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 293: Eclipse Chasers

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

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

Big Stick Jack

Fluffy Pup

Reflecting Ernie

Run, Jack, Run

Run, Jack, Run II

Shoeless Mitzy

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

Championship Opening Ceremony

Grab it, Austie!

Hut-Hut

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

Fishing Austi

Fishing Nattie

Total Solar Eclipse

Cherry Creek State Park to Scottsbluff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottsbluff NM 1

Scottsbluff NM 2

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

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

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

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

Total Eclipse Diamond Ring

Total Eclipse

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

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

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

See you next time.

Blog 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.

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 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 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 269: Wild Weekend with Yogi

Riverview RV Park to Chatfield State Park

Larkspur
From our campground west of Loveland, we took 34 east, and then I-25 south down to our campground near Larkspur.

Jellystone Park
This campground and “resort” is the perfect place for kids. Since we volunteered to take our grandkids plus one friend, we wanted a place with lots of activities. We found the right place. Here are just a few of the activities: morning flag raising with Yogi and Boo Boo, goat grazing, bounce pillow, pancake breakfast (with sausage), swimming pool, afternoon ice cream with Yogi, movies, candy bar bingo, waterslide at the Old Swimming Hole, hayrides, and so on, and so on. However, the biggest hit was that we rented a golf cart for the weekend and Austie became the chauffeur. Great weekend—we packed a week into 48 hours.

Cute Swinger

Fishing Hole Slide

I Love Yogi

Nattie and Austie on Jump Pillow

Silent Specatator

Chatfield State Park
From Jellystone, we took the short drive north and west to Chatfield State Park. We have stayed many times at this wonderful park…full hook-ups, roomy sites, lots of privacy, rabbits everywhere, and one of the best dog parks on the planet.

Ala Carte

Axle

Ball Retriever

Black and White

Jumping Jack

.Run, Jack, Run

Tank

Wet and Wild

See you soon!

Travel Blog 262: Very Sweet at Cherry Creek

We said farewell to Nathrop and headed north again on 285 through the mountains. Near Denver we picked up I-70 East via I-470 West and stopped at a truck stop for a fuel-up and a wash. A short jag east, and then a few miles south on I-225 to Parker Road and our next camping location, Cherry Creek State Park.

Chalk Creek Campground to Cherry Creek State Park

Denver’s Central Park
We’ve stayed here many times and always enjoyed the nature. As it was Black Jack’s first time, he quickly learned to appreciate the vast quantities of rabbits, squirrels, chippers, prairie dogs, coyotes, deer, and birds of all variety.

Wily Coyote

Western King Bird

Bark Park
Another really nice thing about Cherry Creek State Park is their marvelous dog park. Many trails, lots of creek access, and over a four-mile jaunt around the perimeter. We were out there by 6:15 most mornings, but were never the first ones there.

Bark Park Pup

Your Move

Jack just loves to play, especially in the water--nothing more fun than chasing a big canine or a big canine chasing him.

Did You See That?

Run Jack Run

Wet and Wild

He has also learned to play fetch and brings the ball back…most of the time :’>>

Jack and Ball

Mitzy and Jack Tail

Mitzy thinks she is hot spit as she now has new wheels--whenever she gets tired of walking she has a chauffeured buggy from where she can direct the action of both dogs and people from a higher altitude.

New Wheels for Mitzy

Jan’s Art
Interested in seeing Jan’s latest painting? Go to www.janalexanderart.com/portfolio.html and check out “Skyward” under “Acrylic Paintings and Murals” (the last painting).

See you soon.

Travel Blog 260: Great Sand Dunes

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

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

View From San Luis Campsite

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

Jan and Jeep

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

Great Sand Dunes

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

Pronghorn

Green-Tailed Towee

Great Sand Dunes II

Jack at Great Sand Dunes

Mitzy at Great Sand Dunes

See you soon.

Travel Blog 259: Day Trips and Early Morning Jaunts

Leaving Elephant Butte State Park, we travelled 148 miles north on I-25 to our American RV Park destination just east of Albuquerque. Nice, easy trip.

