Sunday, August 21, 2016
River Rafting; Vandals; Stinkers; RV Repairs; Firefighters; Galley Food; A Donut Fix; What's in a Name? PMS What? A Tap Dancing Galley Slave
Boise is now one of our favorite places in the USA! Not only are the people very friendly, and the bike trails perfect for us "mature riders", but we had a great rafting trip on the Boise River. We discovered this opportunity while riding on the Greenbelt Trail, when we stopped at a city park that happened to offer raft rentals. We arrived the next morning 30 minutes prior to the concession opening, and were the very first rafters on the river.
In fact, there were no other rafts, canoes or kayaks on the river the entire two hours of our float. We did see some fishermen, and some neat cairns on a gravel bar.
The river was running at a moderate pace, tumbling over minor riffles and a couple of low diversion dams. The white water was fun but safe, and the water temperature only a trifle chilly. We saw kingfishers, hummingbirds, ducks, great blue herons and hawks. My Lovely Bride did a great job of paddling...
... while I relaxed and observed the many birds and a few trout jumping. My only complaint was that MLB had forgotten the wine and grapes; in spite of that, we continued to enjoy our time in Boise.
After our rafting trip, we went into Boise. While enjoying an al fresco dinner, we were intrigued by the sign on this bus, "Vandals Work"; the takeaway line is that 90% of University of Idaho students have jobs or plans for graduate education upon graduation, an amazing and admirable achievement. And yes, their mascots are the Vandals, a name given their basketball team almost 100 years ago by a sports writer after Idaho gave an opposing team a drubbing.
Boise did surprise us with this business: a local convenience store chain named Stinker Stores, with a skunk logo. Their logo reminds me of road-kill, but obviously the brand is doing well here in Idaho. "Think Stinker", indeed!
The weather out in Idaho has been a bit warm, in the 90s in Boise, and one of our three roof air conditioners went out. I ordered and installed two new capacitors, but that didn't fix the problem of the compressor drawing excessive amperage on start-up. Calling around to local RV repair places didn't help, because the unit would have to be ordered and shipped, and the timing wouldn't work out until we get to Denver in 3 weeks. Here I am on the roof - MLB had hoped that this photo would be a Victory Shot when the unit ran flawlessly, but alas, it was not to be...
Firefighters are like Marines. You don't know how much you need them until the poop hits the fan, and then you call for help. While returning to our Gowen Field campground one day, we met Boise Fire Department Safety Captain Jeremy Kircher and a dozen of the BFD firefighters training in 95 degree heat and full firefighting suits. Captain Kircher took the time to tell me about his firefighters and their training, which is similar to Navy firefighting training - very realistic, and conducted in whatever environmental conditions you have on that day - extreme heat, snow and ice, or rain. Also, our good Forest Service friend Brad Bernardi, mentioned in the previous post, has been coordinating the efforts of 12 helicopters and 6 fixed wing aircraft fighting the Pioneer fire in Idaho, which covers 137 square miles north of Idaho City. The smoke from that fire occasionally drifted south over Boise during our four day stay. We too often take our firefighters, police, EMTs and military service members for granted, until we really, really need them...
As we returned to Hill Air Force Base, there was almost no traffic at the gate, so we stopped to chat for a moment with the young gate guard, whose name tag read "Lanros". I asked her if it was a Greek name. With a wry smile, she said, "No, sir. Our family lives in Minnesota, and our grandfather's name was actually Larson, but he was so tired of getting other people's mail that he changed the name to Lanros." Yup, that would sure solve that excess mail problem... those Minnesnowtans are sure different!
On the drive to Pinedale, Wyoming, our next destination, we stopped for 80 gallons of diesel fuel, and I had to go into the truck stop to pay the bill. I was taken aback by the display of chocolate bars at the register. I asked the friendly cashier, Beverly, if she would hold one up for the camera. She said that they were popular among truckers, but that I might be sitting out in the parking lot alone at the end of the day if I brought one back to the coach for My Lovely Bride. (I wisely decided not to find out if she was right... the label reads "PMS Chocolate for Women".)
