Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander



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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 292: Dogs and Rabbits, Turkeys and Bear

We took the easy but slow hour-and-a-half journey from the Chatfield State Park campground in SW Denver to the Cheyenne Mountain State Park campground in SW Colorado Springs, about 10 miles south of the Air Force Academy and close to the Cheyenne Mountain of NORAD fame.

The last time we camped here was when the big fire burned a few years ago, with soaring temperatures, darkened skies, and the ever-present smell of heavy smoke. We could clearly see the fires that threatened the Air Force Academy and much of the Colorado Springs area. This year was much different. Heavy winter snows and lots of spring rain kept everything a bright green color. It rained almost every day, and hail touched the ground twice during our stay. The park has a heavy population of rabbits, deer, prairie dogs, and wild turkeys for the pups to watch and try to chase. In addition, a juvenile bear was sited directly behind our site, but we never saw him.

Here is a view from our campsite.

Cheyenne Mt. Campsite View

Dog Parks
Like so many places in Colorado, the area has several very nice off-leash dog parks. Here are a few dog pics from our stay (including one bluebird that lives in one of the parks).

Bluebird

Black and Grey in Sunflowers

Black and White in Field

Black and White with Ball

Black Dog in Field

Bounding Brownie

Happy Gunner

Jack and Gunner

Running Brindle

Running Loki

Three-Legged Pup in Field

Pretty Girl

Wolfish Smile

It's my ball, Bucko

Where is Jack?


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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 291: Big Horns and Yellow Bellies

Ouray KOA to Chatfield State Park

From the Ouray KOA we went north on 550 past Ridgway to Montrose, where we fueled up and headed east on 50 through the Curecanti National Recreation Area, past Gunnison and turning north on 285 just a few miles west of Salida. We then went up north a few miles to spend one night at our Chalk Creek Campground in Nathrop. The next morning, we took 285 north until turning east on 24 through Hartsel, Florissant, Woodland Park, and over to Colorado Springs. It had been a few years since we took 24, and I had forgotten what a wonderful trip it was. We headed north on I-25, then took 85 north, Titan Road, and finally, Roxborough Road.

Mt. Evans Day Trip

Mt. Evans Road Trip

This is a Colorado Scenic Byway that we had never been on before. My buddy, Mers, and I took the back roads that were, well—scenic! It is the highest paved highway in the US, is the home of the highest observatory in the US, and bighorn sheep and mountain goats may have the highest level of people comfort of any herds in the US. Just another gorgeous Colorado destination.

Mt. Evans Climbers

Summit Lake Park II

View from Mt. Evans

Mt. Evans Goats

RMNP Double-Dip
One day, Mers accompanied us on the road less traveled—up the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. We were especially hunting moose, and we were not disappointed.

Momma Moose

On another day, Mers, John, and I took a trip up the east side of RMNP through Estes Park. We did a big circle taking the Old Fall River Road, a one-way dirt road up to the Alpine Visitor Center and came back on the paved, but spectacular, Trail Ridge Road. I never get tired of this place. Here is a shot of a mountain view, the almost-always present elk, and a yellow-bellied marmot.

RMNP Elk

RMNP Mountain View

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

G-Kid Sports
Camping close to the G-kids, we had a chance to see Nattie’s soccer and Austie’s football.

Run, Nattie, Run

Go, Girl

Austie Football

Austie Football II

Chatfield Dog Park
Of course, we visited this amazing dog park.

Black and White Pup

Pretty Mitzy

Run, Jack, Run

White and Speckled Pup

Old Trucks
Here are a couple of trucks from the trips to RMNP.

Flowery Old Truck

Old Lyons Fire Truck

See you soon.

Blog 290: Last Dollar and Red Mountain

Priest Gulch to Ouray KOA

From our Priest Gulch campground, we headed north on 145 through Rico and upon reaching Placerville we headed east on 62 to Ridgway and then south on 550 to our Ouray KOA just north of Ouray. Curvy and steep, but another beautiful drive.

This is another very nice campground in an even nicer location. Ouray is a classy old mining town with a lot of tourist appeal, and just seven miles away is the old cowboy town of Ridgway. Scores of trails to hike and forest roads to explore.

Red Mountain Road Trip
We headed south on Highway 550 (The Million Dollar Highway), and then turned south onto Red Mountain Road, another beautiful scenic byway. As we climbed higher and higher on this hairpin-loving road, the spring flowers appeared, providing a palette of color on the mountainside. Close to the top we had to pull over as a rushing stream cut the road in two.

Trail Blazing

Red Mountain Rushing

Here is a view from the mountain.

View from Red Mountain

Last Dollar Road Trip

Lost Dollar Day Trip

We took another fun road trip on the Last Dollar Road to Telluride. There was a hard rain the night before, so we were going through “puddles,” with some large enough to dunk a Holstein (well, it seemed that way when we drove through them). Wonderful time!

Cows and Mountain

Last Dollar Road Aspens

Last Dollar Road Vista

Ouray from Trail Head

Old Trucks
Here is an old Ridgway fire truck and an old rescue truck from Ouray.

Old Ridgway Fire Truck

Old Rescue Truck

See you next time!

Blog 289: Priest Gulch

Blue Spruce to Priest Gulch

From Blue Spruce, we dropped down and around through Durango, up to Mancos, sliding through Dolores, and out into the boonies to our Priest Gulch Campground.

Priest Gulch
This is one gorgeous campground with the rushing Dolores River sloshing and spilling right through the middle.

Priest Gulch Sign

Trails
Great trails all around.

Bear Creek Trail Sign

Calico Trail

Priest Gulch Trail Sign

Of course, the Pups love the hikes.

Thundering Pups III

Towering Aspen

Priest Gulch Trail

4th of July Parade
Over Independence Day we ventured up to Rico for an old-fashioned parade.

Rico Parade

Rico Parade II

Parade Watching Jack

Parade Watching Mitzy

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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

See you soon.

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 287: Slow Ducks and High Peaks

Cochiti Lake to Chalk Creek

North to Colorado
Leaving Cochiti Lake we backtracked south, got on I-25 North, took the 599 bypass, and continued north on 285. Our plan was to take 285 north all the way to Highway 17 just a few miles into Colorado and continue the 12 miles to our campground. Good plan…good roads…only 158 miles. However…driving a few miles past Espanola, I noticed that the highway sign I spotted did not declare Highway 285 as expected. It said Highway 68. Oops! A ways back we turned slightly right instead of slightly left. No big deal, I thought, thinking that there had to be several east-west highways that could get us quickly back on track. Not bothering to check my maps, Jan plugged in the phone Google Map and we followed their plan.

It told us to take 570 North, then 115 North to 567 West, where we would then link back up to 285 at Taos Junction. Sounded straightforward. However, a few alarm bells started to chime in the back of my head immediately upon getting on to 570, as the road was very narrow, very steep, and very curvy. One had to hug the middle of the road, look way ahead for oncoming traffic, and use both lanes in certain areas. So, it was a slow and a little tense driving. However, the views were spectacular.

In many places the road was less than twenty yards from the waters of the Rio Grande and almost at eye level. We were in the Rio Grande Norte National Monument and on the Taos Indian Reservation—beautiful country. We passed several campgrounds, and one of them (Pilar) looked big enough to camp in—we will consider in the future.

Back to our journey: We slowly wound our way around and were within a mile-and-a-half of linking up to our next road when we spotted a tall, very skinny bridge crossing the Rio Grande. Jack and I got out to explore. The good news was that the one-lane bridge was tall enough to pass under, and there was no sign stating a weight limit (that was probably a good sign). We walked over the bridge and saw that the narrow dirt road on the other side appeared to go straight up into the mountain—a 12%, or more, grade.

After staring at this scenario for 30 seconds, I waved down a local. He said the road was passable for many vehicles, except that the first curve was a doosey, and no way we could take the coach. So, on to Plan B. We backtracked down to Highway 68, turned east instead of west and took it all the way through Taos. From there we took 64 West, passed the Taos Brewing Company, over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and on to Tres Piedras, where we picked up 285, entered Colorado, and went on to our campground. Another small adventure.

Antonito, Colorado
Conejos River Campground is one of our favorites. It sits along the Conejos River and adjacent to the San Juan Mountains and the Rio Grande National Forest. At 8,500 feet there are views of mountains from all sides. I really like walking the pups down to the river and letting them run off leash. We had a nice time visiting with Pam and Gary, the owners, and told them we look forward to our next visit.

From here we turned east back to Antonito, and then north on 285. There were snow-capped mountains all along the way of this scenic drive.

Nathrop, Colorado

Chalk Creek Sign

We have been to the Chalk Creek Campground many times over Memorial Day, and it has turned into a family tradition with the G-kids and their mom and dad driving down from Parker (SE side of Denver) spending the long weekend with us. We handpicked our site a year in advance finding a large one directly on the river, close to the playground, with a big fire ring for roasting ‘smores and telling tales. Here is a pic I shot from our galley window.

View from Galley

There are lots of things to do in this area: hot springing, horseback riding, rafting, water sliding, paddling, ghost-towning, mountain viewing, duck racing, candy bar bingo-ing, playgrounding, scenic driving, hot-dog roasting, and ‘smors-ing, to name a few. This year both Natalie and Austie won at the big Candy Bar Bingo event.

A Winner!

Another Winner!

Carry a Big Stick

Alas, none of our ducks took the top prize in the Annual Duck Race. (We are all past winners :’), but it was fun nonetheless.

The Ducks Are Off!

White-Faced Pup

Happy Campers

Resting Jack

The campground is in the heart of the Collegiate Mountains, the range with the largest number of 14teeners in Colorado. If you like mountains, you have a 270-degree view from most anywhere. The large amount of snow that Colorado has received really emphasizes both the size and the majesty. For a few hours when Mom and Dad gave us a break, we took a drive up in the mountains in the Pike San Isabel National Forest.

Silos and Mountains

Collegiate Peaks

On another day, we took the backroads south of Poncha Springs and up to O’Haver Lake. We hope to be back next year.

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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 286: White Sands and Green Chili Cheeseburgers

Brantley Lake State Park to Cochiti Lake

From Brantley Lake State Park we took 285 North to Artesia, and then went west on Highway 82. At Mayhill we entered the Sacramento Mountains and traveled several 6 percent grades and reached over 9,500 feet at Cloudcroft. Really pretty. Entering Almogordo, we headed north a few miles on Highway 54 to our campground.

Boot Hill RV Sign

Boot Hill RV Park, Alamagordo, NM
We have stayed at this park before. A good place for a night or two, sites are level and long and the place is quite clean.

White Sands National Monument
At 6:30 the next morning we took the 35-minute drive to White Sands National Monument. Jack had been pestering me all spring as to when we would go back there, and I was glad to get him off my case. We were the second car entering the monument at 7:03, and we drove about two-thirds through the park until we found the spot we wanted. I took Jack and Mitzy off their leashes and the fun began. Jack bolted through the white gypsum sand running at full speed in big circles like an asteroid going hot. I spent about an hour shooting this black blast blur with the wide grin up and down the dunes.

White Sands National Monument Sign

Jack at White Sands

Jack at White Sands II

Jack at White Sands III

Jack at White Sands IV

Mitzy, though, tired of the excitement and wandered back to the car. She had had enough fun.

