Sunday, October 6, 2019

Homeward Bound; Rudy's Racing Life; I Like Ike; Sunset Clouds and Coyotes; Cincinnati; Maryland's Eastern Shore; Home in SC!

The day after our dinner with The Army in Longmont, we drove to Denver airport for Suzanne to board a flight to Scottsdale... but the trip to the airport wasn't without "its moments". I had called the day before to see if the departure area could accommodate our 13' high, 8' 6" wide , 60' long motor coach and car towed astern. The police lady laughed and said, "Sir, there is an 8' 6" limit there; you might want to drive to the Mt. Elbert shuttle lot." Thank you, ma'am!!! Even so, I still had to disconnect the car when I got there because the map didn't show a dead end on the road to the shuttle lot. Sigh...

While Suzanne was in Arizona at the Scottsdale Soul Summit, the puppies and I drove across country to Cincinnati, where she would meet us. We stopped in Wakeeney, Kansas; Lee's Summit, Missouri; Grayville, Illinois (really); and North Bend, Ohio. It was a long trip, but fortunately, Rudy is a pretty good bus driver, especially in cruise control, although we have to be careful because his legs are so short that he has difficulty reaching the brake pedal. Gretchen is the lookout, and will bark at him when cars cut in front of us and we need to brake. 

Rudy reads voraciously, and one of his favorite books is The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. He loves to race, and we had to put a speed limiting governor on the bus to keep our speed down below 80...

While crossing Kansas, I stopped at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library in Abilene. It's an amazing museum, and as an "I Like Ike" guy, I was particularly grateful to have the opportunity to experience this national historic site and learn more about Dwight David Eisenhower. I recommend it highly to every American.

Sunset is always a favorite time of day for me, partly because I'm not crazy about getting up before dawn... this photo was taken while on a walk near our campground in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Just after taking it, I heard the yip-howls of several coyotes (ki-otes) (Canis latrans) in the distance. They are rarely a threat to humans, but dogs are often prey of the prairie wolf, as they were known in the 18th-19th Centuries. They are found in almost every state today. 

When Suzanne joined us in Cincinnati, we had some special time with Ty and Brian Smith, dear friends who are also Shining Light Parents. Ty and I share the same nickname (she is Tywana and I am Tyler), and Brian and Suzanne are both authors. Ty and Brian opened their home for Suzanne to use for a SHIFT Network interview (see Suzanne's web site for more info). This was the first time we had been to Cincinnati, and unfortunately, we only had one night there. (Maybe next year.) But Ty and Brian allowed Suzanne to do a radio interview with SHIFT Network CEO Stephen Dinan from Ty's meditation room...

From Cincinnati, we drove east to West Virginia, and then to Maryland, where we met up with a great sailing friend, Jim W., a Vietnam era Navy guy who became an airline pilot and an accomplished sailboat captain. We have met up with Jim and Dianne twice during our cross-country trip, and look forward to more time with them in the future (they were staying at a friend's house... a tiny hovel...

While in Maryland, My Lovely Bride had a radio show scheduled... when booking our campgrounds, I always ask whether they have AT&T or Verizon cell service, or good Wi-Fi. When we checked into our campsite at an Elks Lodge on the  Eastern Shore of Maryland, everything looked great.. Our next door neighbors in another RV had asked me to have a beer with them at the Elks Lodge Bar, which had a secure door that you had to ring a buzzer for, and the bartender would buzz you in. We were at 30 minutes into her show, when everyone in the bar was shocked to hear a loud banging on the door, and there is a CRAZY WOMAN, fortunately not carrying a weapon, trying to get into the bar. I said to the young bartender, "Michelle, please let her in, it's my wife, not a psychopath..." Suzanne rushes in, and yells, "I need anyone's cell phone, right NOW!" Our neighbors (in a mild state of shock)  gave up their cell phone, and MLB (in Commander Mode) proceeded to find a table in the corner, away from most of the bar noise, and continued her radio show... turns out that her AT&T cell phone dropped off line, and she had no communications with the techs back in Lee's Summit, Missouri, at Unity Village... it was one of those "aw shit" moments that as a naval officer, she was prepared to overcome. Somehow, she maintained her sense of humor and finished the show with her listeners none the wiser, while I just had another beer with our friends who had to wait for her to finish with their cell phone. 