Elephant Butte  to Albuquerque

Side Trip to Sandia Peaks
After settling in we left the 5,000-or-so-foot altitude of Albuquerque and wound our way up to 8,500 feet at Sandia Peaks in the Cibola Forest. As the altitude rose, the temperature dropped, changing our mind about doing a hike at the top. Comfortable drive with great scenery.

Dog Park
In our continued attempt to socialize our new pup Jackson (aka Captain Jack Black) we took him to the dog park where he quickly learned the rules of multiple canine behavior. Here is a pic of Jack (lower left) learning it is sometimes better to observe than to be actually engaged.

Watching Jack

Thirsty Pup

Quick Trip to Chicago
I made a quick trip to Chicago to facilitate a workshop, lead a panel, and give a keynote speech at a symposium. Great group of people and lots of fun. Chance to talk and catch up with folks I’ve known for decades. Hope to do it again next year.

Day Trip
After returning from my work trip, we had one full day before heading out. We loaded up and did a three-mile, high-desert hike at Petroglyphs National Monument. During our trek we saw a brightly colored roadrunner pass and numerous, really big jackrabbits. In fact, one looked about the size of a Great Dane--before I fully recognized that the creature coming at us wasn’t a big coyote, I was chastising myself for not bringing pepper spray!

National Monument Day Trip

From there we decided to take the Abo Pass Trail that followed the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway for around seventy miles. It follows old trade routes and rail beds through the center of New Mexico. So from I-40 East we took 387 South through Escabosa and Chilili. We picked up 55 South and went through Tajique and Manzano to our first stop--the Quarai Mission Ruins just outside Mountain.

With the pups we walked around and through what was left of the old Spanish mission from the 1600s. From there we continued southwest on 60, going through the spot on the map marked Abo to the Abo Ruins Salinas National Monument Historical Marker, another interesting site along the mission trail. From there we picked up 47 headed north, diagonaled over at Los Lunas to I-25 and then I-40, ending our 150-mile loop.

Jan and Pups at Quarai Mission Ruins

On to Antonitos
After our good stay at Albuquerque, we took I-40 West to I-25 North. About 20 miles from Santa Fe, Jan said, “Today is the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market!” This is no ordinary farmer’s market--the chili selection is celestial, the baked bread is off the planet, and the cheeses are made just south of Heaven. After a two-minute conversation, we decided to make this detour. Salivary glands had already engaged, and I could taste the bread and cheese for our mobile lunch. We got off US 285, no problem as we knew where to go…however, finding a place to park our 62 feet of motor-home-plus-car turned out to be challenging. We found a space within a couple of blocks of the market, but it took up six parking spaces, and I quickly calculated the possible fine this might bring and suggested we postpone our visit. Reluctantly, we pulled out, got back on 285, and continued north through New Mexico.

American RV Park to Conejos

About 50 miles from the Colorado border with a perfect high-60s temperature, sunny skies, and light traffic, the hills and snow-topped mountains surrounded us, taking in 270 degrees of our view. Absolutely inspiring vistas.

New Mexico Vista

New Mexico Vista II

Conejos River RV Park
Six miles after crossing into Colorado, we turned west on Colorado 17 at the village of Antonito for the 12 miles to our Conejos River RV Park. At 8,500 feet of elevation, the air was naturally thinner, but so was the fly and mosquito population. This park had just opened May 1, and very few souls were in the camp that bordered the Conejos River and was within six miles from two national forests.

Over our three days at this campground we saw scores of birds of many shapes and variety: bluebirds, several kinds of finches, Western Tanagers. Great people, great vistas, and wonderful solitude when you wanted it.

Mitzy Cart Ride

Say's Phoebe

Evening Grosbeak

Crazy Antonito Structure

View from Road Trip

Early Morning Jaunt
Before sunrise on day one of our stay, we drove up Forest Road 101 into the Rio Grande National Forest. Alone on the dirt road we saw deer and a nice size herd of good-looking elk.

Another Early Morning Jaunt
With the temperature just over 30 degrees on day two, we headed west on Colorado 17, then headed northwest at the town of Horca, and were again moving into the Rio Grande National Forest on Forest Road 250. This dirt road paralleled the Conejo River high in its banks. We again saw deer and elk, prairie dogs, yellow-bellied marmots, desert bighorn sheep, chipmunks on every rock (well, almost every rock), a coyote, and scores of hummingbirds feeding on the bushes by the road.