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 4:15 PM
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Homeward Bound! It hardly seems possible that we are 143 days and 7,887 miles into our summer tour, with 53 days and about 3,335 miles to go before returning to The Villages. Future major stops include Ogden/Salt Lake City, Utah; Pinedale, Wyoming; Denver and Estes Park, Colorado; St. Louis, Missouri, and Asheville, North Carolina.
I received some well-appreciated support on my "Beer Blues" comment in the last blog post (mostly from men) and also took some unnecessary grief from My Formerly Supportive Friend Brenda, upon whom I will exact retribution at some date in the future. As an aside, we stopped for lunch today at an Argentine fast-food establishment (and those are pretty rare, even in Argentina) and ordered a Cerveza Quilmes beer that came out of the cooler ice-cold and refreshing. That pizza joint back in Whitefish could take some lessons from the Argentine immigrant proprietor/chef who knows what service means.
Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho, was our next stop. On scenic Payette Lake, it was a busy (and full) campground, but we got away from the crowds for several hikes. Boulder Lake was our first destination, and the scenery was lovely, with lots of Ponderosa pines, some of which soared to over 200 feet (the tallest is 268 feet, but it's in Oregon).
This small spring had free, ice-cold water available. As you can see by MLB's fleece jacket, the weather in central Idaho in mid-August is slightly cooler than back in central Florida. We never used air conditioning and kept the heaters ready for the 57-59F evenings and early mornings. Fortunately, Rudy and Gretchen make great little bed warmers!
On another hike, we found this this heart-shaped rock, reminiscent of those given away by Wolf in Suzanne's book Wolf's Message, seen atop a cairn - it was the subject of one of Suzanne's Good Vibe Videos; you can find it at http://www.suzannegiesemann.com/good-vibe-video-14-find-your-way-home/.
This was a typical trail scene: lots of pine trees, steep hillsides and no other hikers in sight. Fortunately, we didn't run across any bears, either.
For those harvesters in our readership, you might have been pleased by this specimen of mushroom on the forest floor that Suzanne measued with her hand. We left it there, of course, but I have heard that others collect various flora for dinner... I am not so adventurous.
We finished our last hike and returned to the coach to prepare for a 1300 (1:00 PM) checkout from Ponderosa State Park. Imagine our surprise to find a car parked right behind ours, blocking us in, and a tent set up in our campsite, just behind the coach. Evidently the two millenials were too anxious to wait for us to leave, and decided to set up their camp almost two hours before we left. This is akin to walking into someone's hotel room and unpacking your bags before they've checked out. We were shocked, amazed and almost a bit upset, as this type of behavior is unheard of among campers... finally we had to laugh at the "clueless" twenty-somethings who had obviously not been raised well.
After departing McCall, we drove down the Payette River valley to Boise. This is an exciting river drive, with 7-8% grades and tight turns. At one of the very few pull-outs that we could fit in, we walked down to the river for a few moments of contemplation. The river was roaring past us at only moderate volume; it's hard to imagine what it would be like during Spring snowmelt.
As we drove south, we knew that our good friend Brad Bernardy was on the fire lines of the Pioneer Fire only 30 miles or so to the east. Brad is a Forest Service senior firefighter, and is right now helping manage the efforts of over 1,000 firefighters to get this dangerous 67,000 acre fire under control. We wish Brad and his teams all the best luck in their 24/7 efforts near Lowman and Idaho City. (Photo from KIVITV)
While visiting Idaho's capital, we learned that it's pronounced "BOY-see", not "boy-ZEE". It helps to be linguistically correct when visiting new places. Boise is a neat, friendly city, and as soon as we could, we went for two delightful bike rides on one of the best urban bike trails we've yet ridden, the Boise River Greenbelt Trail. We passed a group of people and stands set up in a park, and Suzanne said, "Ty, I would like to stop at this craft fair..." We stopped and walked our bikes for a minute, and then MLB said, "Ty, There's a distinct hippie feel here." I looked at the scruffy-looking college kids and then noticed a small sign with a green leaf logo, and said, "Suzanne, this isn't a craft fair; it's called Hempfest!" Whoops... Exit stage right...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 9:39 PM
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Looking back through my recent photos, I noted that I had neglected to mention one delightful woman we met back in Unity Village. Cheri Neal was sitting on this butterfly bench, and looked like she had sprouted wings! Turns out Cheri is a life coach with an amazing background. Not only has she completed three triathlons and three half marathons, but she also jumped out of three perfectly good airplanes (okay, with a parachute) and was Illinois' first female snow plow operator! I was particularly impressed by Cheri's friendly, positive and caring attitude. You can learn more about Cheri and her life coaching on her web site www.cherineal.com .