Mitzy at White Sands

We then took our time driving back slowly, stopping several times to shoot the yucca. Also, I found a fun photo opportunity of some guys having breakfast.

Happy Campers

Yucca II

Yucca III

Here is a yucca that Janny shot.

Jan's Yucca

After stopping by the visitor center for Jan to get her passport stamped, we bought a tee shirt and a burrito to share on the drive back to Boot Hill.

We hooked up the car and took 54 north then west on NM 3. We then took 285 north to I-25 south where we hung a right. At exit 264 we took NM 16 and followed the signs past the Cochiti Lake Dam.

Cochiti Lake COE

Cochiti Lake Campground Sign

Cochiti Lake Campground is another Corps of Engineers project. This secluded area west of Santa Fe featured very big sites with private areas. We were up on top of a hill with a view of the lake and the mountains.

Coach at Cochiti Lake

Galardia

Cochiti is within the boundaries of the Cochiti Reservation, which borders other reservations on all sides. Each has their own Pueblo, a Governor, and a ruling council.

Day Trip to Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument Sign

We decided to take a side trip to Bandelier National Monument. As the crow flies, it is only 12 miles from Cochiti Lake to Bandelier. However, as Google Maps points out, the best route is a 75-mile jaunt, south, east, north, and then west. Yet, when I studied my New Mexico Road and Recreation Atlas, the trip would be only 32 miles if one was willing to take 14 miles of non-paved road. Confident in our off-road ability, we set out on National Forest Road 268 planning on taking Bland Canyon through the Jemez Mountains, connecting with Highway 4 east to the monument.

Cochiti Lake to Bandelier National Monument

We quickly learned that road 268 was basically a riverbed covered with rocks and rutted tire tracks with a stream running through the middle. The rough going was really slow for about three miles and continued to get more challenging. As things continued to worsen Jack and I got out of the Jeep to scout ahead by foot. Turning a corner, our “road” was blocked off by a farmer’s fence, making further progress nonnegotiable. Sadly, we backtracked, but started developing a plan B.

Alex on No Road

Plan B

Cochiti Lake to Bandelier National Monument - Long Route

We drove south on 22, went south on I-25 for a few miles exiting at San Felipe Pueblo onto historic Route 66. At Bernalillo we turned northwest on 550 all the way to San Ysidro where we headed north then east. Here we found three nice old trucks (see below).

View Past Bernalillo

Each mile the scenery became more beautiful as we slowly went upward climbing the Jemez Mountains through the Santa Fe National Forest peaking at over 9,000 feet. Jemez Springs is gorgeous, and as we continued we had the Valles Caldera National Reserve on our left, a huge region of ancient volcanic activity--some of the prettiest scenery we have seen. After a short stop at Bandelier, we continued on the White Rock, then took 502 east, and then 285 south.

Valles Caldera Sign

Green Chili Cheeseburgers
By then it was early afternoon and we were quite hungry, but decided it was worth a few more miles and a few more minutes to drive to one of our favorite towns in New Mexico, Madrid. So instead of getting back on I-25 south to return to our campground, we took NM 14 (the Turquoise Trail) south to this old hippy, artsy town. We parked and took the steps up to the deck of the dog-friendly Mineshaft Cantina. They specialize in craft draft beers and homemade margaritas, and green chili cheeseburgers.

Jan and I are green chili cheeseburger fanciers, having tasted several versions all over New Mexico, including those from the much-touted Buckhorn Tavern and the Owl Bar and Grill in San Antonio. However, we both agreed that our favorite is the version served at the Mineshaft Cantina—a huge burger of beef cooked exactly how you order it with cheese, salsa, deep-fried hatch chilies on the bun, and a mound of French fries on the side. Enough spice to add a little zing to the already mouth-drooling taste. Here is Jan’s pic of her plate. Great place to hang…then back to camp. All in all, a 214-mile road trip—a little longer than intended, but much better than expected. Wow!

Green Chili Cheeseburger

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from San Ysidro.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 285: Hot and Windy, Dry and Dusty

Cranes Mill to Carlsbad

Heading north and east for 30 miles, we then hooked up again with I-10 West on our journey into West Texas. I-10 is like a friend that you enjoy for a couple-day visit, but then you start to yearn to move on—we were reaching the yearning point.

When you hear the words “West Texas” what thoughts come to mind? What feelings? What images? For me it is simple: “hot and windy, dry and dusty.” We traveled for 317 miles in mid- to high-90s temperature before stopping in Fort Stockton for the evening

Hilltop RV Park Sign

Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton
For one night, this was a good choice (I can’t imagine spending more than one night in Ft. Stockton, though). The place was well run and adorned with metal art throughout the park.

Metal Burro

3 Musicians

There was also a cool sign on a hill across from the campground.

Ft. Stockton Sign

Brantley Lake State Park, Carlsbad, NM
From Stockton, we headed west on 285 all the way to the New Mexico border. The entire way through Texas the west wind whirled, sending streams of orange-ish red dust across a highway worn out by thousands of trucks, mostly hauling oil pipeline equipment and supplies. It seemed like every fifth truck was adorned with an “oversized load” sign on its grill with hunks of machines or metals or materials hanging over the side and out the rear. The trash on the side of the road reminded one of the littered streets in bad Detroit neighborhoods. Not pleasant. However, once we hit the state line, the road improved, the traffic lightened, and the roadside looked as New Mexico had a little more pride in appearances. We continued on 285 North through Carlsbad and up to our campsite in Brantley Lake State Park north of town.

Brantley Lake State Park Sign

Brantley Lake View

We thoroughly enjoyed this isolated area out in the desert of New Mexico. There were lots of bunnies and hundreds of those long-eared, long-legged Texas jack rabbits. Of course, Jack and Mitzy loved them.

Along with other critters there were lots of scaled quail, mockingbirds, grackles, roadrunners, and lizards.

Twin Peaks

Mourning Dove

Roadrunner

Carlsbad Caverns
Of course the most famous attraction in the Carlsbad area is the Carlsbad Caverns. Several years ago we wanted to tour them but arrived too late in the day. Last year I had put a plan together for Jan to drop me off for two hours while she and the Pups took the drive through the park (Jan is not crazy about caves). When I went to get my ticket, I was informed the elevators were broken. Yes, I could walk, but that would extend my visit to five hours. Hence, we put it off another year.

There was one upside though, Al Roker and an NBC camera crew was at the visitor center when we arrived. They were shooting sessions for their 100 Years of National Park series. Jan greeted Al, and he responded with a big smile, and I spent some time talking to the crew.

Carlsbad Caverns Sign

This year, however, I learned from my past mistake—like a senior checking out final exam results, I monitored the NPS Carlsbad Caverns website daily to make sure that all was a go. I learned that elevator maintenance was planned for the days prior to my trip, so no worries. However, the night before, I found that the maintenance had been extended one day! Oh, brother—I thought I was jinxed.

Luckily, we had a little flexibility in our schedule so I set back my trip one day.

I arrive 8:26 a.m., got my ticket, and at 8:29 I was in line for the first elevator (8:30) to take me to the Big Room, 850 feet below. A cool thing for me was, unlike most caves, they did not require being chaperoned in a tour group, and you could not only take pictures but also use a tripod. I spent two hours walking and photographing this immense cave, only seeing a few people along the way. Crazy impressive. Here a few shots.

Caverns I

Caverns II

Caverns III

Caverns IV

Caverns V

Caverns VI

Caverns VII

Caverns VIII

Note to future visitors of the caverns: Go early. When I exited the caves, people where in long lines to get in. There were six buses parked with hundreds of school kids streaming, screaming, and scampering to take the tours.

Can’t Pass a Food Truck
Jan and I love food truck cuisine, especially Southwest food truck cuisine. We stop as much as we can. On my return to camp, I stopped at the La Patrona food truck to bring home their special burrito and a torta for our lunch. We sat outside, alert pups at our feet, desert before us, and tasting some of the best food in the world. It just doesn’t get any better.

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

Old Truck 46

Old Truck 47

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 278: Down to Punta Gorda

Back at the Loop
One last time this season we had the chance to do the Loop.

Blue-Winged Teal

Don't Talk Back

Little Bird

Little Blue on Branch

Mystery Bird

Tri

Yawning Night Heron

Lake Apopka

After our six-week stay, we packed up and headed southwest to our campground in Punta Gorda.

Orlando NW Orange Blossom KOA to Gulf View RV Resort

Venice Dog Beach
Less than an hour away is a dog beach in Venice. The pups just loved it. We will be going back.

Beach Pup

Do Not Mess with Mitz

Dog Beach

Hoss

Little Beach Pup

Run, Jack, Run

Run, Jack, Run II

Structure

Venice Rookery
We stopped by the Venice Rookery. A little early in the season, but we saw one great Blue with a couple young ones.

Mom and Babies

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 273: Badlands and Bark Park

Badlands National Park
From the Black Hills we headed east, stopping at Wall, South Dakota. We took the scenic drive through Badlands National Park.

Badlands 3

Corn Palace
We spent a night at Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the one and only Corn Palace.

Corn Palace

Mitzy on Indian Lap

From there we continued east and south, cutting across Iowa and Illinois into Indiana, where we dropped the coach off at Wakarusa for some service and repairs at the Thor plant. From there we took the hour drive north and a little east to stay with a good friend in Kalamazoo (we had lived in that area for many years, a couple decades ago).

Jamer's Flowers 5

Dog Park
We found a great dog park to run the pups. Here are some shots.

Posing Pup

Resting Jack

Run, Jack, Run

St. Bernard

Brown Dog with Footbal

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

Jim's Old Truck 4

Jim's Old Truck 5

Jim's Old Truck 6

Alex and Mitzy

See you next time.

Travel Blog 272: Black Hills and Bold Bunnies

Mountain View RV Park to Beaver Lake Campground

On to South Dakota
From Sundance we took I-90 east across the border into South Dakota. We exited on to US 85 South, and then took US 385 six miles south of Deadwood to Creekside Campground.

Just a couple miles from our campground in the Black Hills National Forest, we found a great picnic area to walk the dogs.

Jack in the Woods

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Bluebird on a Branch

Spearfish Canyon Road Trip
This is a scenic byway worth taking.

Bear Butte State Park
Just a few miles north of the notorious Sturgis, we visited Bear Butte State Park, a sacred Indian site. The main attraction is a hike up the butte, however, no dogs allowed. Since there is no drive around, we stayed just a few minutes.

Town Tours
During our time in the northern part of the Black Hills region, we had the chance to tour Deadwood, Lead, and Sturgis. Sturgis is just a waiting place for the annual motorcycle events, but Deadwood and Lead where interesting to tour around.

On to Custer
From our campground south of Deadwood we headed south on 385 to Custer, and then east 3.5 miles to Beaverlake Campground, a short 55-mile trip. This is a wonderful all-around campground, but what makes it unique is that it is home to over 150 (and counting) cute, tame, bunny rabbits. Jack and Mitzy were in total awe when six hare youngsters not only did not run when they approached, but they came up to greet the unnerved canines—how dare they?

Campground Bunny

Custer National Forest is everywhere, so every morning we took the pups out on an old road or trail seeing deer, elk, and lots of chippers.

Chip in Tree

Bull Elk

Custer State Park
Think mini-Yellowstone as you drive through this 71,000-acre park viewing the wildlife. We saw massive bison, pronghorn, lots of prairie dogs, and burros who solicited from cars on the loop.