Chipmunk

And Another Early Morning Jaunt
On our last morning, we were again up and out at 6:00 a.m. into the chilly but calm 30-degree morning. This time we headed east on 17, and then quickly turned south on Road D.5, which led us into the Rio Grande Forest of Forest Road 103 that paralleled Big Horn Creek southwest into New Mexico and the Carson National Forest. We wound through forests of Ponderosa Pine laced with trees just starting to bud. In the distance we saw several herds of elk, obviously skittish of hunters. We saw pronghorn along the way and deer, and of course, more chippers. After passing Sublette, Toltec, and Osier Mountains, we came to the end of the road, Osier, at 9,624 feet. It is the watering station for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. At this wayside along the mountain we ran across a marmot sentinel, who was not happy about our arrival. Standing erect as a Queen’s guard on his rock pile, he loudly told me that I did not belong there.

Yellow-Bellied Marmot Sentinel

The railroad water tank was continually dripping and the whole locale was thick with swallows. In hopes it might connect with Highway 17, we took a narrow, steep, muddy path but it ended at the Rio de Los Pinos, much too deep to cross (six feet of fast-moving water). So we retraced our journey with mountain, valley, stream, and forest views along the way. During our three-hour trip, we saw only one vehicle and one person. Here are a few pics from the early morning jaunts.

Conejo Pano

Audubon's Warbler

Brewer's Blackbird

Dusky Grouse

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Roadside Waterfall

Water Tower Drips

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

Carlsbad, NM to Elephant Butte

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

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

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

Dune Dog

Dunes and Andrews Mountains

Jackson IV

Running Mitzy

Alex, MItzy, and Jack

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

Today Show Dune Set-Up

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

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

Calling Gambel's Quail

House Finch

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

Beach Jack

Great stay…we will come back here again.

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.

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 247: Dash to Denmark and Bosque Birds

Amsterdam to Billund

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

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

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

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

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

Santa Fe Forest

Pecos Wilderness

Trailblazer Mitzy

Festival of the Cranes

Santa Fe Skies RV Park to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park

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

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

Roadrunner

Roadrunner Profile

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

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

Early Reflections

Incoming Snow Geese

Golden Moment

Getting Ready

3 Flying Cranes

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

Testy Heron

Blurry Cranes in Flight

Cub Scouts at Bosque

Just a Pup

See you soon.

Blog 246: Rutting Bulls and Vortex Clouds

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

Chatfield to RMNP

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

Campsite Bunny

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

Cloud Cap

Cloudy Mountains

Family at Look Out

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

Herding Bull Elk

Bull Elk Close-Up

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

RMNP Sunrise

Aspens

Chipper

Pine Marten

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

The Vortex

Great to be back in Colorado.

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup

Dog Park Pup

Old Signs
Here is an old sign

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

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

Baker City to Government Camp

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

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

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood Reflection

Colored Leaves at Mt. Hood

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

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

Sisters Garden RV Resort

Government Camp to Sister's Garden RV Resort

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

Eagle Lake

Sisters to Merrill Campground

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

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

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

Eagle Lake Beach Bird

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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

Lake Helen, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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

Pups
Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup

Madeline

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 241: To Hell and Back

Canyon Pines RV to Mountain View RV

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

Baker City to Hells Canyon Trip

Mountain View RV to Hells Canyon

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

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

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

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

Spawning Salmon

Pilieated Woodpecker

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

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

Ruby Peak

Ruby Peak 2

Bronze Cowboy

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

Ruffed Grouse

Lip-Lickng Coyote

To Hell and Back

Hells Canyon Trip

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

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

Unsuitable Sign

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

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

View from Hess Road

Hells Canyon Overlook

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 240: 7 Devils to Heavens Gate

Missoula to Grangeville

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

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

Janny Grangeville Scenic

White Bird Scenic

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

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

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

High Tailing It

On to Riggins

To Canyon Pines

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

Campsite View

Fishing

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

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

Steep Narrow Winding

Distant Fires

Fires Past

Grazing Horses

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pups 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are five old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

Old Truck 5

See you next time!

