted by spiders trying to attract their prey.

Web 1

Web 2

Web 3

Janny Art
Here is another of Janny’s paintings. This one is titled “Blue Eyes.”

Blue Eyes

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 187: Bubbles and Birds

Painted Buntings
At our RV site in Ft. Myers we had a bird feeder right outside our bedroom window. For a few special weeks we were delighted to have some Painted Buntings among our feeding visitors.

Painted Buntings 1

Painted Buntings 2

Painted Buntings 3

Painted Buntings 4

Bubbles and Nachos
One evening Jan and Stan the Bubble Man colluded to put on a Bubbles and Nacho Night. As you might have guessed, Jan made the nachos (and quesadillas, refried beans, salsa and quacamole, with ice cream cake for desert) for a small group of 40 campers. Stan the Bubble Man took care of the entertainment, creating monster bubbles that delighted young and old.

Bubbles 1

Bubbles 2

Bubbles 3

Bubbles 4

Bubbles 5

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week as we leave Florida and head west.

Blog 186: Goodbye to the Keys

Here are a few shots from our stay in the Keys, including a Grassy Key sunset and a picture of Janny and Mitzy on holiday.

Grassy Keys Sunset

Jan and Mitzy on Holiday

Painted Pups
Our good friend, Suzanne, is a talented pup painter as you will quickly see by the paintings she did of Jerry and Mitzy.

Painted Jerry

Painted Mitzy

If you are a proud pup parent, I highly recommend that you consider commissioning a painting. Your pup does not have to pose :’>, just provide her a photo. Check out her website at www.crittersandcanvas.com.

Old Signs
Here is a shot of the Keys Fisheries sign that I took for Jan’s Old Sign Collection--great place to eat, by the way.

Keys Fisheries Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old but classy Florida trucks shot in the Keys.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 185: Last Boat to Freedom

Note: The title of this week’s blog will become clear when you look at the section called Botanical Gardens.

This week we stayed in the Keys, enjoying the balmy weather and the laid-back atmosphere of this special part of the world. Below are another Key West sunrise, a shot of Jerry, who had just convinced me to order a burger instead of fish, and a fine specimen of the ever-present roosters.

Another Key West Sunrise

Alex and Jerry

Rooster

Dry Tortugas
The seaplane trip from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park was a great opportunity for scenic water views, and wonderful old Ft. Jefferson is just an amazing structure and setting. Here are a few shots taken over the park and outside and inside the fort. Awesome place to visit.

John the Float Plane Pilot

Dry Tortugas

Ft. Jefferson Water Shot

Ft. Jefferson

Inside Ft. Jefferson

Botanical Gardens
We visited the Key West Botanical Gardens and enjoyed the flora and fauna of these small but nice gardens. They have one exhibit, however, that is deserving of its own special designation.

Over the years, people from Cuba have tried to escape their island and cross the 106 miles to land in America. Built in secrecy, handmade boats, called “chugs,” were crafted using whatever materials were available: lawnmower engines, planking, chunks of Styrofoam, etc. Freedom was the goal, but dehydration or being eaten by sharks was often their finish line. If caught on the water, they were deported back to Cuba and all the punishment that entailed…however, if they could land just one foot on dry land, they were allowed in to pursue the path to US citizenship, if they chose. Take a look at the collection of chugs that landed or were washed up on the shores surrounding Key West. Would you make this journey?

Chug 1

Chug 2

Chug 3

Chug 4

Chug 5

Chug 6

Chug 7

Chug 8

Chug 9

Chug 10

Chug 11

Old Trucks
Here are three old, but classy, Florida trucks shot in Key West.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 184: Holiday in the Keys

The Keys
Skies as blue as Paul Newman’s eyes, seas as vibrant as turquoise jewels, grilled fish as fresh as a newbie at college, all accented with draft beer as chilled as a Nordic winter…must be the Florida Keys!

From Ft. Myers we ambled down I-75 to Mile Marker 99 in Key Largo. We stayed for seven days in a nicely appointed RV park on the bay side. From there we headed south picking up Highway One down to our manicured Key West RV resort and parked on our site overlooking the Atlantic. Here are pics of our site, our view from the dock, a green heron who likes to hangout on our dock, and our neighbor relaxing with his pups. Also, here is a bouquet Jan designed--you gotta travel with flowers you know.

Key West Home

Green Heron

Sunrise from Our Dock

Key West Neighbor

Bouquet

Everglades
We took a day trip entering Everglades National Park at Florida City and took our time making the 47-mile trek west and south down to Flamingo. Here are a couple of gator shots and one of an anhinga spotted on a trail.

Swimming Gator

Resting Gator

Anhinga

On the Water
We rented a boat for a day and took a cruise of local waters with good friends. The water was as smooth as a polished politician in November, making it a perfect day to explore. Along with a variety of birds, we were fortunate to spot a couple of good-looking sea turtles, lots and lots of sponges, and several flying fish. The Pups had a great day enjoying the ride and nibbling on the grilled grouper, snapper, and lobster we shared with them from our lunches at our waterside restaurant. However, their highlight was jousting with the other pups we passed along the canals on our way out and back. I took no pics, but it was gorgeous.

Jan’s Art
Jan has three new paintings. This one is called “Great Mesa Poppies.”

Great_Mesa_Poppies

To see the other two, click here. “Desert Dawn” and “Off the Tracks” are the last two on the right in the fourth row under Acrylic Paintings and Murals.

Old Trucks
Here are three old but classy Florida trucks shot in Key West.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week with more tales from the Keys.

Blog 182: Beware of Junkyard Dogs

The Junkyard Dog
You think shooting old trucks is easy? Not so much! For example, this past week we wheeled into an auto repair shop/junkyard. I found the remains of an old truck (see below under “Old Trucks”), and then headed back into the property. I focused on two good-looking trucks of vintage, but when I looked down, I was greeted by a tall, muscular, 80-plus-pound pit bull three feet away. She gazed at me with the natural confidence of an accomplished athlete.