Another photo that I ran across was this house in Livingston, Montana, with an unusual decoration. I'm not sure what message (if any) the homeowner was trying to give, but it sure got my attention... I wonder what the homeowners association back in The Villages would say?
Mountain rivers are some of our favorite places. While in Glacier National Park, we hiked alongside McDonald Creek, at 25 miles the longest stream in the park. It's a beautiful place, and once you're away from the turistas near parking pullouts, it's almost deserted.
This view of McDonald Creek looks downstream at the Lower Falls, where you can see the horizon line of the drop.
We also got in a couple of great mountain bike rides; here we see a cute young cyclist taking a break on Montana's Whitefish Trail. She's hardly glistening, while her partner below is breaking a sweat, but at least he's upright and not face-planted in the dirt.
"I'm afraid these beers are not cold enough to drink."
"Gee, sorry, our cooler hasn't been working very well. That's as good as it gets."
"Okay, I'd like a bucket of ice to cool them off."
"Gee, sorry, we don't have buckets."
"How about a couple of freezing cold iced mugs?"
"Gee, sorry, all we have is plastic cups, and even if we had glasses or mugs, none of our coolers are cold enough to frost glass anyway."
At this point I was about to say, "Gee, sorry, cancel my order, and we'll go somewhere that knows what 'service' means..." But (1) Suzanne has been trying to train me to be more loving, compassionate and tolerant, and (2) I had already paid the bill and left a generous gratuity; and (3) we were starving, so I said to myself, "Isn't this interesting?" and "I would really prefer having cold beers instead of these insipidly warm excuses for beer." So, I gently and lovingly said, "Okay, how about a couple of large cups of ice so I can immerse these unsatisfactorily warm beers into an ice bath to make them drinkable?"
"So, I guess we can do that."
"No problem." (This leads to another pet peeve to be discussed in the paragraph below...)
My Lovely Bride was more than amused by my travails, and took this photo of Your Faithful Correspondent in the act of icing down two bottles of warm beer in 16 oz. plastic cups. By the time our pizza (pretty decent, actually) arrived, the beers were almost drinkable... but I was still hot!
Finally, on to that other pet peeve... the use of the modern phrase "No problem" in place of the traditional "You're welcome". The use of this annoying phrase is so pervasive that any attempt on my part to convince millennials of its incivility would probably be met with blank looks and replies of "Whatever", so I guess I will follow My Lovely Bride's advice and just suck it up. Where are good English teachers when you really need them? Sigh...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 9:20 PM
Monday, August 1, 2016
Absaroka-Beartooth; Whitefish, Montana; Glacier National Park; Heading Home; IANDS; Birthday Girls; An Oak Grove
We are now two-thirds of the way through our summer tour out west, and are about to turn east and slowly head back to The Villages. But first, we have some more visiting, sightseeing and hiking to do in the Rockies... This is Mill Creek, east of Emigrant and Pray, Montana. See how many houses, cars and people you can pick out in the photo...
I got lots of hiking in while My Lovely Bride made a quick trip to Albuquerque, NM, to teach her Serving Spirit course. When she returned to Montana, we went on a hike together in the Beartooths... I think she is making a face because of the name, which implies some relationship with the "business end" of grizzlies. (Note: we did carry industrial cans of bear spray, but I never saw a bruin in several solo hikes into the area.)