Blog 239: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

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

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

Bitterroot Road Trip

Trip to Conner, MT

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

Barn and Mountain

Barn and Mountain and Horse

White Horse Reflection

Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

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

National Bison Range

National Bison Range

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

Misty Morning Mountains

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

Meadow Lark

Pronghorn

Coyote

Mule Deer

Black Bear

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

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

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

Dog Fight

Boston Pup

Brown Dog

Truck Pup

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

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old Montana trucks.

Old Rusty Truck

Old Tank Truck

Old Yellow Truck

See you next time.

Blog 238: Fire on the Mountain

Map of Glacier

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

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

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

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

Baby Goats

Goats

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

Grazing Sheep

Sheep Herd

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

Hidden Lake Trail Wildflowers

Hidden Lake

Ground Squirrel

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

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

Young Black Bear

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

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

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

Smoke Viewed from Hungry Horse Dam

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

Flathead Lake

Twin Lakes Map

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

Flathead Lake Map

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

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

Old Locomotive

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

Kootenai Falls Map

Kootenai Falls

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

Eureka Fires

Pups
Here are two pups from the reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Sign
Here is an old sign.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

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

Blog 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 231: Midwest Moments

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

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

Mitzy and Chipper

Pup

Camping Pup

Jack the Farm Pup

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

Displaying Tom

Frolicking Horses

Farm Cat

Another Farm Cat

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

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Blog 229: Just Another Cathedral

Photo Tour

Portree

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

Handsome Ram

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

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

Eilean Dornan Twilight

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

Driving up to the Old Man

View of Old Man

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

Chess Anyone

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

Just Another Cathedral

Just Another Cathedral 2

Photog at Work

Fisheye View

Conwy
We stayed at beautiful Conwy in Wales.

Conwy

Tywyn

Blue Door

Smallest House

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

Milo

Narrow Gauge Train

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

Eye Shot

Distant Eye

Pups
Here are some pups from my Pup Reserve.

Pup 1

Pup 2

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

Old Sign

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

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 228: Cathedrals, Castles, and Critters

Orlando to Gatwick

UK Train Trip

Across the Pond
After a night flight on Virgin Atlantic from Orlando, we arrived Monday morning into London Gatwick airport. From Gatwick we took the train to hectic Victoria Station, snaked through the jostling crowds of business commuters, and took the tube to Kings Cross. After a proper English breakfast of sausage, ham, eggs, potatoes, baked beans, tomato, and toast, we boarded our train headed for Edinburgh.

Under skies the color of steel barrels, our train whizzed (sometimes chugged) north through England with stops at York and Darlington. Passing our window, laundry hung, laborers worked, children played, sheep bleated, and churches steepled.

Train Ride 1

Train Ride 2

Train Ride 3

About the time we stopped next at Newcastle, our right-hand window view from our coach showed the cold, blue waters of the North Sea. We stopped one more time in England at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and then passed into Scotland arriving in Edinburgh thirty minutes later. As we hauled our bags through Waverly Station, the grey clouds finally yielded their deposit of rain as we cabbed over to our hotel near the castle. Soon Mr. Jet Lag entered our room, and from there it was a very short time till lights out.

Tuesday: Edinburgh and the Royal Mile
After a good night sleep, we ate in the hotel, Jan dining on Eggs Benedict and I on smoked salmon and eggs on a muffin. Like students before an exam we crammed for our morning activities by reading up on Rick Steve’s Snapshot Scotland travel guide.

In a blustery wind strong enough to make Floridians retreat, Jan tightened up her scarf and I strapped down my hat as we walked up the hill to tour Edinburgh Castle, our first stop on the Royal Mile. Built upon volcanic rock, this fortress commands views of all four directions and protected its inhabitants for five centuries.

Jan at Castle

Castle Shot

Sneaky Woman

View from Castle 1

View from Castle 2

From there we walked the Royal Mile, entering the Old Town, soaking up bits of history and color from the writers and warriers, scientists and scholars, philosophers and politicians, academics and authors that lived in this city over the centuries.

Colorful Corner

Bus Tour Trip

Wednesday: St. Giles Cathedral and Calton Hill
At our Edinburgh hotel we met up with the five other members of our photo tour group and discussed our plans for the trip. Our first stop was a great one--St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Here are a few shots that hopefully give you the feel of this marvelous structure.