She nonverbally communicated that she was in total control, I was not, and that I should turn around and leave…which is exactly what I did. I slowly pivoted and gingerly walked back to the car trying to minimize movement while maximizing momentum. I opened the door, sliding into the passenger seat with a sigh of accomplishment. I then took this photo of the guardian before vacating the premises.

Junkyard Dog

This and That
Here is a shot of a cat with presents on the porch of a cracker house, a Sandhill Crane from our walks, and one of Jessie, our pup cousin.

Cat and Presents

Sandhill Crane

Jessie

Old Signs
Here are two old signs shot in Florida.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from Florida.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

2013 Alexanders Holiday Video
Got 2:01 minutes? Check out this fun video (well…I think it is fun).



See you next week.

Blog 181: Really White Christmas

Be careful what you wish for…Janny said she wanted a white Christmas--and boy she got it! We spent a solid week with family and friends feasting like Viking warriors on holiday in this postcard-perfect winter scene. Here are a hodgepodge of pics from this action-packed week.

Winter Sky

Birds at the Feeders

Frozen Berries

Frozen Wine

Squirrels

Cheesecake

Mers Famous Shooters

Christmas Feast

Holiday Alex

Mers and Millie

This Babe Is Hot!

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from Michigan.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

Thanks for following the blog! See you next year.

Blog 179: Dean Martin Lives!

Dean Martin Party
Good friends of ours put on a 1940s-50s, Italian-themed, Dean Martin party that was just a hoot. As proof that Dean Martin is still around, I captured this shot of Dean and Jan.

Janny and Dean

Out and About
Here are a few animal pics from this last week, a cow and calf, pre-dawn eagles, and a good-looking gopher tortoise.

Cow and Calf

Pre-Dawn Eagles

Tortoise Gopher

The Shell Game

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks shot in Florida.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 178: Back to Ho-Hum Florida

Weather Report
While the rest of the country has been “enjoying” a great variety of weather (refreshing cold, exercise-inducing snow, agility-improving icy roads, and so on), Florida has been experiencing really boring weather--bright and sunny with daily temperatures in the low 80s. Please send your good wishes to those of us who must endure this day after day.

I Missed One!
Here is one last shot from last week in Denver of my favorite granddaughter. Not sure, but I believe she was solving calculus equations.

iPad Pro

Pup for Sale
Here is a pic of one cute pup, Gizmo. He is a well-mannered, five-month-old teacup Schnauzer who needs a good home. If interested, call our friend Jan S. at (239) 980-2564.

\Gizmo

This and That
Here are a few other shots from the past week.

Bonnie

Terrier Terror

Wood Stork Preparing for Flight

Look at the Curves on that Schnauzer!

Old Trucks
Here are a few old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 174: Quick Trip to Atlanta and a Frozen Frog

I took a quick trip to Atlanta for most of the week for a client engagement. Great group and a fun session held at the Emory Conference Center Hotel. Here is one fellow (not in my group) who knows how to take a two-hour power nap with style!

Sleeper

During my stay, I had the pleasure of visiting with a friend and colleague that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. We caught up quickly over German beer and Weiner Schnitzel.

Frozen Frog

Frozen Frog

During one chilly morning Pup walk, Jan spotted a flat frog, frozen face-up on the concrete. As cold as the ice in Yellow Knife in January, I figured this green guy was a goner. However, Jan warmed him up in her hands throughout our walk, and eventually movement and croaks returned to this amphibian. Revitalized, Jan let him go with at least a hopping chance of a decent frog life span.

Jan’s Latest Painting
Here is the latest painting by my talented wife.

Orb

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week after a big trip.

Blog 173: Quick Trip to Boise

I took a quick trip to Boise for most to the week for a client engagement. It is starting to cool off in the North Country—should have taken a heavier jacket. :(

Halloween Pup and Witch
Trick-or-Treat night found Bumblebee Mitzy and Mo the Witch running candy quality control.

Mo the Witch and Bumblebee Mitzy

Morning Walk
Here are a few pics taken from early morning walks with Jan and the Pups.

Morning Berries

Morning Colors

Morning Fog

Morning Grasses

Smiling Jerry

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week!

Blog 169: Kicked Out of Camp!

Tuesday Noon: Everybody Out!
Thanks to our illustrious/notorious/ disastrous Congress, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore shut down on Tuesday, with everyone required to vacate by noon.

Words Can't Describe...

So it was one last sunrise over Lake Michigan, one last walk along the beach, and one last stroll through the woods.

Final Sunrise

Beach Mitzy

Beach Jerry

Stones on the Beach

Green Fungi

Reflective Leaf

Reluctantly, we packed up and hit the road, heading south and east across Michigan and into northern Ohio. We took our time traveling the back roads, watching as giant combines rolled relentlessly through fields of soybeans like aliens advancing in the “War of the Worlds.”

Fall Colors
One of our regrets upon leaving Sleeping Bear Dunes was that the colors were only starting to change. Remembering the color show we drank in last year, we were saddened about missing that breathtaking vista. Little did we know that a full box of Crayolas had been opened and painted across the landscape in parts of southern Michigan, Ohio, and across Pennsylvania.

Fall Colors #1

Fall Colors #2

Fall Colors #3

Harrison Lake State Park
We stopped for the night at Harrison Lake State Park at their large, well-manicured campground. The next morning we started our day with an inspection of the park--walking through the woods, down by the water, and along a path bordered by farmland.

Zenia

Foggy Farm

Eddy’s Place
On our way to Tuesday evening’s campground, we drove by a place with several old trucks. Thursday morning, we drove back and met Eddy, the owner of this facility, a picker’s nirvana. (In fact, a scout for the “American Pickers” TV show visited Eddy a few months back.)