Pushy Burro

PD Family Alert

We took a road up to Mt. Coolidge Lookout and were rewarded with a great view. We saw the Crazy Horse Carving eleven miles away, and Mount Rushmore 13 miles distant.

Mt. Coolidge Lookout

Crazy Horse

Rushmore from Afar

Later during our stay, I photographed Rushmore through a tunnel, and then up close.

Rushmore Up Close

Rushmore from Tunnel

Scenic Byways
Along with the 18-mile Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, we drove the 18-mile Iron Mountain Road and the 14-mile Needles Highway. Here is a shot of from the narrowest part of the Needles Highway, the Needles Eye.

The Needles Eye

Mitzy in the Mirror

Wind Cave National Park
Adjoining Custer State Park is the 34,000-acre Wind Cave National Park. Like Custer, it is home to lots of wildlife. The cave is known for boxwork, with over 95% of all the boxwork in the world located in the 145 miles of underground maze. I took the Natural Entrance tour, and here is a photo of Ranger Justin standing at the natural entrance to the cave and a photo showing boxwork.

Ranger Justin and the Natural Entrance

Boxwork

Jewel Cave National Monument
Just twelve miles from our campground is the Jewel Cave National Monument. This cave was more picturesque.

Jewel Cave 1

Jewel Cave 3

Jewel Cave 4

Jewel Cave 6

Jewel Cave 7

Old Trucks
Just east of Sturgis is the town/village/tiny spot call Chip. And adjacent to Chip is Jim’s Salvage—heaven for old truck shooters.

Chip

Here are five old trucks from Jim’s.

Jim's Old Truck 1

Jim's Old Truck 2

Jim's Old Truck 3

Another Old Truck

Old Boar's Nest Truck

We really enjoyed the Black Hills and will come back again.

See you next time.

Travel Blog 271: Prairie Dogs and Black Hills

Deer Haven RV Park to Mountain View RV Park

On to East Central Wyoming
From Saratoga we took 130 north to 30 east to 487 north to 220 east to 258 north to I-25 south to Wyoming 95 north, where we settled in at the Platte River RV Park just outside of Glenrock. The 172-mile trip was pretty in its sparse sort of way, but most of the time I puzzled if we were in the center of nowhere or near the edge. Great day for driving, with fair skies, very little traffic, and lots of pronghorns for the pups to view.

Road Trip
We took a road trip out in the boonies south and east of Glenrock and saw lots of birds and some interesting terrain.

Western King Bird

Three Old Mailboxes

On to Sundance
From Glenrock we made an easy 200-mile journey east on I-25 south, north on Wyoming 59, then east on I-90 to Mountain View RV Park in Sundance. Once again very light traffic, and the only significant population was that of the herds of pronghorn.

Much of the soil around Sundance is the bright red associated with Sedona. An interesting eye-catcher just east of the town is a yellow, twin-engine plane placed between and above the going and coming lanes of I-90. I call it the Wyoming Hood Ornament.

Sundance Scenic II

Wyoming Hood Ornament

Devil’s Tower
We had been to the Devil’s Tower in the past, but thoroughly enjoyed seeing it again. Jan took a few shots of the tower, but my photo efforts were geared toward the Prairie Dog Town.

Munching Prairie Dog

Mr. Squirrel

Black Hills National Forest
Our RV park was just two miles from the Sundance trailhead in Black Hills National Forest. Several mornings I took Jack up the trail. Luckily, as the photo shows, I had a detailed map so as not to run astray. Another interesting stop in the forest was the Warren Peak Lookout Tower, still manned everyday by rangers spotting and reporting fires. Here is a shot from the lookout.

Trailhead Info

Hiking Jack

View From Lookout

Another time we took another family hike on the Reuter Trail in Black Hills National Forest. Once again, we saw no one else. However, hollies and the turning leaves acted as colorful boundaries along the trail.

Holly and Friends

Day Trip
From Sundance to 116 south to Upton, then 16 northwest to Moorcroft, up 24 then east on 113 to Pine Haven, adjacent to both Keyhole Reservoir and Mule Creek Bay. From Pine Haven we took McKean Road north into the countryside. We turned south on Lower Kara Creek Road, connecting to Inyan Kara Creek Road that led to I-90 and our return to Sundance.

Cindy B’s in Alladin
With Alladin’s population of 15, Cindy B’s restaurant doesn't have a huge population base from which to draw its diners. However, regulars help to fill the seats, and the word-of-mouth of great home cookin’ brings in some tourists like us. Here is a pic of Cindy’s place, plus a shot of some local ranchers talking about tracking down missing cattle, the high price of hay ($150/ton), and the rain that drops everywhere but on their ranches.

Cindy B's

Cindy B's Boys

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks all from eastern Wyoming.

Old Truck 1

Laramie Old Truck

Old Moorcroft Fire Truck

Old Platte River Truck

Old Sundance Truck

Trip to Eastern Wyoming
Most all our time spent in Wyoming in the past was in the western part of the state, primarily in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. We love both these parks and will frequent them again.

This year, though, we thought we’d explore the eastern portion of the state. As blog followers know, we started west of Laramie, camping in Saratoga. We explored the Medicine Bow National Forest, and took in the Wyoming Annual Beerfest. From there we headed to Glenrock, east of Casper at the north end of the forest. Next we spent several days in Sundance, east of Gillette in the Black Hills of Wyoming. The scenery was wonderful, the pronghorns and deer were plentiful, and the traffic was sparse. Very enjoyable stay in this wonderful state.

See you next time from another state of mind.

Travel Blog 270: Young Brews and Fast Critters

Chatfield State Park to Deer Haven RV Park

Up to Wyoming
From our campground in Chatfield State Park, we decided to take the scenic route up to southern Wyoming instead of taking major roads and interstates. We took 121 north to I-70 west, US 40 west, CO 125 north, and as we passed into Wyoming, we continued onto 230 west and 130 west to the Deer Haven RV Park just north of Saratoga. It was only 216 miles, but much of the trip was steep and winding, affording wonderful views by requiring Jan’s full attention driving the bus.

Saratoga
The literature says that Saratoga is an interesting place, and it is correct. Although only 1,600 inhabitants, it has a lot to offer. It attracts hunters and fisherman (mainly fishing for trout) from all over the country and the world. They have an airport with a runway that can handle B-52s, and in the fall they say there may be a dozen or more big corporate jets transporting the rich (don’t know about the famous part.)

In sharp contrast to the high-density, heavy-traffic, go-go of the Denver area, this sparse, lightly populated area was a nice, slow change of pace. Deer wandered everywhere, and hundreds and hundreds of pronghorns populate the surrounding countryside. Our pup, Jack, feels that there is nothing more fun to watch than running pronghorn.

Oh, Deer

Running Pronghorn II

Dog Park
I was quite surprised that this small town had an off-leash dog park, and very pleased at how nice it was. It quickly became the cornerstone of our morning.

Microbrew Fest
Saratoga hosts the Steinley Cup (pronounced “Stanley” like the hockey version), Wyoming’s microbrew fest in which most all the microbreweries in Wyoming compete for honors. The 21st annual happened the Saturday we were staying in Saratoga, so we felt obliged to participate. Pleasant day, friendly people, good beer.

Brewfest Pup

Brewfest Vendor

T-Shirt Girls

Young Howard Stern

Battle Pass Scenic Byway
One afternoon we drove south to Encampment, then took Highway 70 up into the Medicine Bow National Forest, up over Battle Pass, and west on toward Baggs. Scarce traffic and great scenery. By the way, the name came from the numerous battles fought between the Indians and the trappers.

Road Block

Rock Ptarmigan

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Snowy Range Scenic Byway
Another time we headed south for about ten miles, and then went east on highway 130 once again into the Medicine Bow National Forest, stopping at Centennial for a nice lunch, and then on to Laramie. Once again, beautiful scenery and light traffic.

More Colorado Pups
Here are more pup pics from Colorado that I didn’t have ready for my last blog.

Black Pup

Run, Jack, Run

Where Is the Baby?

Wild Child

Old Trucks
Since an individual from Pine Island complained about my lack of truck shots, here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

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 266: Bryce, Capital Reef, Grand Staircase, and Vermilion Cliffs

Springville KOA to Paria Adventure Ranch

On to Torrey
From Springville we ventured off south to Torrey, Utah, staying at Wonderland RV Park. After settling in, we took an afternoon scenic drive into Capital Reef National Monument.

Capital Reef Country Scenic Byway

Wonderland RV Park Scenic Loop

We took a 155-mile loop of a day trip that was one of the best I’ve ever taken. We headed east on the Capital Reef Country Scenic Byway, past the entrance to Capital Reef National Park to our first stop to visit the petroglyphs.

Petroglyphs

After a few miles east, we turned south on the Notom Road Scenic Backway which followed the once underwater reef. We passed ranches and washes, creeks and mesas as we wandered through this dynamic, rugged, magnificent landscape full of reds, yellows, creams, whites, oranges, and greens. Amazing.

Jack and Skeleton

The paved road quickly turned to dirt which in many ways was good--we only saw six vehicles the first four hours of our jaunt. We moved along the Oyster Shelf Reef, named after all the oyster shells left there from several thousand years ago. At the Burr Trail Switchbacks, we headed west on the Burr Trail Scenic Backway, once again through fascinating scenery. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here is my attempt to capture some of the grandeur.

Capital Reef

Capital Reef 2

Capital Reef 3

We stopped for lunch at a marvelous restaurant in Boulder, and then headed home on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway, complete with more glorious vistas and several climbs on 10% grades.

Lower Bowns Reservoir

Capital Reef National Monument and the surrounding area are not household names and the lack of traffic proves this. However, in terms of impressiveness, they are right up there with all the big-name parks.

Fish Lake
The next afternoon we drove around Fish Lake, north and east of Torrey. After the bold, rugged trip of the day before, we enjoyed the soft browns and greens of the hills and blue of the lake. Looks like a wonderful place to hang for a few weeks or a few months. Here is a shot from Torrey of an old cabin.

Old Torrey Cabin

Bryce Canyon
We drove the 122-mile journey to Ruby’s Inn and Campground at Bryce Canyon City via 24 West, 62 West, and 22 South. Again, pleasant scenery, and except for some narrow stretches of road, an easy trip.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Leaving early morning to avoid the traffic we took the roughly 20-mile road that is the only driveable portion of this special place. Starting at the very end at the last stop, we took in all the main lookouts. The hoodoos are something, with great vistas everywhere.

Bryce 4

Bryce 7

Bryce 8

Bryce 9

Bryce Fisheye 2

However, the special place for me was Inspiration Point…I found it, well, inspirational. Staring down on the landscape your imagination takes off…sunlight glinting off a castle guarded by a giant, the broken walls of a city under siege, a majestic cathedral overlooking a valley, legions of warriors in battle formation, and so on and so on. I had a wonderful time taking photos and a few turned out decent.

Bryce Inspiration Point

Bryce Inspiration Point 2

Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
We journeyed east on Highway 12, that splendid scenic byway, through the town of Tropic, stopping a few times at overlooks to enjoy the views. My original plan was to travel the Devil’s Backbone (great name, don’t you think), however, talking to rangers at the visitor center just outside Escalante, they recommended another option. Heeding their advice, we took Highway 12 east again, traveling the highway to Boulder. Our first stop was the Anastazi Musuem at Anastazi State Park where they had an interesting display of ancient Indians. Right outside the museum was a food truck parked by a grassy area complete with picnic tables. On the advice of locals, we dined with them, splitting a burrito and a cup of coffee…delicious.