From Maryland, we headed south down the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, one of the prettiest parts of the USA, lots of corn fields, rivers and estuaries, and small towns with homes of fishermen, crabbers and oystermen. 

Our babies, Rudy and Gretchen, are almost 15 and 14 now, and sleep a lot; their favorite place is in their Dog Mom's lap, as you can see...

After a couple of VERY LONG driving days, we arrived back in Hilton Head, SC, and went to see our dear friends Irene and Tony Vouvalides. Our new house (still being built) is only 3 doors down from theirs, and they have been our personal project supervisors while we were on the road (much to the good-natured chagrin of our official construction project manager, who is a great guy). After parking our car in their driveway, Tony and Irene walked us down to see our almost-completed home, and had a bottle of Champagne ready to open when we got there, followed by one of Irene's gourmet dinners. It was a glorious last day of our 2019 Tour.

Finally, I must mention a note I received from six attractive young women (Shelley, Amanda, Jenny, Cathy, Jolene and Muffy) ... a note which initially surprised MLB, and provided a moment or four of consternation, but then ended in hysterical laughter. It read something like this, "Ty, it was great meeting you, and we look forward to seeing more of you in the future..." Suzanne at first thought it was from some Hooters girls, but she calmed down when I told her, "No, Sweetheart, these were the nurses who did my colonoscopy..."

Okay, one last note and photo: To everyone who follows this blog, thank you for your kind notes, comments and support during our 2019 Summer Tour. We have been living in our RV since January, and are now staying in a campground about three miles from our new house. We hope to move into it in a month or so, but having this "hateful" view every day at sunset isn't all bad. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Back to the USA; Band Practice; Used Cows??? Fly Fishing; Grizzlies; Yellowstone and Tetons; Wind River Range; BEAT ARMY! Parking Hall of Shame

We returned from our Canadian adventure via the border crossing at Eureka, Montana. Having been to Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma and Napa, we had a few bottles of wine on which I didn't want to pay Canadian duty, so we had rented a small storage locker in Eureka prior to heading across, and we were happy to find that none had evaporated during our ten day absence. We stayed in a small campground with this fifth wheel and an unusual tow vehicle (okay, maybe the owner also had a truck, but it made a cute photo...)

When we got down to Missoula, we stopped in at the University of Montana for a walk with Rudy and Gretchen. Suzanne went on alert when she heard the music from the marching band, and we had to listen for a bit. She was a "bandie" in high school and college, and I would swear that she was about to grab a flute or piccolo from one of the college kids and show them how it should be played...

Everyone in America has passed by at least one used car lot in their lives, but Montana has a different commodity to sell...

We arrived in Bozeman and immediately set out for a hike. Stopping at this trailhead map, we opted for Bear Creek rather than Moonshine Gulch... I told Suzanne the creek was named that because it was shaped like a bear... she wasn't amused, but each of us did carry a can of bear spray. (Oh, and the trail sign had to have a bullet hole... after all, this IS Montana!)

Bozeman is where we were joined by our dear friend and neighbor, Tony Vouvalides, who is an expert trout fisherman. He has been fly fishing since he was a youngster, while I have only been using a fly rod for about 6 hours, if you count up the time I have actually held one. We went drift fishing with a guide for three days on the Yellowstone River. Tony out-caught me about 15-6...

but I enjoyed the scenery more. This would be a great river to kayak down, carrying your tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc. Maybe that's why I wasn't catching as many fish - you have to keep your eyes on a dry fly so that when a trout hits it for .00005 nanoseconds, you can strike and hook it. I think my reflexes are getting slow in my old age... but if I kayak-camped down the Yellowstone River, I would be sure to carry freeze-dried meals or Marine Corps/Army Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in case the fish were on vacation in Tampa.

Each day on the river started chilly, like in the 40s, but warmed up into the low 70s by afternoon. Perfect weather for anything!

Our drift boats were different makes and models each day, but they all had a dory's double end, high bow and stern. The guide sat in the middle seat and rowed, mostly to keep the boat aligned with the current, to miss rocks, and to allow the fishermen a good casting angle. We averaged about 13 miles a day on the Yellowstone.