Eddy gave Jan and me a wonderful tour, along with a dialogue explaining the background of his collection of antique autos and trucks. He was an interesting and fun character, as Jan described him, and I greatly enjoyed the couple of hours we visited. Here are a few pics of him and a few of his possessions, with three more in the “Old Truck” section, below.

Eddy at the Wheel

Class Dismissed

Bicycle

1951 Fraser Vagabond

Old Vehicle

Wednesday evening we stayed at a Lock 30 Campground near Lisbon, Ohio, 15 minutes from Pennsylvania.

Winchester
Thursday we headed east into Pennsylvania, passing along the south side of Pittsburgh, ending our trek at the Candy Hill Campground in Winchester at the northwestern tip of Virginia and the northernmost point of the Appalachian Mountains.

Old Signs
Here is an old sign attached to an old truck that I shot at Eddy’s, plus one from the Old Sign reserve.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks, all shot at Eddy’s.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week!

Blog 166: Fancy Fungi and a Marvelous Moth

Morning After the Storm
Tuesday night we had one “wail” of a storm--buckets of rain, bolts of lightning, and blasts of thunder that would make the hell hounds howl. Here is a pre-drawn beach shot the morning after the storm.

Morning After the Storm

CC the Cecropi Moth Larva
A fellow camp host brought CC the Cecropi moth larva over to show off his good looks. This bad boy styles with a flair for color. He is fancier than a college coed on break at South Beach! After taking a few pics we returned him to nature, eating his way north (by now he is probably crossing the Mackinaw Bridge to the U.P.).

CC #1

CC #2

Want to see what this handsome fellow will look like as he passes through more larvae stages to become a moth? Check out this link and scroll toward the end: http://www.wormspit.com/cecropia.htm

Fancy Fungi
The moisture-temperature equation reached the optimum balance this week for sprouting mushrooms and their fungi family. Here are several specimens captured during a walk in the woods.

Fungi #1

Fungi #2

Fungi #3

Fungi #4

Fungi #5

Fungi #6

Fungi #7

Fungi #8

Fungi #9

Fungi #10

Fungi #11

Fungi #12

Fungi #13

Fungi #14

This and That
Here is a pic of the Empire donkey and a shot of Jerry and Mitzy in a grove of pine trees.

Donkey

Pups in the Pines

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 165: Yakety Yak

A quiet week up in the north country as the season has ended and the pace has slowed.

This and That
Here are some shots from the park along with a bull yak and cow.

Happy Campers

Beachcomber

Dennis at Dawn

Yak

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
We had this neat old pickup with camper in the campground this week. Also, Jan and I went to an old car and truck show in Traverse City and shot eight old trucks. Two are here and the other six went into our reserve for sparse future weeks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 164: Jerry Gets Promoted

Jerry Gets Promoted
For those of you who don’t know him, our rat terrier, Jerry, is one special guy. Strong as a Russian weightlifter, fast as an Olympic sprinter, and handsome enough to be on the cover of GQ--he’s a natural leader, you might say. Well, not really. Jerry has never had the desire to be an alpha dog, preferring to be the background vocals to lead-singer pups like his sister, Mitzy.

However, all his fine attributes and outstanding work at the campground have finally been recognized. Here is a picture of Jerry accepting the Smoky Bear Achievement Award--the first time it has ever been given to a dog!

Jerry Gets Promoted

I Just Love Aunt Deb

Overwhelmed by emotion, Jerry plants a big one on his hero (and supplier of homemade beef jerky), Aunt Deb.

Lake Michigan Blues
For those of you interested in seeing Jan’s latest painting, “Lake Michigan Blues,” click here.

Kalamazoo Visit
We drove the 200 miles-plus south to visit good friends in Kalamazoo. Naturally, we had a feast. Notice the individual “seated” at the far left.

The Feast

Of course there was a lot of chitchat, banter, and mutual admiration.

Oh, Alex

Halo?

This and That
Here are a couple pics of a good-looking praying mantis and a very proud, new Junior Ranger.

Praying Mantis

Junior Ranger

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three beauties.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 163: Indian Pipes and Black-Eyed Susans

Quick Trip to Dallas
I started off the week with a quick trip to Dallas to work with a new client. Excellent session.

Forest Flora
Here is a shot of lichen and moss, plus the very elusive Indian pipe.

Lichen and Moss

Indian Pipe

This and That
Here are black-eyed Susans, hydrangea, and the Forest Pups on the go.

Black-Eyed Susans

Hydrangea

Forest Pups

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 162: Alex the Slacker

Yes, I admit it…my photographic efforts this week were less than stellar. Therefore, those of you who value brevity will enjoy this week’s work!

Quick Trip to Chicago
I started off the week with a quick trip to Chicago to work with a longtime client. Excellent session.

This and That
Here are a couple of pics taken down on the Lake Michigan beach.

Beach Pup

Beach Bird

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 161: Salty Lakes and Hairy Woodpeckers

Quick Trip to Salt Lake City
I started off the week with a quick trip to Salt Lake City to facilitate a client session of smart professionals. The only bad part about the trip was that I had no chance to admire the beautiful scenery that connects and surrounds this majestic area. Here is one photo from my plane seat flying west on my return just after sunrise.

View Past Salt Lake

Oneida Fair
Just a few miles from our campground is an area of several hundred acres called Port Oneida. The port is long gone but about a dozen farms still exist with the national park service owning/managing over half of them. For two days each year the Friends of Sleeping Bear put on an old-fashioned country fair at five different farms with food, games, crafts, music, vaudeville acts tailored to the area, demonstrations on mowing hay with oxen, blacksmithing, corn shelling, and so on. It was a lot of fun. Here are four pics from the fair.

Fair Musicians

Fair Enactment

Fair Oxen

Fair Weaving

This and That
One afternoon we heard a constant tapping and saw the continuous pendulum motion of a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers busy at our campsite.