From there we backtracked to Escalante and took a 50-mile gravel/dirt road through the Dixie National Forest, ending up close to our campground.

Paria Guest Ranch
We packed up at our campground in Bryce Canyon City and headed 12 miles west on Highway 12. In bits and pieces, we have now traveled the entire length of the scenic byway that the Utah tourism department calls the most beautiful highway in Utah. Now that is saying something! Fourteen percent grades on skinny summits at 11,000 feet, gorgeous rock formations of every shape and color, just magnificent. At the end of Highway 12 we turned left on Highway 89 that took us south and a little west, then northeast, and then southeast to out next destination, Paria Guest Ranch, roughly midway between Kanab and Page, about a quarter mile from the edge of nowhere. Every morning I took Jack off leash to run and explore among the sage, rocks, and red soil.

Sagebrush Lizard

Sagebrush Jack

Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
Just a few miles north and a tad west of the Ranch was yet another national monument. Again, magnificent scenery.

Escalante Pano

Escalante

Mitzy and Jack at Escalante

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
As you go south from the ranch on unpaved roads you head into Arizona, into the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, ho, hum…

Vermilion Cliffs

Old Signs

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Sign 3

Old Trucks
Hey! I am finally back shooting old trucks! Here are three beauties.

Old Utah Lake Truck 1

Old Utah Lake Truck 2

Old Torrey Fire Truck

Hot and dusty, but a wonderful journey. See you next time.

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

Travel Blog 252: Pup Park Pics and Jackson!

New Family Addition

Jackson

We are quite pleased to introduce you to Jackson, our latest family member, a 1-year-and-4-month-old, 25.2-pound Australian Kelpie. Extremely intelligent, sophisticated in his bearing, worldly in his views, and quite good-looking!

Pup Park Pics
Kelpies need lots of exercise so we have been taking Jackson to the off-leash dog park to both socialize and burn some energy. Here are a few of Jackson’s new friends.

100-Pounder

Brown Dog

Daisy

Dark Brown Dog

Tan Dog

White and Brown
 
Faces in the Crowd
Here are a few random shots of friends.

Mike

Sandy

Time to Dance

Judy

Daisy and Clyde
  
Wedding
Here are a few pics of Edianne and Richard’s wedding. Beautiful event!

Edianne

Wedding Procession

Dog Poop

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.
 
Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3
 
See you soon.

Travel Blog 251: Short Trip to Korea

Tokyo to Seoul

After an easy two-hour-and-forty-minute flight from Narita, I landed at Incheon airport and then took an hour-long trek via taxi to my hotel.

I had a nice room (good bed, deep bathtub, nice view), but it was about one-quarter the size of my Tokyo room, so a tad tight. Also known for their technology, the toilet in my room had the same vast capabilities as the one I had in Japan. (It’s going to be hard to return to a single lever unit!)

Korean Toilet

I really enjoyed the mural above my bed, as Marilyn Monroe was my roommate for my five-day stay.

Marilyn

Here is a view from my room…I may have doctored it up a little. ;)

View from My Room

Korean View

Work
Similar to the previous week, I spent the next day working in my hotel room. This was followed with two intensive days facilitating a training workshop for the Korean division of the same client I was working for in Japan. Along with the Koreans, Thais, Taiwanese, Chinese, and one Indian participated. Very sharp group…I was pleased to get to know a couple of the Koreans, and we passed along stories related to differences in our cultures.

Cold!
The weather was consistent: gray skies, brisk winds, and low temperatures--getting down to the low teens (Farenheit) at night. Hence, I completed my 10-minute walks to the office in less than five minutes--really glad I took my gloves and headband. Because of the cold, I spent zero time exploring the streets, keeping inside all that I could.

DMZ Trip
The only thing I was excited about seeing was the DMZ, the Korean demilitarized zone. It is the buffer zone between North and South Korea, running across the peninsula roughly following the 38th parallel. It was created by agreement between North Korea, China, and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, and about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide.

I had signed up for a full-day tour, my last day prior to coming back to the States. The Koreans I had talked to said it was a really interesting place to visit.

Alas, at around 7:00 p.m. the evening before my scheduled tour, I got an email from the tour people…the tour had been canceled because of rising tensions between the North and the South. Not having anything else I wanted to see, I hung out one more day in my room. Hence, all the photos I envisioned taking never materialized.

Back to Florida

Incheon to Atlanta

After a two-hour delay, I had a pleasant flight back to Atlanta, and then an easy return back to Ft. Myers. Long trip, but a good trip.

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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

See you soon.

Blog 248: Wet and Wild

Lake Apopka Wildlife Loop Trail
While staying in the Apopka, Florida, area we came across a wonderful surprise--less than 10 minutes from our campground is an eight-mile wildlife drive full of bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, ospreys, great blue herons, blue herons, green herons, tri-colored herons, night herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, anhingas, cormorants, gallinules, phoebes, Wlson’s snipes, and on and on…also lots of gators.

Here are some pics from our wildlife tours.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Great Blue Heron with Snake

Green Heron

Immature Black-Crowned Night Heron

Great Egret

Anhinga

Belted Kingfisher

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

Common Gallinule

Eastern Phoebe

Red-Winged Blackbird

Christmas Gator

If you like nature, this is an awesome tour. Can’t wait to come back in late March when the birds are in full plumage.

We also stopped at the dog park in Mt. Dora and saw this pair of troublemakers.

New Buddies

Recent Old Trucks

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Signs

Little Pig Sign

Old Texaco Signs

See you soon.

Buddy

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 245: Quick Trip to India and Saudi

Albuquerque to Atlanta

Atlanta to Frankfurt

Frankfurt to Mumbai

At 4:00 a.m. I received a text alert from my friends at Delta saying that my 8:05 a.m. flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta was delayed a couple hours or so--not good news, as it made me making my Atlanta to Paris connection very improbable. So I called Delta to explore options and found that there were not many choices and most were not desirable. However, the good news is that the agent found that if I re-routed to Frankfurt I could get to Mumbai just an hour later than originally scheduled. The bad news was that instead of the choice seating I had on the Paris flight, there was only one seat left on the Frankfurt plane…oh, well.

The three-hour Albuquerque to Atlanta flight went fine, and after a three-hour layover, the eight-hour Atlanta to Frankfurt leg also went well--I got a good five hours sleep, arriving feeling well rested.

Another three-hour layover started quietly…and then the excitement began. About an hour before flight time at the first sighting of a gate agent, almost all of the 300-plus people at the waiting area stood up, gathered their belongings, and moved toward the boarding area like politicians at a fundraiser: Mothers and fathers trying to corral their screaming children, with 100 loud conversations going on in scores of languages.

The area was a sea of colors in the mostly Indian crowd--women wore traditional, brightly colored saris and scarves, while the men wore sherwanis and kufis, accented by the grays of the occasional flowing beard that spotted the landscape of people. The noise level rose at least 30 decibels as passengers bombarded the Lufthansa staff with thousands of questions (some related to the flights) while others tried to convince them that they needed to bring on all the bags (and sacks and boxes) that they carried, or hauled, or pushed along.

When the agent announced, “We will now board those in wheelchairs and all those needing extra time,” the crowd surged ahead like kids jostling for position at the ice cream truck. I later asked an agent if it was always like this, and she replied, “Only on flights to India.” Just amazing.

About 40 minutes after the boarding process of our Boeing 747-400 was completed, an announcement sounded stating that the delay was caused because they had to escort a drunken passenger off the plane, and regulations required that the drunk’s checked luggage had to be found, taken off the plane, and then inspected. All in all, the flight was delayed an hour and a half.

My seat, 57J, was not designed for comfort, so I decided to catch up on action movies. I watched “Mad Max Fury Road,” and then my video system froze up. Luckily I had a good back-up of audible books and listened my way to landing.

After de-boarding the full plane, going through passport control and immigration, exchanging some money, and taking a taxi to my hotel, it was 2:30 in the morning. At the perimeter of the hotel my taxi was stopped at a large iron gate where men in uniforms carrying automatic weapons came out and searched the cab before opening up the gate. Stepping out, both my luggage and I went through security. I felt like I was visiting Uncle Joe at the Big House. By then, all I wanted was a hot bath and to go to bed.

The six people at the reception desk (yes, six young men just for me, the only person in the lobby) very politely found my reservation. When the young person behind the computer looked up at me then over at his colleague, the “oh, boy!” alarm went off in my head. Soon the night manager came over and started to apologize…my room was “broken” but being “fixed” and was not quite ready. The dialogue went like this:

Night Manager: I am very sorry, Sir, there was a problem with your room…it is being fixed and will be ready for you soon.

Alex: You are kidding me, right?

Night Manager (looking at the floor): No, Sir.

Alex: You have no other rooms?

Night Manager (hesitating): No, all other rooms are occupied.

Alex: (No words…I just gave him “the look.”)

Night Manager (starting to blush and perspire): I am very, very sorry. Please come with me to the dining area and have something to eat…anything you want…on me, of course. Whatever you want. Here is the Internet passcode so you can go online while you wait for your food. I am inviting you to our lounge as my personal guest later today. I will personally come and let you know when the room is ready. I am sure it will not be long.

Taking advantage of his chance to get away, he then sprinted over to the closed kitchen where they were preparing the breakfast buffet and told the guy in charge to give me a menu.

The good news is that I was hungry, the chicken-something was filling, and what the heck…no one was hurt. I was in my room by 4:00 a.m. and slept until 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon.

Taj Mahal Hotel

Down to Business
I had two, very full days of business with a longtime client. Very smart group, very interested in the topics, but very, very talkative--they liked to challenge concepts, explore other options, give opinions, share life stories, expound on theories. They loved the session. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of energy was invested in the effort.

Exploring Mumbai
I had one day to explore Mumbai, a task that would take at least a month to give it justice. So I targeted a personal tour with a few things that I felt would help give me a feel for this city of 19 million.

Washing Men
Steven, my driver, picked me up at my hotel at 6:00 a.m. and drove the 45 minutes in the dark to the south part of Mumbai. My tour guide, Neelima, met me at the first stop, Dhobi Ghat, near the Hahalaxmi railway station. An intelligent, gentle soul, she was a delight to talk to.

Guide

Here I watched as hundreds of men called dhobis (only men) soaked, scrubbed, flogged, rubbed, twisted, and hung up clothes from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals in this huge, open-air laundry. Twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week, they toiled…wow.

Outdoor Laundry 1

Outdoor Laundry 2

A Sea of Flowers
The next stop was the Dadar wholesale flower market. Indians love fresh flowers to wear, to decorate their homes, and to use in offerings to their gods. The Festival of Lights was coming soon so the normal hustle and bustle was ramped up another notch as the buying and selling came to full bloom. The bright colors and sweet fragrance of the flowers, compounded by the sounds and smells of the moving mass of people made for quite the experience--just walking through the market required dexterity, fortitude, and lots of apologies as one had to be “aggressive” to make one’s way.