Wildflowers were in bloom due to recent rain, and this species was prevalent in a burn area where I hiked; the Ponderosa pines were all dead from a lightning-generated fire, but wildflowers, plants and seedlings had returned.
Hopefully, in 20-25 years only experts will know that this area had burned, but for now, it looks pretty grim.
Our last day along the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana, provided this view of the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains and wilderness at dusk. If it weren't for the bitter winters, I could live here quite happily. Summers are mild (75 F is a warm day) and the crowds are rather small... like, nonexistent! And the fishing is good - I mentioned to some friends that I had caught and released three brown trout in the Yellowstone, and My Good Friend Bob asked, "And what happened when you woke up from that dream?" I didn't have a 2 x 4 handy when Bob made that hurtful, sarcastic remark. But I am looking for an opportunity to get even...
While on the subject of fishing, I should relate an incident which occurred as we were walking down a creek and met some fishermen carrying a couple of trout. We stopped to talk, and I asked the trio what they used to catch the fish: flies, spinners or bait? They replied that they had all used nightcrawlers, the "universal bait". We walked on, and I noticed that My Lovely Bride had a naughty smile on her face. I asked her what was up. She turned to make sure the fishermen were out of sight, struck a sexy pose and replied, "No, Sweetheart, this is the universal bait!"
Our next stop was Whitefish, Montana, where we got to enjoy some quality family time with Suzanne's nephew Matthew, his lovely wife Eleanor, and their daughters Olive (7) and Ruth (3).
Matthew took us to an internationally renowned equestrian event, The Event at Rebecca Farm. Originally called Militaire, and designed to test cavalry horses and troopers, Eventing has evolved into the equivalent of a Triathlon for horses and their riders - dressage, cross country and show jumping. We were there on Thursday, which was the novices' day, but got a good look at several competitors and their trusty steeds.
We also got out to Glacier National Park for some hiking and a trip up the Going to the Sun Road. Unlike during our visit a couple of years ago, the road was clear of snow this time... but the scenery is still spectacular!
Her keynote speech was filmed and streamed live. Without my awareness, Suzanne alerted the film crew to focus in on me because she was going to tell a joke about me to warm up the audience. She predicted I would put my face in my hands and shake my head, which is exactly what I did. Does she think she knows me after 20 years, or what?
Today was a special day: Suzanne and Ruthie celebrated their shared birthday. I will not reveal their ages, because gentlemen don't do that, but I can say that Suzanne is now a legal Villages resident! Suzanne's brother Brent and His Lovely Bride Cheryl took us all out to dinner at our favorite Japanese restaurant for sushi, and a good time was had by all.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 7:10 PM
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Devil's Tower; Railroad Bill's BBQ Sauce; Mamma Clouds; An Automated Firewood Dispenser? "Nah, It's Just a Ford"
From South Dakota's Black Hills, we traveled west to visit Devil's Tower, a lava monolith in far eastern Wyoming. Both of us had always to wanted to see this iconic piece of rock that is held sacred by many Indian tribes, and we were not disappointed by its magnificence. Our visit started with a bit of mis-adventure, however, when yours truly neglected to check the fuel level on the toad, our Honda CR-V that we tow behind our motor coach. We arrived at our campground just a mile from the rock, and I gasped when I saw 10 miles left on the "distance left to doom" counter. Quickly trying to deflect my guilt, I said, "Suzanne, you didn't fill the car up before we left Custer! We're almost out of gas!" She looked at me at first with guilt, then with a bit of indignation... (Oops, I may have overstepped my bounds with that remark!) She said sweetly, "But Darling, shouldn't You, the Man, have checked it also?" I replied gruffly, "Don't confuse me with facts... what are we going to do now? The nearest town is 8 miles away." My Lovely Bride replied, "Look, it's only a mile up the road to the visitor center. Let's drive up, hike, and then we'll get gas."