Hairy Woodpecker

Things They Didn't Tell Me...

Fallen Tree

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 160: Return of the Prima Ballerina

Donna Marie Pieraciniovich, Prima Ballerina
One of our friends was for several years the prima ballerina at the Galesburg Bar & Opera House. Every Saturday night she would shimmy and glide with pointed toes and arched back to her admiring audience as the house reverberated to the classical tunes played by the Hokey Symphony. Oh, those were the days my friends! Here she is showing that she still has the moves that made her a local legend (notice the classic arch).

Prima Balerina

Beach Sunrise
Here are three shots I took during sunrise on the beach one cloudy morning.

Pre-Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise Admirer

Beach Sunset
Here is a pic of a couple enjoying a Lake Michigan sunset.

Post-Sunset

Postcard
This is Jan’s latest painting, a postcard called “The Big Lake Blues.” It is being mailed as a “get well” message to a friend.

Big Lake Blues

Bouquet
This is a floral arrangement Jan put together. The red background was my idea--really makes the flowers pop, don’t you think?

Bouquet

This and That

Beach Mole

Ranger Preso

I'm Stuffed!

Old Signs
Here are two old signs for the week.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks for your review.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 159: Ralph the Douser Busted

Dash to Diamondale
Jan and I and the Kids took a road trip down to the Lansing, Michigan, area to visit Jan’s brother and his awesome spouse. We enjoyed their family lounging around the pool, driving around to see the local sights, and taking a great boat ride down the Grand River.

Sleeping Baby

Zeke

Mitzy Profile

Boating Jerry

Busted Ralph
Our friend and fellow camp host, Ralph (aka “Ralph the Douser”), celebrated his birthday this week. Alas, he left his lit birthday cake unattended while he dashed to the toilet just as a couple of tough, by-the-book rangers, Dennis the Duke and Mojo Morgan, drove up. Ralph was cited on the spot, with his $2,500 fine to be taken out of his volunteer salary over 76 months.

Busted Ralph

The Rangers Are Watching

This and That
Here are a couple of Lake Michigan shots.

Lake Michigan

Sailboat and Cairn

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two, pretty cool old signs that Jan found and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks found in the hinterland of Michigan.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 157: Morsi Moment and Cool Old Boats

Quick Trip to Amsterdam
I took a quick trip to Amsterdam to run a workshop for a software client of mine. Great people and a lot of fun. My hotel and their office were both out by the airport, but I took a half-day upon my arrival to visit downtown Amsterdam. After a lousy spring, the weather had finally warmed up in The Netherlands, and it seemed like everyone within 100 miles was on bicycles or in boats or cars enjoying the weather. The light from the bright sun was quite harsh, but I took a few pics anyway (several I “enhanced” post-processing).

Morsi Moment
At Dam Square there was an interesting rally in favor of putting the recent Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, back in power. It drew a large crowd and some heated debates within the gathering, but after several minutes of listening to rants and chants, most of the crowd dissipated without physical conflict.

Morsi Moment

Canal Cruise
Along with a global cross-section of humanity, I took a canal cruise of the city called the “Venice of the North.” It was a nice water stroll of some interesting areas of the city and its Dutch-style architecture. Here are pics of two of my fellow travelers and some views from the water.

Sad Woman

Indian Lady

Water View #1

Water View #2

Water View #3

My favorite part of the cruise was the wonderful old boats, both anchored and under power.

Boat #1

Boat #2

Boat #3

Boat #4

Boat #5

Boat #6

Seeing Old Friends
What topped off the whole trip, though, was the chance to have a pleasant dinner with Ger and Ellie, two longtime friends who were once fellow Pine Islanders. Seated directly alongside the Amstel River, in a quiet country berg, we caught up on the past few years.

Back at the Bear
Sunrise on the Beach
Back at Sleeping Bear, I got up before sunrise to admire the dawn skies and relax in the quiet of gentle wind and gentle waves. Here is one shot just at sunrise.

Beach Sunrise

Colorful Towels
Walking back to our campsite, I ran across four sites flying the flags of a day spent on the beach.

Colorful Towels #1

Colorful Towels #2

Colorful Towels #3

Colorful Towels #4

This and That
Here is a shot of the Perfect Lap Pup, our camp host sign, and a pickup load of happy campers excited about their visit.

Camp Host Sign

Perfect Lap Pup

Happy Campers

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 156: Park Art and Parade Pups

A few showers during the week, but warm weather, light breezes, and happy campers.

Greystone Gardens
We stopped off at this farm called Greystone Gardens, and wandered through the greenhouses enjoying the colors and smells of flowers in full bloom.

Hibiscus

Coleus

Butterfly Plant

Black-Eyed Susan

July 4th Parade
The Annual Glenn Arbor Parade went right by the entrance of our Park and we joined hundreds of others sitting and standing alongside the road. I was impressed by the quantity of entrants, the infectious enthusiasm, and the sheer poundage of candy tossed out. It was the only parade I have ever been to where one float distributed cherries and another threw out hot dogs! There was one old truck in the parade and it is shown below in the Old Truck grouping. Here is a parade pup, a couple cool trucks, a Woody, and a quite attractive fivesome.

Parade Pup

Parade Truck #1

Parade Truck #2

Snug Harbor Woody

Pups, Deb, Jan, Maryellen

Art in the Park
Every Friday morning, our friend, Marj, puts on an arts-and-crafts workshop for the little tykes in the campground. Here are a couple of participant pics.

Art in the Park #1

Art in the Park #2

Morning Hikes
I did just two hikes this week, Cottonwood and Alligator Trail.

This and That
Here is a shot of abandoned sandals on the beach, the old Canning Company at Glen Haven, two redheads (Janny took this fun shot), and a chipper enjoying leftover Cheerios at a camp site.