Flower Market 1

Flower Market 2

Flower Market 3

Fishing Folks
Next came the fish market at Sassoon Docks where men brought in their catch at dawn, and women sorted, graded, and then left to sell the fish and other seafood to restaurants throughout the city. Also, hundreds of trucks were in the nearby parking areas, most of them painted in bright colors.

Fish Market

Fancy Truck

Gateway of India
The most visited location in all Mumbai was our next stop. The Gateway to India overlooks the Arabian Sea and was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder when they visited India in 1911. Nearby are the yacht club, the navy yards, and the Taj Mahal Palace.

Door of India

Gandhi
My last visit before Steven took me back to my hotel was Mani Bhavan, the house where Gandhi initiated his civil disobedience that eventually led to India (and Pakistan) gaining independence in 1947. The museum was filled with photographs and detailed with items from his life, including the sparse room where he lived. The original letters that he wrote to both Roosevelt, to ask for support of India’s independence, and to Hitler, asking him stop aggression, are two of the powerful documents on display.

Gandhi

Side Note: In order to get his parents’ approval for the young Gandhi to go to England for college, he vowed to give up wine, women, and meat. No wonder most of the people I know were not educated in England!

How to Drive in India
Based upon my observation of driving behaviors, the marked lanes and street signs appear not to be rules to be followed, but suggestions left up to drivers to interpret and obey, or not, depending upon their mood. Three lanes often turned into six, the distance between vehicles often shrank from yards to inches, and the reaction time needed to avoid contact with other cars appeared to require NASCAR capabilities. The constant beeps of horns warned other vehicles of upcoming actions, showed irritation of slow drivers, but mostly demonstrated the joy of being able to make noise. My guesstimate is that the beeps per vehicle per unit of time surpassed that of Mexico City, Bogata, and New York City.

Neelima shared with me the three things you must have to drive in India:
1. Good horn
2. Good brakes
3. Good luck

I am sure that she is correct.

My tiny experience with India was extremely positive. Long trip, a few hassles, but definitely worth exploring more.

On to Riyadh
Next, I flew to Riyadh to continue working with my client at their Middle East office. I had thought that central Nevada was bleak, but miles and miles of sand with no vegetation made Nevada look like a plush oasis.

My sessions went great with my participants from Saudi, Jordan, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Eqypt, and the United Arab Emirates. It was quite interesting talking during breaks and lunch with people with very different backgrounds from mine as we politely discussed the weather, our families, and a little bit about politics. I was told the weather in the low 80s was extremely mild during my trip (it gets up to 130 degrees in summer)…I was also advised to watch out for the sandstorms that roll through the area without warning.

I can sum up my activities this way: airport to hotel, hotel to client, client to hotel, REPEAT. I had no desire to explore or take pictures--Saudi Arabia does not make my list of 10 best places to vacation.

I had no drive to explore--just do my job and no more.
I am glad for the learning, yet no desire for returning.
Glad to have completed this chore.

A long journey home, but I am very happy to be back.

Riyadh to Paris

Paris to Salt Lake City

Note: I was fortunate to get out of Paris before the terrorist attacks.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics from the Pup Reserve.

Pups 1

Pups 2

Old Signs
Here is an old sign for the Old Sign Reserve.

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, after I rest up.

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 243: Sunrise in Zion

Merrill Campground to Zion River Resort

Whiskey Flats
We left our California campground at Eagle Lake and headed down the curvy forest road. At Susanville we headed east and south on 395 crossing into Nevada. At Reno we hopped on I-80 for a few miles, and then took 95 south. As planned, we stopped at Whiskey Flats RV Park in Hawthorne, Nevada. Hawthorne is just south of Walker Lake and the home of the Hawthorne Army Depot, covering 147,000 acres.

Alamo
The next morning we headed east on 95 to Tonopah. We had been told that there is not much to see in Central Nevada, and I can confirm the correctness of that statement. However, the roads were flat and straight and the traffic was light. The landscape was beautiful in its stark, simple form.

Nevada Mountain from Road

At Warm Springs, not a town but a junction, we took a right on 375, dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway. As we got past the point on the map labeled “Rachel,” we started seeing Joshua Trees.

After fueling up, we set up camp at Pickett’s RV in Alamo, Nevada. Next morning we were on the road before 8 a.m., heading south on 93, picking up I-15 north to St. George. From there we took State Road 9 east to our campground at Zion River RV Resort near Zion National Park.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park is an icon of the national park system, drawing millions of visitors from all over the world. I took an early morning shuttle into Zion Canyon (no other vehicles are allowed) past the Court of the Patriarchs, the Zion Lodge, Weeping Rock, and finally got off at the Temple of Sinawava. From there I took the trail down to the Narrows and went until the trail turned to a riverbed, requiring walking, wading, and sometimes swimming to continue. The 45-degree water held limited appeal so I hiked back and took the shuttle to several other spots where I took short hikes.

Zion the Narrows

Janny, Mitzy, and I drove through the east part of the park on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway passing around the mountains, over the river, and through the tunnels. Early one morning we revisited part of the trip and stopped short of the tunnel to take some shots around dawn.

Zion Canyon Fisheye

Zion Hike

Zion Sunrise

Wonderful place.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

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 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 237: Big Bop to Beijing

Seattle to Beijing, China

Big Bop to Beijing
After a quick hop from Kalispell to Seattle and a brief layover, I took the big bop 11-hour flight to Beijing. After passport control, immigration, and a quick change of currency, I hailed a taxi. Knowing the cabbie would probably be quite limited on English proficiency, I handed him a map to the hotel with streets labeled in Chinese. He nodded his head, pointed to the fare on a laminated sheet, and when I nodded acceptance we shot out of the taxi line like the lead Huskie in a dogsled race.

Bobbing and weaving through the heavy traffic in the rain we made the hour-long trip in 40 minutes. Thankful to have arrived safely, I checked in asking the person at the front desk if it was possible to get a room on a high floor with a view for photography. He nodded, studied his screen, and gave me my key card.

Accessing my room, I had to squint to see the far wall…my new best friend at the front desk had given me a suite the size that a high-roller in Vegas would approve of. After taking a half hour to fill a round bathtub the size of a large cattle trough, I soaked in the tub letting any stress, kinks, and jet lag float away. I was asleep before midnight. (BTW, the window view was lousy, but no complaints.)

Forbidden Tour
On my day of rest before work, I took an all-day tour. We started at Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square and the historic and culturally significant location of important Chinese events over centuries. Thousands were there (mainly Chinese) with hundreds of tour-group leaders waving colored flags and barking through bullhorns attempting to keep their herd of followers in line. From there we walked to The Forbidden City, the largest imperial palace in the world.

Leaving the city, we drove an hour and a half north for lunch in a small café in a small village. The food was great, but don’t ask me to pronounce what we ate. Twenty more minutes and we were at the Mutianyu location on the Great Wall. Foggy, smoggy, and rainy in the morning gradually transformed into sunny, hot, and steamy as the day progressed…kind of a summer-in-Florida day.

We took a ski lift up to the Wall, and then walked along the stones of a mile-long section of the 6,000-kilometer fortification built over three dynasties and several centuries. Scanning to the north, I visualized the Chinese sentries patrolling their section, forever watching for an army of fierce Mongols to come riding upon their war ponies ready to attack.

T Square

Happy Students

Door to Forbidden City

Forbidden City

To The Wall

Happy Wallers

Great Wall 2

Work, Work, Work
For most of the week I worked with the China teams of a long-term U.S.-based client. Great young professionals eager to learn--a pleasure to work with.

Big Bop Back
By Friday I was ready to head home. After an uneventful taxi ride, I showed my passport, put my bags through the detector (all bags must be scanned, except backpacks of any size [some large enough to contain a small nuclear device], walked over to the Delta check-in, scanned my passport, and printed out my boarding passes at the kiosk. A long walk down the hall and I entered passport control, getting my passport and boarding pass stamped and my departure card taken. In fifteen feet I was at the security station, passport and boarding pass reviewed, once again, and back into the queue. Through their scanner I placed a ziplock bag containing liquids, my laptop, iPad, camera, extra lens, electrical connectors, and, of course, my dangerous travel umbrella.

After a fast frisking by a frenzied female security agent, I felt a tinge of relief--almost done. Another long walk and I was at the “VIP” lounge for a stale beer and stale peanuts, and then on to the boarding area for another line, a review of passport and boarding pass, and another quick frisk as I walked through the line of about 15 young security folks--some trying to look tough, a few smiling, and most paying no attention at all.

Sitting in my seat I finally started to relax and scanned the movie selection as I settled in (I usually select action shoot-‘em-ups because Jan doesn’t like them). Soon, our captain announced a two-and-a-half-hour delay due to major congestion and troubling weather. Resigned to the situation, I watched one of the Avenger movies as the skies darkened and the crew talked to each other in low voices. By now you know how this goes: At four hours of delay they cancelled the flight due to flight crew work limits.

It took 40 minutes for the gate crew to come out to unload the full plane (later we found out it was not because of lack of manpower, but passport control didn’t know what to do. One by one, we “re-entered” China, and then were told to wait in a group. Finally, we went back to the check-in area where we individually had to go up and get a stamp indicating the hotel they were putting us up in. From there we waited in more groups, and then waited outside. Then we walked about a quarter mile in the rain among traffic, through puddles, and the smell of diesel exhaust. Loading buses, everyone had to wait until all three busses were full before we trekked to the Crowne Plaza about five miles away.

At the hotel, the tired group moved en masse to the front desk, with many raised voices. Soon, we were told that all of us “orphans” were to head to another area dominated by an ancient Xerox copier. It was translated that they would photocopy each passport and then give out room keys. However, the power outlet did not work, so after several minutes of frenzied problem solving, the copier was moved to another area and people started to queue up, with people jostling for spots up front.

I thought I might witness a murder or at least an act of physical harm as someone, who must have been a tour guide, held up his hands with at least 50 passports. He was booed and pushed out of the line where he sulked back and developed a subversive strategy of having members of his group hold on to four or five passports. Four hours after de-boarding the plane, I was on my way to my hotel room and in bed by midnight.

The next morning after Skyping Delta and having breakfast, I was back on a bus to the airport to repeat the process of the day before. The Delta gate agents were 20 minutes late manning their posts as their big boss huddled them together explaining what to do and apparently encouraging them to do their best.

Reflections on Beijing
In many ways it is not fair to share reactions about a location one has had only a snapshot of time viewing, but here are a few personal reflections anyway:

The drivers of the eight million cars in this city of 25 million drive like they walk--pulling alongside to overtake each other, zipping in front of other vehicles for any advantage. They honk, not accompanied with a middle-finger gesture out of rage, but they honk as a warning that they are coming through, so get over, speed up, or back down. Buckle up, grab your bag, and close your eyes is solid advice when riding.

Put your head down, don’t look around, and move with determination is my advice when advancing through a line or moving ahead in pedestrian traffic…be polite and you’ll arrive for lunch at dinner time. Another aside is that most of the automobiles are full-size and many are SUVs. Gasoline is a little over the equivalent of $4 per gallon.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Chinese Pup

U.S. Pup

Old Signs
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 soon.

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 232: 20 Old Trucks - Ain’t They Beauties!