This may have not been the best decision of our collective consciousness, but there we were. It was a Saturday, and throngs would be arriving soon, so we made the most of the opportunity to visit Devil's Tower before it got too crowded. We drove uphill (can you see this coming?) and after one mile, the doomsday counter went from 10 miles to 4. Now we couldn't get to town at all. So what else? We went for a hike. There were scores of people on the short hike that circled the base of the tower on a paved trail, but almost no one on the 3 mile hike (yep, on real dirt!) that went down to the Belle Fourche River and through the Red Beds, a colorful geologic feature. Oh, did I mention that it was in the low 90s by then? Anyway, we finished our hike, turned on the engine long enough to get out of the parking lot and headed fair, and then coasted downhill in neutral back to the entrance of our campground and parked right by our coach. We had exactly 1 mile of gas left on the counter, enough to hook up the car and tow it to our next destination, where we filled up at the first gas station we came to. It was a lesson learned that I hope MLB will never forget. Smack!
On the way out, we took this photo at the gate of historic Campstool Ranch, est. 1882, the home of the Driskill family who has owned and farmed 5,000 acres of land adjacent to Devil's Tower for six generations.
After departing Devil's Tower, we headed northwest to Montana. On the way, we stopped for barbecue and found this excellent sauce, Railroad Bill's. It had special significance for Suzanne, whose dad Bill was a railroad engineer. He started as a youngster shoveling coal on an engine that looked much like the one on the bottle label, and drove for the Pennsylvania and Penn Central railroads before finishing his career with AMTRAK on the Main Line route west of Philadelphia.
The weather here on the Great Plains can be very changeable. As a lifetime sailor, I am always watching the sky for signs of impending rain and high winds. One of the cloud formations that I never care to see close-up is this one... mamma, or mammatocumulus, clouds. These breast-shaped clouds are often composed of ice crystals, and are associated with anvil-shaped thunderstorms that produce lightning and even tornadoes. I have been told by MLB that I see these shapes even when she doesn't... what can I say? Maybe it's a guy thing.
Our next stop was at Salmon Lake State Park, Montana, just for two nights. I wish we had booked a longer stay, because it was a very quiet campground next to a beautiful lake. There was absolutely NO cell phone service, and of course no wi-fi, either, but for a relaxing place to get off the grid, it had a lot to offer. I call this shot "A chair with a view." It evidently belonged to a stand-up paddleboarder (SUPer) who was out on the lake, and I am sure that he or she thought that they had one of the best spots on the lake.
Rudy and Gretchen were anxious to go out and meet some of the local inhabitants, but our better judgment made us keep them on lead while this guy was around. Otherwise, our little hunters would have had him for lunch. This little fellow is a handsome example of the Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus colubianus). They are often considered pests out west, and more than one horse has stepped in their burrows and injured a leg. They are called "Seven sleepers" because they hibernate in their burrows from Fall until Spring, only emerging for 5 months of activity.
Montana is blessed with many waterfalls. We hiked to this one, Morrell Falls, in Lolo National Forest, and for the first time this trip carried bear spray, just in case (we are now deep in grizzly country). Fortunately, we didn't need it. The only danger on this hike was falling into the cold water. You can tell that Suzanne is happy with the surroundings - waterfalls make her smile every time!
I like to get out in the woods to avoid modern life and technology, but you can see that it has even arrived in rural Montana's state parks. Here we found a wood dispenser; just plop in 16 quarters, and a bundle of firewood is dispensed at your feet... sheesh, what's next, a robot to build your fire for you?
This next photo is for My Good Friend Bob. I mentioned in a previous post that because he had helped me on several occasions with his big Ford F-350 truck, I wouldn't make fun of Fords. Well, like any politician, some promises are meant to be broken... Here's the story: we were leaving the campground one day, and came across a guy with the hood of his Ford truck in the open (I'm in trouble now) position. We pulled alongside and asked if we could help. He replied with a grin, "Nah, it's just a Ford..." (As in "Fix Or Repair Daily".)
From Salmon Lake, we moved on to Whitefish, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park and home of Suzanne's nephew Matthew, his wife Eleanor, and their beautiful daughters Olive and Ruthie. We went out for dinner with the family and Eleanor's dad Shawn, and the only picture I remembered to take was that of Ruthie sleeping while we ate... but it's priceless!
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 2:53 PM