Sandals

Canning Company

Chipper

Two Redheads

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 155: Adios, Federales!

Once again no business travel this week, so I resumed the rhythm started last week. When not camp hosting, I was writing, hiking, and biking. Mitzy and Jerry, unofficial Park Ambassadors, were at our sides constantly, greeting visitors, guarding the Park, and accepting pets from worthy admirers.

Camp Ambassadors

Saint Bernard

Running Like The Wind

Morning Hikes
We had three nice morning hikes this week: Platte Plains Trail - Otter Creek Loop, Shauger Hill Trail, Pyramid Point Trail. All gorgeous, all quiet, as we met no one on any of these. It is remarkable and wonderful to have a national park to ourselves.

Forest Pines

Yellow Fungi

Red Fungi

Toad

Flowers
Of course, there were lots of flowers along our paths.

Iris

Vetch

Forget-Me-Nots

Daisies

Jack In The Pulpit

Bladder Campions #1

Bladder Campions #2

Mini Drones
However, since it was raining a little every day, the mosquitoes were in a frenzy by the end of the week. Even with an ample lathering of Deep Woods Deet, the nasty little critters and their ornery cousins, the deer flies, hovered like government drones, plotting their strikes at the quarter-inch of skin not inundated with repellant. Hence, Friday morning we altered our plans, and avoiding the meadows and forests we took an hour-and-a-half stroll down Esche Beach, one of the finest in Northern Michigan.

Beach Weed

Day Lillies

Beach Sunrise Couple

Canoe Crew

Campground Colleagues
Here are shots of Ralph, Geri, and Deb, fellow camp hosts, and Anna, a volunteer interpreter originally from Russia.

Ralph

Geri

Deb

Anna

Trapped!

Rocky Racoon

While on duty one morning, we found a young raccoon, trapped in a dumpster, coiled up and looking pitiful. We scrounged around and found a ten-foot 1”x4” that we gently laid into the big metal box. Within two minutes, this nimble masked intruder made his escape. As he scampered out and down, I could almost hear him cry out, “Adios, Federales!” I don’t think we have seen the last of young Rocky.

Adios, Federales!

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 154: Writing and Hiking, Hosting and Biking

I had the luxury of no business travel this week, so we hung out at Sleeping Bear. When not camp hosting, I was writing, hiking, and biking.

Campground Office

Morning Hikes
We had four nice morning hikes: 2.5-mile Bay View Farm Loop, 3-mile Alligator Hill Trail, 1.5-mile Windy Moraine, 4-mile Bay View Ridge Loop plus Moosewood Trail. Woods, pastures, and some views of Lake Michigan.

Forest

Charles Olsen Preserve

Grasshopper

Spring Flowers
Of course, there were lots of flowers along the way.

Puccone

Orange Hawkweed

Poppies

Poppy

Wild Rose

Old Fashioned Rose

Old Friend
A dear friend from 20-plus years ago tracked down this blog via Internet search, and then came to visit over lunch and a quick trip to the campground. Here is a pic of this handsome, worldly devil along with his beautiful, charming wife.

Kevin and Aline

Campground Staff
Here is a shot of Dick, a fellow camp host, and another of colleagues Ranger Maryellen and Ranger Morgan. We are fortunate to have a great group of people to work with here.

Camp Host Dick

Ranger Maryellen and Ranger Morgan

Sandy the River Otter
A young river otter we call Sandy (one look at her face and you’ll know why) was out on the beach greeting strangers and trying to make friends. As one would walk along the water, Sandy would follow along.

Sandy the River Otter

Iris Farm
When we were out and about we stopped at an iris farm. Here is a picture of a vase of irises.

Vase of Irisis

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 153: Mackinaw Morning and Return to the Bear

Goodbye, Colorado
We left Colorado for 2013 heading NE on I-76, picking up I-80 east at the Nebraska border. After spending a night in central Nebraska, we traveled across Iowa camping near Iowa City.

Denver to Iowa City

Sibling Stop
We stopped in eastern Iowa where my brother and two sisters drove down to meet us for dinner. It had been three years since our last get together, so it was great catching up.

Iowa City to McHenry to Algoma

Good Friends
Our next stop was to visit good friends who live NW of Chicago. All was fun, but the Kids especially liked the boat ride. Even though we explained the concept of fresh water to the Pups, Mitzy continued to hunt for dolphins. :’>

Jerry and Dee

McDonald's by Boat

Mitzy Dolphin Watching

Door County
We had planned on heading down to the Homer Glen area to visit some other good friends. However, the weather forecast was not favorable for us going around the bottom of Lake Michigan. Hence, we headed north, stopping for two nights in Door County--the Wisconsin peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. We had a wonderful time driving/walking around this very pretty area.

Artist

Trillium

Algoma to Green Bay to Menominee to Macinaw City

Mackinaw Morning
From Door County we headed west to the town of Green Bay, and then north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, taking Highway 2 east along Lake Michigan. After crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, we set up camp in Mackinaw City. The next morning, the pre-dawn sky was the rusty color of old trucks. I grabbed my camera, a couple of lenses, and Gorrilapod to take some pics. Just me and the seagulls.

Here are a few shots taken in pre-dawn light and a 30-second video clip.

Mackinaw Morning #1

Mackinaw Morning #2

Mackinaw Morning #3

Mackinaw Morning #4

Mackinaw Morning #5



Back to the Sleeping Bear
From Mackinaw City we headed south on I-75, at Gaylord we took 32 east and then snaked over to 131 via County Road C42. We took 72 west to Empire, and then north to D.H. Day Campground.

Mackinaw City to Gaylord to Empire

It was great to be back! We spent two months camp hosting here last year, and have returned to assume our old role. All of our previous camp-host friends from last year are here, as well as most of the professional and fun campground staff. Looking forward to a great stay.