Elkhart, IN to Cheyenne KOA

We motored across America’s heartland heading west through sunshine/cloudy, clear/raining, chilly/warm weather taking a combination of Interstate freeways and tollways, state highways, and county blacktops. When we hit western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming, old trucks started appearing everywhere and we got smiles wider than politician promises.

Hence, this blog contains 20 of the fine old truck specimens we captured along the way…feel the rust, experience the history, sense the power.

20 Old Trucks

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

Old Truck 6

Old Truck 7

Old Truck 8

Old Truck 9

Old Truck 10

Old Truck 11

Old Truck 12

Old Truck 13

Old Truck 14

Old Truck 15

Old Truck 16

Old Truck 17

Old Truck 18

Old Truck 19

Old Truck 20

Note: Next blog will follow my more traditional format.

See ya then.

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 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 226: Affliction and Intrigue, Bubbles and Beaches

This week covers a mysterious affliction, intrigue in the hood, a manatee moment, a girl in a bubble, and fun at the beach.

Mysterious Affliction

Have You Heard This One?

Mitzy Moment

Manatee Moment

Bubble Girl

Great Day at the Beach

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 225: Big Beer Bad Boy Bud Busted!

Amazing news! This week The King of Beers was caught on camera with his pants down…literally. Fire Rescue quickly responded to this shameful case and put Big Bud in the Cooler.

King of Beers

Fire Rescue

However, the results of the balloon test determining his guilt “have been lost” and now an even bigger scandal is brewing as speculation is overflowing that the Bosses of Big Beer are keeping the Icon of the Suds on ice till things chill.

Rumor has it that the Clydesdale team is in transit to serve as a public diversion to keep things from fermenting further.

Clydesdale Team

The response from local movers and shakers ranged from room temperature to frosty to foamy.

Big Bud Was Our Friend

I Am Shocked!

There Goes the Neighborhood!

Who Cares?

This sneak photo of the Bad Boy of Beer was one of many captured at the upheaval. If interested, click the link at the bottom of the blog for more pics of this amazing event.

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

VIEW ALL THE “UPHEAVAL” PHOTOS HERE >

See you soon!

Blog 224: Mitzy Play Date

This week, Mitzy our stately, elegant, sophisticated schnauzer went on a play date. Little did she know that her date, Walker, was a frisky, wild-as-an-acre-of-snakes kitten. For over an hour the traditional canine-feline encounter was played out in the jungles, tundra, and forest of Walker’s home. Here are a few pics to give you a feel for the intensity of the action.

Aargh!

Where Is That Hairball?

Here Kitty Kitty

Silly Dog

Dad It's Time to Go


You're Going Down

Walker 1

Walker 2

Walker 3

Walker 4

Walker 5


Walker 6

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 223: Lost Tribe Photographed!

Exciting news! Long thought to be extinct, I have photographic proof that at least one member of the Canadous Cupidous tribe is still alive. Even more remarkable, and just like the legend states, every February 14 male warriors of the tribe (called Valentinos) put on traditional paint, don their ceremonial dress, and streak through neighboring villages wielding strong bows in their attempt to replenish their dwindling population of females. Like a mountain lion tracking prey, I followed this legend of the past through my village, capturing behaviors previously only described via verbal narratives.

Cupidous Valentino

Photo One: Here you see the Cupidous Valentino demonstrating his fierce stature and fearsome weaponry as he prepared for his task.

Cupidous Valentino with Montycus of the Village Projectus

Photo Two: Here you see the smiling warrior with the Elder Montycus of the Village Projectus. The Elder had just agreed to accept a tribute in exchange for a village maiden.

Cupidus Valentino Capturing a Maiden

Photo Three: This photo shows Cupidus capturing the young maiden (she certainly seems to be willing ☺) before he rushes her away to the far, far North.

I can’t wait till the DNA results show up…

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 222: Wailing Dan and Little Weenies

Except for a two-day gig in Orlando I’ve been hanging at our RV park enjoying the people and the weather.

Little Weenies
Jan has been cooking up a storm as usual. Here is a photo of one of my favorite appetizers and here is a shot of her always-awesome lasagna.

Little Weenies

Lasagna to Die For

Wailing Dan
Dan is a great entertainer, and every so often he graces the Hood. Here is a shot of him playing and one of Jerry and Penny sitting in the crowd.

Wailing Dan

Jerry and Penny

Flowers and Janny
Here is a pic of a flower arrangement Janny put together, along with a great pic of her (my bias).

Janny Arrangement

Pretty Janny

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 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 220: Festive Food and Cute Critters

Jan and I were fortunate to spend both the Christmas and New Year holiday with great friends. We wish you all a wonderful 2015.

Festive Food
Here are a few food pics from the holidays.

Stilton and Walnut Crackers

Beef

Brussel Sprouts with Mushrooms

Gruyere Scalloped Potatoes

Cute Critters
Here is an outdoor action shot of a displaying tom, a feeding hen, and a sneaky squirrel. Also, here is a pic of Dee in her bowl, perfectly positioned by the fire.

Tom, Hen, and Squirrel

Dee by the Fire

More Pups
Here are a couple of Christmas pups enjoying their well-deserved bones.

Pup with Bone

Another Pup with Bone

Old Signs
Here are two old signs from out West.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

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.

Blog 219: Old Red Trucks

Jan and I had the chance to check out an Old Truck Show (well, they had some cars there as well). We also had a pleasant surprise to meet Jeff, our old neighbor, showing his Great Race truck.

Jeff and Great Race Truck
.
Jeff’s grandfather participated in the original 1908 great race across the world. Check out this amazing story at thegreatautorace.com.

Old Red Trucks
Here are some cool old red trucks from the show.

Old Red Truck 1

Old Red Truck 2

Old Red Truck 3

Old Red Truck 4

Old Red Truck 5

Old Red Truck 6

Old Red Truck 7

See you next week.

Blog 218: Thanksgiving Break and Liver Cake

Early Sunday afternoon we arrived in Apopka, Florida, and set up camp at a local KOA we have visited several times before.

Thanksgiving
We had a nice week and an especially nice Turkey Day hanging out with family and friends. Wonderful food (here are just a few of the dishes)…wonderful time. Hope you had a great holiday as well.

Harlan and Turkey

Mystery Potatoes

Green Beans

T-Day Gals

Liver Cake
Saturday was another special occasion, as it was Jerry’s (a.k.a. the 200-pounds-of-coiled-steel rat terrier) tenth birthday. As is our family’s tradition, Jan baked an always canine-pleasing liver cake.

Jerry the Birthday Boy

Light Up Mt. Dora
Saturday night was the annual “Light Up Mt. Dora.” Mt. Dora is tactful tourist town just a few miles down the road. Singing, dancing and, of course, the lighting of the town and the lighting of the tree were part of the festivities.

Cute Elf

Indian Actor

Inquisitive Pup

Lights On

Visting Santa Early

Tall Guy Cartoon

The Big Tree

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

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pups 3

Old Signs
Here are two old signs from out West.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

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.

Blog 217: Skunked in Louisiana

Instead of taking the GPS-suggested route via I-10 when leaving Big Bend National Park, we decided to see a little more rustic scenery and headed east on US 90. Nice road, hardly any traffic, and a 25-mile-an-hour tail wind made this desolate trek enjoyable. We spent the night in Del Rio, once again in unseasonably cold weather.

San Antonio
An easy four hours the next day found us in our campground in San Antonio. I took a quick trip to San Francisco while Jan stayed in chilly Texas. When it was time to go, we took I-10 east.

Skunked in Louisiana
Just off I-10 we pulled into the Frog City RV Park, just outside of Rayne, LA. Instead of continuing along the interstate, we took back roads south and east, connecting onto 90. We set up camp in the town of Berwick, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans. We spent a day exploring the area, viewing many antebellum houses and thousands of acres of sugar cane being harvested. Here is a shot of sugar cane processing and a campground squirrel.

Sugar Cane Country

Squirrel

We also had a wonderful lunch in New Iberia, but something was missing…we found zero, zip, nada old trucks all across the state--this is a very disappointing area--not sure if we will ever come back :’>>>.

Moving East
After heading northeast on 90, we circled around New Orleans and headed east on I-10. We stayed at a great state park outside of Mobile, Alabama, and then journeyed into Florida, stopping a Madison, east of Tallahassee.

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

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4

Old Signs
Here are two old signs.

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks including a Thanksgiving Special.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4: T-Day Special

See you next week.

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 212: Pups and Trucks

Quick Trip to DC
I spent three days working with an existing client in DC. Great organization and wonderful folks.

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

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pup 4

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 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 204: Old Truck Extravaganza

After our stay at Grand Teton National Park we crossed over the mountains, headed west across Idaho, and ended up in Redmond, Oregon, in the central part of the state. I had a quick three-day trip to Memphis to work with a great client, and then returned back to Redmond to participate in the FMCA rally of 1,500-plus motorhomes.

This week I skipped the landscapes, critters, and portraits and just concentrated on Old Trucks of Oregon.

Old Truck Extravaganza
Here is a selection of old Oregon trucks, including one of my new friend standing by one of his beauties.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

Old Truck 6

Old Truck 7

Old Truck 8

Old Truck 9

Old Truck 10

Old Truck 11

Old Truck 12

Mike's Old Truck

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 200: Tokyo-Seven-Bravo

Last week I was a slacker in taking photos, so I had some fun and found a shot that Jan took of Mitzy and me on her iPhone, plus I made a few comics out of earlier photos—see what you think.

Mitzy the Lap Dog

Nattie and Mom

Follow Me

Tokyo Seven Bravo

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 Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 199: Quick Trip to Shanghai

I had business in Shanghai, a city of 22 million, combining a blend of an ancient culture overlaid by modern construction and influenced by Western thought. Here is a view from my room.

View from My Room

Going to Work
Many workers cannot afford to own automobiles and therefore rely on public transportation and motorbikes to get to work. Alas, we were in the rainy season, requiring protective water garb of all sorts for those transporting via two wheels.

Going to Work 1

Going to Work 2

Going to Work 3

Chinese Truck Drivers
I was hoping to find some old trucks to shoot (and I am sure there are many outstanding ones). However, for this trip, I settled for shots of Chinese truck drivers…all taken from the backseat of automobiles varying in speed from almost standstill to about 100 kilometers per hour.

Chinese Truck Driver 1

Chinese Truck Driver 2

Chinese Truck Driver 3

On the Waterfront
Here is one shot of the impressive Shanghai waterfront.

Shanghai Waterfront

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 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 193: Memorable Memorial

Thunder, lightning, rain, and hail couldn’t put a damper on a great Memorial Day weekend at Jellystone. Here are a variety of shots, including more bubbles, pups, and grandkid action.

Bubbles 1

Bubbles 2

Basking Jerry

Go Fly a Kite

Pool Buddies

Sliding Nattie

Nattie and Charlie

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next week.

Blog 192: Big Bubbles and Greedy Goats

Big Bubbles
While in Florida, Stan the Bubble Man got us interested in big bubbles. After some Internet research, a purchase of supplies, and lots of practice, we are starting to get the hang of it. Take a look and tell me what you think of Jan’s work.

Big Bubble 1

Big Bubble 2

Greedy Goats
The Jellystone Park we are staying at does a great job with kids. Here are a couple pics of the feeding of the baby goats, plus Yogi and Booboo getting their mail accompanied by a group of fans.