As I mentioned earlier, the scenery was very nice. Suzanne and I have a phrase that we use when we step onto a scene like this... "This is a HATEFUL PLACE!"

Here is a Happy Fisherman. Nice rainbow, Tony!

Picking the right flies to use is an art; it's called "matching the hatch", or more colloquially, "pulling it out of your butt"... this sign board in a fly shop suggested which flies were working on different rivers in the area. I particularly liked the innovative names, like Panty Dropper, Thunder Thighs, Dirty Hippie and Hippie Stomper.

Before Tony returned to South Carolina, we visited a grizzly sanctuary. Only one bear was out at the time, but Brutus was a big guy, about 800 lbs. Even carrying that much weight, an adult griz (Ursus horribilis) can still run at 25-30 mph, making them very quick when hunting elk, deer or hikers. (Just kidding... but we do carry bear spray when we're out in the woods.) Grizzlies live to around 22 years for males, 26 for females (male lifespans are shorter because of their seasonal breeding fights.) Alaskan bears tend to be much larger (up to 1,200 lbs) because of their richer diet of salmon. Interestingly, grizzlies and black bears rarely share the same territory, because the much larger grizzly is such an intimidating and overpowering competitor. "Apex predator" is such an apt description. When black bears do encounter grizzlies, they generally run or climb a tree to escape almost certain death/injury. 

I remained in Bozeman after Tony departed and while Suzanne was speaking at the IANDS conference in Philadelphia, PA. I had to suffer through terrible scenery, such as when I hiked Chestnut Mountain. Even on a weekend, the trail was lightly traveled, with only 4 other hikers and a couple of mountain bikers sharing the trail.

I also got out on my bike a few times, although not on the very steep Chestnut Mountain trail. One of the advantages to not watching any TV is that we can spend more time outdoors. Montana is so beautiful and lightly populated; it's no wonder many Californians are leaving and settling here. Unfortunately, that migration is driving property values up, a complaint heard in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah as well. 

After Suzanne returned, we drove through Yellowstone National Park to our next campground at the south end of the park, right near the Tetons. Yellowstone Lake is a gorgeous body of water, and on this day we didn't see a single boat out.

More "hateful" scenery to suffer through... but someone has to do it! If you haven't taken the opportunity to see these amazing national parks, you're missing some incredible places...

The Tetons are one of our favorite places. Named les trois tetons (the three nipples) by French voyageurs in the 18th Century, this small range of 12-13,000 foot plus peaks is only 40 miles long, and is paradise for backpackers and rock climbers. We only had a couple of days here, so we got out on a long bike ride with this backdrop. Life is good!

This photo by the great photographer Ansel Adams is worth sharing.

On the sad side of life, welcome to the newest member of our Parking Hall of Shame. We had stopped at a home furnishing store and parked next to this Nissan Rogue (appropriately named?) whose owner obviously had no regard for other folks' desire to park in front of the store in which she was shopping. Another lady in the store looked at the car's owner and asked her twice, "Why did you park across two spots like that? What were you thinking?" The Rogue owner refused to even answer, and just ignored the other woman completely. 

Our next stop was Pinedale, Wyoming,on the west side of the Wind River Range. I had done a four day backpacking trip into The Winds a few years ago, and would like to re-post this photo from that trip - Titcomb Basin became one of my top 3 destinations on the planet that week.

On this trip, Suzanne and I did a great dayhike on the Sacred Rim Trail (Bridger-Teton National Forest). She was so impressed by the panorama here that she posted a video -  you can watch it here:

The view down into the valley and to the mountains was incredible. Titcomb basin is located about 15 miles away in the background.

When we arrived in Pinedale, the mountains were almost clear of snow, except for permanent snowfields. On our last evening there, a cold front came through with temps in the 30s in our campground (actually in Boulder, WY). It's been a long time since we've experienced snow  in the first week of September!

From Wyoming we drove to Longmont, Colorado, to visit with our dear friends Charlie and Elaine Cunis. We owed "Colonel Crusty" a meal from the last Army-Navy football game. The Cunis's have been married for over 50 years, and are two of the nicest people we know. (BEAT ARMY!!!)