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks I shot along the way.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

Old Truck #4

Old Truck #5

See you next week.

Blog 151: Duck Race Double Dipping

Salida to Buena Vista
If you like the outdoors, the area in Colorado we have been staying (Salida/Buena Vista) is just about Nirvana: rafting, hiking, paddling, kayaking, hot springing, goat milking, bingoing, mountain viewing, mountain climbing, duck racing, jeep off-roading, ATVing, fly fishing, and more can all be done via the Arkansas River, National Forests, and really big mountains. The people are colorful as well. Here is a pic of a couple of locals who stopped for “breakfast” at the Coyote Cantina, a joint we frequented.

Cantina Cowboys

Duck Race Revenge
Our campground sponsors an annual Memorial Day Duck Race and it is a blast. The rubber ducks navigate a narrow, skinny creek that goes right behind our RV site.

Now, Jan and I are no stranger to duck racing, having been involved in the Calusa Pine Island Duck Race for 15 years. During that time we have bought hundreds of tickets and never won squat. Here at Chalk Creek we both bought one ticket each, and I placed third and Jan won! Yes, young man, persistence does pay off! Here is a shot of Jan the winner and a few more.

Jan the Winner

My Duck

Finish Line

Life Is Sweet

PaddleFest
While we were there, Buena Vista hosted its annual PaddleFest.

Paddling Pups
Here are some pics of pups that attended, and one shot of Austie taking his first kayak paddle.

PaddleFest Pup #1

PaddleFest Pup #2

PaddleFest Pup #3

PaddleFest Pup #4

Austie's First Paddle

Hamster Balls
As part of the Paddlefest fundraising, there was a “hamster ball” concession, where kids (or anyone) could step into a plastic bag the size of a huge ziplock, have it blown up with air to form a ball, then be pushed into a pool of water and try to run like a hamster on a treadmill. Here is grandson Austie giving it a try.

Hamster Ball #1

Hamster Ball #2

Move to Crawford
After the Memorial Day crowds had dispersed, on Tuesday we broke camp and motored our way south from Nathan on 285 South, turning west on U.S. 50 at Poncha Springs, stopping at Gunnison for subs, continuing on through the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Instead of following the most direct route, we picked up 92, going west and north along the West Elk Scenic Byway and the east side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The mountain roads where as crooked as a politician in an election year. Snowy mountains, gurgling creeks, greening hills, and black and deep canyons bordered our way the last 30 miles until we set up camp at Crawford State Park.

Angus

Curecanti

Campsite View

Arrowleaf Arnica #1

Arrowleaf Arnica #2

Scarlet False Mallow

Black Canyon East Side
Late afternoon we drove the dozen miles to the east side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park where we took a short hike and then drove the park road stopping at overlooks. This is one impressive gorge. We’d been to the west side twice before, but this side is superior--great views and very little traffic.

Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon Hike
Early one morning we drove to the North Rim Ranger station to hike four miles at 7,700 feet on the North Vista Trail, going to Exclamation Point and back. On the way we saw deer and elk. The muddy trail took us through meadows and woods with several vistas overlooking the canyon. We shared the experience with bunnies, chips, meadow larks, magpies, and falcons as we wandered among lupine, larkspur, early paint, cannis, spring beauty, false lupine, and flowering cactus. There were no other humans in sight.

Bunny

Meadow View

Indian Paintbrush

North Vista Trail

Hike Vista

Hiking Tree

Foxes at Play
On the ride back to camp, we ran across six young foxes playing alongside the road. I was lucky enough to get a few shots of these playful pups as we watched them romp for a couple minutes.

Foxes

Back to Highline Lake State Park
Two years ago we camp hosted at Highline Lake State Park about 30 miles northwest of Grand Junction, close to the Utah border. While there, we made great friends with our camp host colleagues and wanted to see them again. To get there, we decided to once again take the road less traveled, taking 65 North, the Grand Mesa Skyway.

Grand Mesa #1

Grand Mesa #2

Grand Mesa #3

After setting up camp at Highline, we reminisced over dinner and s’mores over a campfire. The next morning, I hiked the trail around Highline Lake along with my small buddies, Mitzy and Jerry.

Highline Lake Weed

Blooming Catus

Milkweed

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks from Colorado.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

Old Truck #4

Old Truck #5

See you next week.

Blog 147: Fun Time, Full Time

Fun Time, Full Time
Now that the house is behind us…

Leaving Home

…we took off Sunday morning, heading out on the 2,000-mile journey north from St. James City, through Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, and on to Parker. Colorado, Friday afternoon as planned.

Our Travels

Landscape

Jerry

Mitzy and Jerry

For the most part, our first full week of full-timing was uneventful with the usual road construction and a couple detours. However, we did experience the coldest, snowiest May day for 107 years across Kansas.

Kansas Snow

Coach Cat
Our efforts to find Chico, our 15-year-old, Mexican-born cat, a new home proved unsuccessful (many thanks to those of you who attempted to find him a home), so we brought him with us. I had envisioned cat-dog fights, hours of endless meowing, and unanticipated hassles. I could not have been more wrong. Chico adapted to coach life like a goat in a landfill. He now acts like he owns the place!

Chico

Birthday Bash
We arrived in time celebrate both grandkids’ birthdays. Here is a shot of Austin playing with his buddies, and Natty and her Mom.

Opening Gifts

Natty and Her Mom

Flowers

Old Trucks
Here are a couple of old trucks for your review.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 146: Hour-By-Hour, From Bad to Worse

Trip to Chicago
I spent most of the week in Chicago, working with a client in helping to launch a big engagement.