Greedy Goats

Austie Feeding Baby Goat

You've Got Mail

Potpourri
Here is a shot of Sleepy Jerry plus a snap of Austie after just scoring a big run.

Sleepy Jerry

Run Scored

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

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 190: Quick Trip to London

Windsor
I had a two-day client engagement outside of London. My quaint hotel was directly across the street from Windsor Castle. Sunday was a day for honoring scouts, and I stood outside with hundreds of others as various scouts from around the UK marched out accompanied by bands and color guards.

Windsor Castle 1

Windsor Castle 2

Birthday Party
Austin celebrated his seventh birthday with a gathering of friends. Here is a shot of Austin, Natalie, and Crazy Brody. Fun, but exhausting.

Spraying Austin

Natalie Eating Cake

Crazy Brody

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

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 180: Cuddly Cat and a Prickly Pig

Sunny Florida
The first part of the week we spent in sunny Florida. Here is a shot of good friends Jack and Dee on their souped up, fire engine golf cart, and some local crabbers cleaning up after a haul.

Jack and Dee

Crabbers

Not Sunny Michigan
We braved the elements to fly to Michigan to spend the Christmas holiday with friends and family. Clouds and fog , snow and ice, with a crisp bite in the air that made you zip your coat all the way to the top.

Here are shots of deer, Dee the Cat, Penelope the Pig, Jan posing with Tonka, Jan with Wayne and Anna, and a shot of a pot roast dinner appropriate for royalty and others with regal taste.

Deer

Dee

Penelope

Jan and Tonka

Jan, Anna and Wayne

Roast Dinner

Old Signs
Here are two old signs from Michigan.

Old Pontiac Sign

Old Tavern Sign

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks, one from Florida and one from Michigan.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

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 177: Quick T-Day Trip to Denver

Jan and I flew out to Denver for the Thanksgiving holiday. We spent some time babysitting our six-year-old grandson and 19-month-old granddaughter, giving our son and his wonderful bride a couple days of getaway in Vail.

Busy as serious shoppers on Black Friday, we orchestrated cookie baking, sponsored underwear style shows, hauled a little red wagon through the neighborhood, played Run from the Monster, built Legos, and wiped up juice, bananas, peanut butter, and other assorted food and drink items.

Happy Holidays!
Actually, it was great fun.

Bear Cheeks

Natalie Making Cookies

Archer

Grandma and Nattie

This Is the Place to Be...

Captain Underwear

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 176: Quick Trip to the UK

Country Drive
Sunday, I took a few hours and drove through the French countryside. Lots of narrow roads running through fields populated with sheep, horses, and cattle. Here are a few pics including a couple of shots in the village of Thoiry.

Thoiry House #1

Thoiry House #2

Steers in Field

Moo Comic

On to England
Monday, my client colleague and I flew to Birmingham in the UK to continue our project. Our week together proved successful with more happy clients being the result. Regrettably, I had little time for picture taking.

Old Sign
After a few weeks’ absence of old signs in the blog, here is one from Thoiry.

Old French Sign

Old Trucks
Alas, once again no old trucks from Europe! Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week after another trip.

Blog 175: Quick Trip to Geneva

I spent the week working in Geneva launching a client project. Our group contained people from Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the U.K., Sweden, Czech, Poland, China, with one guy from the U.S.--me! Quite a diverse, interesting, and fun group (most of the time!).

Hotel
My hotel was in Thoiry, France, just a few miles from my client’s Switzerland headquarters. Upon my Sunday arrival, I was greeted with this rainbow view from my room’s balcony--excellent omen. Nice room but the painting over my bed gave me pause--I felt that tingle in the back of my neck indicating that I was being watched!

Rainbow

The Watchers

Food
I was fortunate to experience some great food this week. I was in walking distance of a nice Italian restaurant that served a delightful “chef’s special” gnocchi. Another evening I was treated to a “wild game” special (it is the season, you know) of venison. These are just a couple of the fine meals that I enjoyed.

Gnocchi

Venison

Wine Tasting
After a full day of work, our host took us out for a wine tasting at a local winery (there are hundreds of acres in this area, both in France and in Switzerland). Here are a couple of my best students enjoying the tasting. My favorite wine was Gamaret, which I was told is only found in this part of Switzerland.

Wine Tasters

Gamaret

Oh, Alex...

Nyon
My client was kind enough to provide me with a car for the weekend. Saturday, I drove into Geneva, along the lake and down and through the old town. A very pretty area, yet the cloudy skies and cold wind cast a slight gloom on the area. I had intended to walk to the old town and take pictures, but decided to drive north along the lake shore. I stopped for lunch and a short walk around town at Nyon. Here are two shots taken from the castle and one of a man walking toward it.

Castle View #1

Castle View #2

Walking to the Castle

Old Vans
Try as I might, I found no old trucks this week in Switzerland or France. The best I could do were these two old vans.

Old Van #1

Old Van #2

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 another trip.

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 172: Quick Trip to DC

I took a quick trip to DC for most of the week for an engagement with an old client. Great group and a lot of fun.

Old Car Show
Sunday, while on our way to a way cool exhibit of Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Morse Museum in Winter Park (close to Orlando), we saw an “Old Car Show” sign. We took a quick detour and saw the small but high-quality cars in this Shriner show. You’ll see three old trucks from the show below.

Time Out

Perky Pet Pics
Here are a couple of pet pics of our retired cat, Chico, and a shot of Jerry in one of his sophisticated moods (pic by Jan).

Vacation Cat

Sophisticated Jerry

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Orlando Shriner car show.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 171: Vámanos a Florida!

Bye Bye Winchester
Aunt Pat had taken three of Jan’s Autumn postcards and had them framed. She then paired them with one of her beautiful quilts. Now that is adding color! Take a look.

Jan's Autumn Cards

Paired Art

Heading South
We took our time heading down to Florida. Our original plan was to take the Blue Ridge Parkway, but some change of events caused us to travel the easy interstate system. Like a windmill turning in a gentle breeze, we cruised down I-81 then I-77, I-26, I-95, and finally I-4.

Windmill

We stopped at Lakeland for some motorhome maintenance and repairs (when you drive your home down the road at 60 miles an hour, you gotta expect that some things need adjustment), and then headed 60 miles back north and east to stay with Jan’s aunt in Apopka while we were out of the bus.

Halloween Ready
In preparation for Halloween, Mitzy and Jerry tried on their new holiday outfits. Can’t you just see the excitement oozing out of them?

Halloween Jerry

Halloween Mitzy

Just Try It!

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from our trip south.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week!

Blog 170: Screened Pups and a Runaway Truck

Walking Tour of Winchester
Winchester, Virginia, is the home of Jan’s aunt and uncle and, among a number of activities, they gave us a walking tour of Winchester, a very interesting place with a lot of Civil War history.

Masonic Temple

Bank with Balloons

Screened Pups

Johnsons
Jan’s uncle buys, repairs, sells, trades, exhibits, and runs old Johnson outboard motors. Here is his current, quite impressive inventory. He is a published author and quite well known in his field. If you need Johnsons, he is the go-to guy.

Johnsons

Quick Trips to Boston and Chicago
I spent a couple of days in Boston attending the well-run executive session of one of my business partners, and a couple of days in Chicago facilitating a two-day session for a great client.

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Winchester area including one that almost got away!

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3 Almost Got  Away!

See you next week as the bus moves south!

Waiting for Alex

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 168: Quick Trip to Dusseldorf and Lund

Sunday: Day Seven of the European Tour
Sunday was a travel day as I made my way from London to Dusseldorf. I was fairly well rested, and the use of the hotel laundry service meant that my bag was once again full of clean clothes.

Aerial

By late afternoon I was in my hotel. Too tired to walk the mile or so to a nice restaurant and too lazy to bother with a taxi, I walked a couple hundred yards to a huge MacDonald’s, anticipating a ten-minute round trip. Wrong, Alex! I think everyone in Germany was in line, with each person ordering at least ten meals! An hour later I was back in my room feasting on a Big Mac hybrid and a large fries.

Monday and Tuesday: Session in Dusseldorf
Working for the same client as last week, I facilitated a two-day session for the German team.

German Receptionist

View from German Training Room

It's True!

Great group, and things went very well. However, after the session things got a little more challenging. My plan was to fly from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen, and then take a taxi over the bridge to Lund, Sweden.

Bomb Threat!
I arrived at the Dusseldorf airport in plenty of time, however, the flashing red lights of police cars were the first indicator of trouble. People were queued up for hundreds of meters outside the locked doors of the airport. Later, people were let inside…later still, we were all kicked to the curb.

Bomb Threat #1

Bomb Threat #2

Bomb Threat #3

Bomb Threat #4

Uh, Oh...

Here’s a short video of the event: http://youtu.be/1Us9yDkuIL8

When traveling, stuff happens. However, I had a session planned the next morning, so remedial action was required. I walked away from the airport mob until I found a taxi that transported me to the train station. I took the train to Munich that, after an hour or so, stopped at the Frankfort airport. Here, I dashed to the Lufthansa ticket counter, catching them as they prepared to close. An hour later, I was in the air, and I landed in Copenhagen airport a little after midnight. From there, I took a 30-minute cab drive and I was in my hotel by 1:30 in the morning--plenty of time for my next morning’s session.

Wednesday and Thursday: Session in Lund
Wednesday and Thursday was my final session of this two-week trek, facilitating the Nordic team. Another great session, with a smart, fun group. Since my journey home the next day started with a 6 a.m. flight, I took a taxi to the Copenhagen airport and stayed at the Hilton on premise. Here is a pic from my room.

View from Hilton

Friday, Day 13: Trip Home
Janny and the Kids picked me up in Traverse City, where they hauled me back to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Wonderful trip, but so nice to be back. Tired and a little jet-lagged, I started my rejuvenation.

Back at Camp
Gorgeous weather back in Michigan and it was good to sit around a campfire again. Here is a shot of Angel, another volunteer pup of our fellow camp host, Ramona. Also, here is a pic taken by Jan of Chico in retirement.

Angel

Chico

Old Signs
Here are two old signs from the Old Sign reserve.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

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 as plans change!

Blog 167: Quick Trips to Madrid and London

Sunday: Day One of the European Tour
Sunday morning I arrived in Madrid after a mechanical problem and a little re-routing early in the journey. All in all, things ended up fine, just a few hours later than planned. I took a nap, enjoyed a tub, then went to an outdoor plaza to walk around and have a light evening meal. As continued the entire time in Madrid, the weather was awesome, the people were friendly. When I stopped for dinner, I had the best tuna I had ever tasted--seared, marinated in a special sauce, and the fried egg on the top added color and variety to the presentation.

Tuna in Madrid

Monday-Tuesday
I facilitated (in English) an intensive two-day session for my client’s Spanish and French teams. All smart, interested, and interesting people, all wanting to learn. Since the groups were split 50-50, everyone had a chance to better understand their colleagues from another country. Monday night we all went to Old Town for a traditional meal built upon tapas, and then I stayed out late (for me) with the crazy Frenchmen.

Upper Right

Plaza View

Plaza Ladies Table

Madrid at Night

Wednesday
Wednesday was a travel day, as I moved on to the town of Reading, 30 minutes west of central London. Once again, I was fortunate to have a deep soaking tub in my room that I took advantage of every one of the four days I stayed there. Since we don’t have a tub (at least not yet) in our motor coach, I appreciate having one all the more while traveling.