While Suzanne was recording one of her weekly radio shows from Castle Cunis, the pups and I experienced a moderately bad lightning and hailstorm in the campground. No broken glass or dents, but lots of noise on the coach roof. After the storm passed, this double rainbow graced us with its beauty.

Finally, this sign inside a national park pit toilet either perhaps reflects the park service's desire for people to not read email while on the throne or to avoid acrobatics... I'm not sure which.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Crowsnest Pass; Black Diamond; Cochrane, Alberta; Frederickton, New Brunswick; Yamnuska Mountain; New Friends; Wolfdogs; Men in Kilts?

Our last blog had us in Sparwood, British Columbia, where I was negotiating for a truck... fortunately, the deal fell through, so we moved on through Crowsnest Pass into Alberta. The scenery here in the Canadian Rockies is amazing!!!

On the way to our campground, we passed through the town of Black Diamond (not named for a ski run), whose town square has this representation of a black diamond - the town was built around the coal mining industry. 

We stopped for a week at a very nice campground on the scenic Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta, just west of Calgary. 

A paved bike path alongside the Bow provided Biker Chick and Your Correspondent a delightful ride, albeit up some hills that were unnecessarily placed on the trail.

We were in the area for Suzanne to give a presentation at the Calgary Center for Spiritual Living (CSL), which was very well attended and received. Thanks go out to Dr. Pat Campbell, Senior Minister and Spiritual Director, for her hospitality. 

Someone recently asked if we cooked in our RV, or simply went out for meals. We might go out once every 2-3 weeks, mainly for a meal that we would not ordinarily make ourselves (sushi, Thai, etc.). This particular morning the short order cook was feeling whimsical, and gave His Lovely Bride a cheese and green onion omelet with a smiley face (bacon and red pepper rings). 

While I stayed in Cochrane, Suzanne boarded an Air Canada flight to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to present her Level 2 Serving Spirit class at Wendy Carty and Dr. Bill Cook's amazing Iris Center. The class was filled and everyone had a great weekend. Suzanne was also Wendy and Bill's house guest, and they treated her to a family lobster dinner that she is still talking about. (I will serve her a lobster dinner the next time I get my lobster trap out... Thanks a lot, Wendy!)

While Suzanne was three time zones away in Eastern Canada, I went hiking at Yamnuska Mountain. The name means "wall of stone" in the Stoney Nakoda language. (I wonder why they call it that....)

This photo is interesting... I caught up to a family of four who were stopped dead on the trail. The mom, just ahead of me, turned and whispered, "There is a mama grizzly bear with a cub just ahead. We're letting her cross the trail..." I thought, "What a great idea!" The orange canister in her right hand is, of course, bear spray, a capsicum aerosol similar to Mace. Mine was on my belt, and I'm glad we didn't have to use it. It's said to be very effective against a 1,000 lb bear charging at you at 30 mph... I've only had to use it once, against a black bear in Florida, of all places.

The trail was steep in places...

But the view from the top was spectacular!

I met a delightful Canadian couple at the local gym, Roxanne and Byron Smyke. They invited me to a cookout at a local park, and they and their son Blaise, a champion swimmer, visited the coach the next day. It was a great experience and showed the warmth and hospitality of our Canadian neighbors. Eh?

A solo bike ride took me to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, also along the Bow River, but graced with some very steep hills (for training purposes). This section was near the river where one sign warned about being aware of moose...

Nights this far north were chilly, down into the 40sF, but our puppies Rudy and Gretchen were snug as bugs in rugs near the electric fireplace!

When MLB returned from New Brunswick, we drove to a very special place - the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary just west of Cochrane, Alberta. These unique canines are mixes of wolf and dog; a "high content" wolfdog might be 90% wolf and only 10% dog (usually Huskies, Malamutes or even Irish Wolfhounds). 

While they are beautiful creatures, they can also be more wild animal than urban/suburban or even rural owners can handle. Smart as all get out, they are accomplished diggers and want to be free of fenced yards; master escape artists, wolfdogs can't survive well in the wild because they haven't been trained by their pack parents to hunt. This sanctuary rescues wolfdogs, and now has about 30 residents that they care for.

Finally, at the gym where I met Roxanne and Byron, this poster caught my eye... it shows that while Canada and the USA share a common language (most of the time), there are certain cultural differences that set us apart...