Day One: Hour by hour, worse and worse
Our launch team consisted of great people, and Day One went well. However, as the day progressed in length, my voice recessed in volume. By the end of our session, my vocabulary was reduced to teenager speak--a few grunts and groans separated by chunks of silence. That evening was even worse--ordering dinner at the hotel was an ordeal for me and my waitress, as my tools of communication were limited to fingerpointing and head nodding. I went to bed pondering how I was to facilitate Day Two, and even more disturbing, I had a presentation to give on Day Three to people from around the country. A consultant without a voice is like an artist without a brush--quite difficult to do the job!

Day Two: Thank goodness for technology and high-school typing
I felt that the only way I could give a speech on Day Three was to rest my voice during all of Day Two. Yet, I still had an important assignment to complete. Luckily, the stars aligned. My client has a great set-up in their conference rooms where you can directly hook your laptop into a large HD TV on the wall. You can switch quickly to different documents much faster than with a traditional projector.

In addition, back in 1970 I took a class in high school on typing, and was able to do quite well. This combination of technology and learned skills (plus patience and understanding on the part of the others on the team) allowed Day Two to be successful. As the rest of the group talked, I was able to type out suggestions and respond to questions relatively quickly. I was happy with the outcome, but exhausted as I headed back, took an early dinner, and went to bed hoping my voice would return for the next day.

Day Three: The Great Flood
I awoke, cautiously tried my voice, and determined that it had improved to 80% intelligible and only 20% garble--I could give my talk! Feeling good, I walked through the cold pelting rain into the rental car of my Swiss colleague. As we pulled up to the frontage road, we gazed upon the flooded areas and our only road of escape that was covered by a couple feet of water racing like the rapids on a raft float. Ahead was an abandoned car in the median and a quarter mile of rushing water between us and the main road. As we drove/floated through the running water, I was picturing us barefoot and shivering, holding our bags over our head, trying to keep our balance as we trudged from our abandoned car. Not to worry, we made it safe and sound with a good story to tell.* The speech went well, and after some flying delays due to the horrific weather I made it home that evening.

*I left after my presentation, however, the other members of my team and scores of others had to be rescued from the hotel by trucks later in the day as the flooding forced the closure of the Marriott.

Weekly Photos
Alas, this week I only produced one photo worth sharing. Here is an airplane window shot at sunset somewhere over Georgia.

Georgia Sunset

However, just for fun, I pulled out some old pre-blog shots from different locations that you might find interesting. Let me know if you can guess where they were taken.

Surfer

Travelers

Wolves

Asian Man

Portrait of a Friend

Casper

Old Trucks
Here are two not-published old truck pics.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

P.S. Motoring Across America 2013 is getting closer!

Blog 145: Mitzy in the Meadow

Quick Trip to DC
I had a super three-day session with a great client in DC. While there, a record was set for the highest temperature in 90 years (94 degrees) and the highest pollen count (at least I think it had to be a record)--there is a downside to cherry blossoms, you know.

Around the Island
It is getting quieter on the Island as the Snowbirds fly (or drive) back up North. Here are pics of a staring osprey, a beautiful weed, and Mitzy in the meadow.

Staring Osprey

Beautiful Weed

Mitzy in the Meadow

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 141: Chilly Chicago and a Tortoise Butt

Around the Island
Out on walks, we discovered a Muscovy duck and her brood, and the Kids were fascinated by a Gopher Tortoise ( I was able to capture her as she entered her den).

Muscovy Duck and Brood

Tortoise Butt

Quick Trip to Chicago
I flew to Chicago to give a keynote speech, however, I had a few hours to walk around the city to take a few shots. If I got bored working in my room, I just opened the curtain to watch the crane operator--he was at eye level. Now there is a guy with a fun job!

View from My Room

Pretty Chicago

Chilly Chicago

Chicago Pigeon

Chicago Duck

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 140: Rosy Cheeks and Daring Doves

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Island Pup

Daring Doves

Chilly Friends

Footprints

Island Ride #1

Island Ride #2

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 139: Pampered Princess and a Pelican on a Piling

Hot and muggy then cool and chilly…the winter weather patterns in Florida vacillated this week like a teenager contemplating a first date. I write this Sunday morning listening to the patter of raindrops on the metal roof--a soothing rhythm that offers reassurance that nature is still aligned with the universe.

On a less philosophical note, it was a busy week on the Island doing lots of writing/developing/reviewing/adjusting/enhancing work outputs while seriously planning Motoring Across America ’13. Yes, it is almost time to fire up BERT (our Big Expensive Road Traveler) and head West.

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Island Cat

Pink Flower

Squirrel

Lizard

Ready for Take-Off

Don't Jump!

Life Is Sweet...

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 138: Take the Long Way Home

Quick Trip to Boston
I started off the week with a chilly trip to Boston to begin an engagement with a new client. As I walked from my hotel to their office in the biting wind tearing at my coat and through the crunching snow numbing my feet, it reminded me of Florida, only different. Great group, with folks from Germany, France, Spain, Holland, and Sweden.

Take the Long Way Home
We had driven from the island to Apopka (NW of Orlando) so that Jan and the Kids could visit relatives while I was gone. On our drive back, we decide to take the long way home…our wish was granted :’>>>

About 70 miles from home heading southbound on County Road 660 just north of Limestone, I watched with annoyance, then displeasure, then dismay, as the dial on the temperature gauge marched from “C” to “H” faster than Sherman took Atlanta. As the Borg from Star Trek would say, “resistance would be futile,” so I pulled over off the road around 2:40 p.m., looked under the hood, and then turned off the engine. Luckily there was a little shade, as the temperature was around 83 degrees.

Jan pulled up “auto repair, Arcadia FL” on her iPhone, and I talked with Tex, the proprietor of Tex’s Auto Repair. He said he’d do his best to get us up and moving, and he’d send a tow truck right out. Being 14.7 miles away, we hoped the wrecker would arrive in a half hour or so…a couple hours later Bobby Suggs in the Bobby Suggs wrecker pulled up, loaded our car, and the five of us pulled into Tex’s place at 5:07 p.m.