St. Giles 1

St. Giles 2

St. Giles 3

St. Giles 4

St. Giles 5

That evening we went up to chilly Calton Hill (gloves-scarfs-and-all-the-clothes-you-have kinda weather) to shoot some shots of the city--see what you think.

Calton Hill 1

Calton Hill 2

We stayed overnight in Edinburgh.

Thursday: The Kelpies, St. Andrews, and Dunnataron Castle
The first stop on our road trip was The Kelpies: two, one-hundred-feet-high horse-head sculptures close to the town of Falkirk.

The Kelpies

Alex in Scotland

Known for more than just a famous golf course, the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral share a glimpse of past granduer.

St. Andrews 1

St. Andrews 2

St. Andrews 3

From here we went to Arbroath Abbey, and our last stop of the day was a stunning vista of Dunnataron Castle on a bluff overlooking the sea. We stayed overnight Aberdeen.

Friday: Craigaivar Castle and Glenfiddich
Our first stop of the day was at Craigaivar Castle near Alford.

Craigaivar Castle

Next we had an enjoyable time touring and tasting at Glenfiddich Distillery. We stayed overnight in Elgin.

Saturday: Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye
We started the day shooting the Castle on Loch Ness. Note that there were no sightings of Nessie during our time there. We stopped at Eilean Dornan Castle along the way. We stayed overnight at Portree on the Isle of Skye.

Eilean Dornan Castle

Here are two shots of a very handsome, very hairy brown bull.

Brown Bull

Fisheye Bull

Pups
Here are some Scotland pups.

Brown Dog 1

Brown Dog 2

Brown Dog 3

Cooper

Old Sign
Here is an old Scottish sign.

Old Scottish Sign

Old Trucks
Maybe next week.

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 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 215: 7th Best Green Chili Cheeseburger

Our last morning in Taos found a chill in the air and snow in the mountains.

Snowy Taos Morning

From Taos we traveled south and west 30 some miles to a historic spa.

Ojo Caliente
We had learned about Ojo Caliente from some people in Taos and we are thankful for the information. This classy spa has traditional hot springs pools plus world-class massage and a lengthy menu of treatments. In addition, the spa had an RV park right on the grounds.

Ojo Caliente Sign

Strongly recommended if you are in the Taos/Santa Fe area. Here is a pic of an old structure on the property.

Ojo Caliente Structure

Santa Fe
From there we drove down to the wonderful city of Santa Fe and spent a couple of days.

Bosque del Apache
After Santa Fe we drove south through Albuquerque, past Socorro, over east to San Antonio, and then south a few miles to the Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park. Our campground was just four miles north of Bosque del Apache, a national wildlife refuge that is known for 12,000-plus Sandhill Cranes, 50,000 Snowy Geese, and over 150,000 ducks that stop there from November through January.

We were there early in the season, but the refuge already had over 2,000 Sandhill Cranes and 50,000 Snowy Geese. Every morning we would be out 30 minutes before dawn awaiting “blast off” when the birds, answering some signal from nature, launch into flight with an (almost) deafening honking and chattering. Every evening, 30 minutes before sunset, we would be waiting for their return to roost. Just amazing.

Snow Geese

Rare White Sandhill Crane and Mate

Home to Roost

Cranes at Dusk

7th Best Green Chili Cheeseburger
The tiny town of San Antonio (New Mexico) has two restaurants nationally ranked by expert foodies and the Food Channel. We had lunch at the Buckhorn Tavern and, of course, sampled, digested, and confirmed that we agreed with the verdict that the Green Chili Cheeseburger was outstanding and even better with an Isotopes beer.

Green Chili Cheeseburger

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

Pup 1

Pup 2

Pup 3

Pups 4

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 147: Fun Time, Full Time

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

Leaving Home

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

Our Travels

Landscape

Jerry

Mitzy and Jerry

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

Kansas Snow

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

Chico

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

Opening Gifts

Natty and Her Mom

Flowers

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

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Sunset

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

Surfer

Travelers

Wolves

Asian Man

Portrait of a Friend

Casper

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

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

See you next week.

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