Thursday-Friday
On these days I facilitated the same type of session as I did while in Madrid for my client’s UK office. Another great group.

Saturday
After contemplating several options, I decided to take the train to Portsmouth to see the old British war ships. Here are a couple of photos taken from the train.

Train View #1

Train View #2

They had repaired/refurbished/rebuilt Admiral Nelson’s old flagship, “Victory,” to its original specifications. This is the ship he died on--they show you the spot on the deck where a French sharpshooter fatally wounded him in his victory at Trafalgar. It was just awesome! Also, I toured the first iron-hulled warship, “Warrior,” and saw it as it exactly was, as this ship never saw battle.

Warrior Gun Deck

Warrior View from Deck

Warrior Visitors

Warrior

Victory Admiral's Table

Victory Deck

Victory Guns

Victory Stern View

Later I walked to the town center and stopped by this park.

Portsmouth Park

Old Signs
Here are a couple old signs from our Old Sign Reserve.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Try as I could, I saw no old trucks in Madrid or London this week. Here are three from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week from Germany and Sweden.

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 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 158: Dune Fans and Dune Babes

Dune Climb Concert
I rode my bike down to the annual Dune Climb Concert, walked around and took a few pics of this fun event. Check out the attendees!

Dune Climb Concert #1

Dune Climb Concert #2

Dune Climb Concert #3

Dune Climb Concert #4

Dune Climb Concert #5

Dune Climb Concert #6

Dune Climb Concert #7

Dune Climb Concert #8

Dune Climb Concert #9

Quick Trip to Chicago
I took a quick trip to Chicago to work with a great client.

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan selected. I shot the Wayside Motel sign, but our good friend, Dee, captured the Dog n Suds.

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 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 152: Old and Rusty

On to Breckinridge
From Highline Lake State Park, we rambled down to I-70 and headed east on one of the most picturesque interstates in the entire country. We arrived with snow-topped mountains surrounding us as we camped at 9,100 feet and 34 degrees.

Colorado Trail Hike
Adjoining the campground is a segment of the Colorado Trail, so at dawn one morning I hiked the steep trail for a two-hour round trip.

Return to Denver
Monday it was back to Denver, where we set up camp at Cherry Creek Park.

Quick Trip to Chicago
Tuesday morning I flew to Chicago where I spent most of the week working with a good client.

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

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Slug Bug
While hunting old trucks we ran across this old VW bug.

Old VW Bug

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks with both rust and style.

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 150: Old Trucks Gone Wild

If you like to hunt and shoot old trucks, it is great to be in Colorado! Forty-eight new beauties have been added to the collection this week. See the last section of this blog post for a few of the distinguished old girls.

Over 7,700 feet in elevation, the mornings started cool in the low 40s, working up to high 60s/low 70s later in the day. We had an excellent variety of weather: calm and sunny, cold and windy, snowy and sleety, and thundering and lightning. Here is a view from our campground and a view of fishermen right behind our coach.

Campsite View

Fishermen

Sunday Truck Hunting Day
I took Sunday off, and by 8:15 a.m. Jan, the Pups, and I were out the door and in the car hunting old trucks and other good photo ops. We went west to Poncha, and then took highways, scenic byways, gravel and dirt roads north, east, west, south, and back, hard on the scent of rusted steel.

Salida to Hartsel

Scenics
Our constant guardians, the Collegiate Peaks, were always in the background, and their snowy tops combining with pillowy clouds and perfect light made for some pretty scenic photos.

Old Schoolhouse

Jan Driving

We eventually made our way up to highway 24 and took that east, stopping off at the Antero Reservoir.

Antero Reservoir
The Antero Reservoir is deep blue water surrounded by mountains. Wrapping our coats up tight, we got out to enjoy the view. Here is that handsome devil Jerry breathing in the scenery.

Jerry at Antero Reservoir

Hartsel Lunch Break
At noon we stopped for lunch at the best place in Hartsel (the only place in Hartsel) and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of our meals (Jan had the burrito and I had the house special). Here is a shot of Cindy, the bartender/waitress/hostess/busboy/cashier (however, I don’t think she cooked).

It's Going to Be a Long Day

Monday Mountain Thunder
I worked all day Monday, but late afternoon it was time for a family drive. We took the back roads and found more old trucks. In the outskirts of Salida, I took a few shots. Here is a fun one of a big smokestack from a smelting plant long closed down.

Smokestack

National Forest
After exploring the town, we took a county road that turned into a forest road--left and right, down and up, over and back in the San Isabel National Forest. We found the remnants of an old town called Turret and drove through blowing snow to view the mountains being engulfed in dark clouds lit by the occasional bolt of lightning. Every few minutes the almost-spooky quiet was interrupted by thunder that started as a moaning growl, grew to a rhythmic rumble, and then crescendoed into an angry bellow that commanded both respect and a little fear to all within earshot. Here the term “awesome” does perfectly apply.

Big Thunder

Afternoon Trips
Cottonwood Pass
One late-afternoon family excursion took us up to Cottonwood Pass. At over 12,000 feet, spring had not yet sprung, and there was enough snow to fool you into thinking it was still February. Here are a couple pics from this trip.

Snowy Top

Snowy Landscape

Critters
Here are a few shots of pups and other critters.

Squirrel

Fishing Pup

Metal Cow

I'm Not Kidding, Ethel...

Old Signs
Here are three old signs that Jan selected and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Sign #3

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks (the others I shot are in the Old Truck Reserve for future weeks when the hunting is scarce).

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

Old Truck #4

Old Truck #5

See you next week.

Blog 148: Baseball, Bubbles, and Prairie Dog Heaven

Baseball Game
Sunday was a “boys-only” Colorado Rockies game. They lost to the Rays, but the weather was pleasant, the hot dogs were tasty, and our third-base view was a fun location for photography.

Colorado Rockies Baseball Game #1

Colorado Rockies Baseball Game #2

Colorado Rockies Baseball Game #3

Baseball Bonding

Quick Trip to New Orleans
I had a quick trip early in the week to New Orleans were I facilitated the U.S. pilot of a new engagement. Smart, fun group--should be a great project.

Redheads and Bubbles
Of course, we had a few times during the week to enjoy the grandkids. Here are pics of Austie and friends going red, Natty in the tub, Natty ‘fessing up, and Natty hanging with Charlie the Pug. And, here is a comic pic of Aaron doing some deep reflection on his future.

Three Readheads

Tub Bubbles

Nattie 'Fessing Up #1

Nattie 'Fessing Up #2

Nattie and Charlie

Charlie and Nattie

Nattie and Daddy

Let's Think This Through...

Prairie Dog Hike
Late in the week the frost disappeared, the temperature rose, and the skies transitioned from rainy gray to vibrant blue. Jan and I took our first 2013 hike in Colorado, traipsing four miles among gentle hills with first spring flowers making their debut poking up reds, whites, and violets against the brown of the earth. Birds of all denominations sang for us and the brilliant plumage of bluebirds darted across the sky like smoke in a breeze.

Bluebird

The hike highlight, though, was a solid mile path right through the most impressive prairie dog town I have ever seen! Well-fed prairie dogs of varying sizes and hues greeted us at the rim of their dens chirping out their intruder alarm. Many times we were within 15 feet before these guardians of the plains scampered down their holes. In case you did not know, our rat terrier, Jerry, loves prairie dogs. He has leapt out of our car window to get close to these large, mobile gophers.

As Jerry tugged at his leash like a sailor weighing anchor, he sometimes drug Jan right to the top of the varmints’ dens. Standing proudly erect like a marine out of boot camp, a broad smile etched on his chiseled face as ripples of pleasure moved up and down his well-muscled physique. I don’ think life gets any better than this for a rat terrier. ☺

Prairie Dog

Hunting Old Trucks
Late one afternoon we piled into the car and headed east in a search of old trucks. There were dark clouds all around us as we drove through the occasional rain shower and watched a stray bolt or two of lightning dance across the horizon--perfect weather for photography! Here are a couple of old trucks from our hunt, plus a cool old truck sign.

Old Trucks #1

Old Truck #2

Truck Sign

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 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 144: Easter Eggs and Watching Whales

Easter Eggs
Easter Sunday started with a traditional egg hunt, and our four searchers (Austin, Natalie, Mitzy, and Jerry) emerged victorious, finding all 39 of the hidden eggs. Natalie put on her new kimono in honor of the holiday.

Austin

Easter Kimono

Mitzy

Watching Whales
A family trip to SeaWorld was a delight in the deep, with all sorts of aquatic action and marine mischief. My favorite is always the Shamu Show. The grandkids and their parents liked it all.

Shamu Show #1

Shamu Show #2

Happy Family

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 143: Shakedown Sortie and Doing Disney

Shakedown Sortie
In anticipation of our upcoming Motoring Across America, we took the motorhome up to Apopka (NE of Orlando). Everything seems to be running great except for the small anticipated issues of a house that goes 70 miles an hour. Our campsite was comfortable and the campground had all the basics (cable TV, WiFi, pool, playground, and so on). A big plus is that it is five minutes away from relatives.

Janny on Hammock

Sandhill Crane

Butterfly

Duck

Nattie and Aaron

Play Time

Cooling Off

Dating Ritual

Wow! Is She Hot

Doing Disney
Our son, Aaron, and our daughter-in-law, Kelly, brought almost six-year-old Austin and almost one-year-old Natalie to Disney to take in all the action at the Mouse. Grandma and Grandpa did a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Epcot (with a day of recovery in between). I have never seen so many strollers and Big Ears in my life! Everyone had a wonderful time.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom Pano

Stroller Alley

Jan and Austie

Nattie and Kelly

Nattie

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

Blog 142: Meadow Romp and Building Boom

Around the Island
A busy week on the Island with the Snow Birds in full swing and Island happenings as plentiful as billboards in Georgia.

New housing is finally up this year as the recovery slowly progresses. All is well.

Housing Boom

Meadow Jerry

Yellow Flower

Did You Hear the One...

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 135: Hot Dogs and Potatoes

Hot Dogs and Potatoes
A favorite meal of Jan’s when she was a little tyke was hot dogs and potatoes. Over the years she has transformed this simple meal into a culinary experience. It is a dinner I look forward to. Jan does not make this meal for just anyone--only true foodies with a sophisticated tongue, sensitive palate, and a sense of daring. We had six such people over the other night to try this exotic dish.

Hot Dogs and Potatoes

Are You Sure This Was Served at the Whitehouse?

The Great Automobile Race of 1908
Our neighbor and friend’s great grandfather was the captain of the winning crew that first made the trip from New York City to Paris via automobile in 1908. In a solo act, our neighbor brought this phenomenal journey to life as he played his grandfather on stage, recounting this amazing journey. Just remarkable. www.TheGreatAutoRace.com

The Great Auto Race Presentation

Jeff Mahl

A Captivated Audience

Let Me See...

As a fundraiser, the Calusa Land Trust (www.calusalandtrust.org) sponsored the auto race act along with an antique car show. Here are a few shots of cool old cars.

Vintage Car #1

Vintage Car #2

Vintage Car #3

Vintage Car #4

Vintage Car #5

Happy Spectators

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

Wine on Post

Post

I  Just Hate It When...

Old Trucks
Here are two old trucks also from the antique car show.

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.