Tex did a quick but thorough analysis and determined the cause of the problem was a stuck thermostat. Since it was after five, his phone calls attempting to locate a thermostat all went to voicemail. Faced with staying another day (or two or three) in Arcadia, Bobby agreed to take us the remaining 55 miles back home. By the way, Tex would not take a penny for his help--always great to deal with people of integrity. Here is a pic of a smiling Bobby unloading our Honda at home (actually, he was a very nice, interesting guy. Plus his charge seemed quite fair for the distance of the haul).

I'm in the Money...

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Happy Pup

Pelican

Seascape

Handsome Couple

A Day at the Office

Watch What Happens...

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 137: Chowder Champ and One Big Fish

Chowder Cook Off
This week was the second annual Pine Island Boat Club’s Cook Off. Although we had other plans, the past commodore of the Club demanded that Jan participate, as she was the winner of the Inaugural Chile Cook Off held last year (another proud day in the Alexander family).

Fifteen contestants of varying styles and demeanors had prepared their chowders with glee and gusto. Boat Club members (plus three unrecognized people who walked in from the street), ambled down the chowder table, sampling, scrutinizing, and sizing up the selection. All the while the smells of clams, shrimp, grouper, and other mysteries blended with spices, sauces, creams, and broths floating through the air like a Mozart concerto in an auditorium.

As is always the case with Pine Island contests, very strict rules were in place for the judging. No snooty culinary “experts” were to impose their personal taste standards on this group! Just like in Washington, tasters voted with their pocketbooks…if you liked the chowder, you put dough in the dish, currency in the can, bucks in the bucket. Sneaking in a few extra bucks for a spouse or a friend was not frowned upon, but admired.

Chowder Champ

Tallying the Votes

PIBC Cookoff

Isn't This Fun?

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Bird

Pink Flowers

Jerry

Mitzy

Seagrape Leaves

Eagle

What Are You Staring At?

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 136: Attack of the Giant Tomatoes

Boat Club Meeting
Here are three “comic-tized” shots from the last Pine Island Boat Club meeting.

The Hills Are Alive...

Oh, My...

Flip-Flops

Hot Dogs and Potatoes Recipe
Last week’s blog prompted some requests for Jan’s Hot Dogs and Potatoes recipe. Here you go:
  • Oscar Meyer hot dogs, sliced lengthwise
  • Yellow onion, cut in rings
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • Yukon gold potatoes (with skin) sliced
  • Tomato soup
  • Water (1/2-can for each can of soup you use)

Fry the dogs with onions in olive oil until both are pretty much deeply browned (maybe almost burned). After the dogs are almost burned, add the potatoes and soup. Season with Montreal seasoning, cover, and cook until the potatoes are done. The soup gravy gets thicker the longer it rests.

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Bird on a Wire

Pine Island Boat

Pine Island Palms

Twin Palms

Pelican

Two Tomatoes

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 134: Hokey Pokey

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Sunset #1

Sunset #2

The Pups

Hokey Pokey

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 133: Irritating Eagles and Ornery Ospreys

Aerial Combat
I was walking the Pups on a windy Thursday afternoon, when a streak caught my eye. I looked up and saw a mature bald eagle flying across the sky at mach 1, with two screaming ospreys in hot pursuit. All three big birds would change direction as quickly as campaigning politicians, diving and dodging, zigging and zagging, all across the horizon. It reminded me of the WWII dogfight footage from the George Lucas movie Red Tails, except the pace I observed was much faster.

As I watched this aerial display of flying prowess and precision, I contemplated the rationale for this dramatic but dangerous behavior. Could a change of diet have caused the eagle to be aggressive? Might an exotic virus be affecting its central nervous system? Possibly global warming had raised the body temperature and heightened mood swings?

Then it struck me like an answer to a Cash Cab question, the eagle must have been bored! What could be more cheering to the Big Bird then messing with the high-strung, totally neurotic, one-level-down-on-the-avian-food-chain osprey? Fly within 50 feet of their nest and you can count on an osprey counterattack as surely as you will find cold beer in fisherman’s cooler. What a spectacle! I wasn’t fast enough to capture the eagle-osprey interaction with my camera, but I got one decent shot of an osprey launching into the sky to join the foray. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Osprey

Around the Island
Here are a few random shots from around the Island this week.

Jerry

Mitzy

Floating Coconut

I Want Fish

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks...well, the appropriate classification of one of them is up for consideration.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.


Blog 132: Island Heat

Around the Island
Sunny and unusually warm (low 80 degrees) week on the Island. I enjoyed a nice pattern each day--early morning walk/bike ride, work most of the day, followed by bike ride/cart ride. Old British TV shows at night. Not bad, eh?

Here are a few shots taken on the Island this week.

Red Flower

Bird of Paradise

Foggy Morning

Morning Reflection

Pondering Eagle

Did You Hear the One...

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 131: Mitzy Mystery

Around the Island
Here are a few shots taken on the Island this week: Stella and her mom going on a “walk,” Mitzy solving a mystery, and a couple variations of a Pine Island sunrise.

Stella and Her Mom

Brown Swiss

Pine Island Sunset #1

Pine Island Sunset #2

Retiring?
I have had questions regarding if I was retiring since we will be RVing full-time. The answer is no--I can work anywhere there is web access and an airport within an hour or so. I enjoy my profession and will still be researching/writing/speaking/advising/training on improving the customer experience and building effective services businesses.

Alex

New Year’s Eve Video Shoot
To emphasize the point about not retiring, while most of you were enjoying the holiday, I was busy at work on New Year’s Eve. With help from Suzanne and Jan, we shot a video for marketing my business this week--lights, boom mic, stereo recorder--the whole shebang.

Stuff for Sale
I’ve added an old butcher block and a couple of cool electric lanai heaters to my “stuff for sale” listing. If interested, check it out here.

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.