Monday, July 20, 2020

Zion; SLC; New Friends; Hikes in the Wasatch Mountains; Gross Brine Flies!!! A Big Copper Mine; Pool Party!

Zion National Park is a jewel, but this virus nonsense is making even visiting national parks problematic. Visitor controls meant that shuttle buses requiring advance reservations were almost empty, so we didn't get to the hiking trails we would have liked to hike again. But we found a great mountain biking trail along the Virgin River, where My Lovely Bride is pictured here... it's over a 100 foot drop to the rocks below, and Suzanne was making me a bit nervous riding close to the edge... "Hey, I am not 22 any more!"

A drive through the park did allow us to refresh ourselves with the spectacular scenery Zion offers... 

MLB is famous for her "enSuzyasm"!!!

This is Checkerboard Mesa,  where unusual cross-hatching of the White Cliffs formation have formed in the mesa's sandstone.

Zion is such a humbling place for mere mortals such as myself.... 

Next, on to Salt Lake City, where we met new friends Wally and Colette Lloyd; we met for a great Mexican dinner at the Red Iguana, and went hiking up above the Alta ski resort, around 9,500 feet; the air is a bit thin that high, but we had a ball. It was 68 degrees up high, and in the 90s down in the city.

The meadows were covered in beautiful wildflowers - lupine, blue bells, Indian paintbrush, and more...


Another hike found Wally and me at Big Cottonwood Canyon for a triple (3 short hikes totalling 5 miles). The first was to Donut Falls, the second to Silver Lake, and the third up a steep trail to Twin Lakes. Having grown up in Salt Lake, Wally has done all of these trails multiple times, and was a totally knowledgeable guide.

Suzanne and I have fallen in love with the Wasatch Mountains - all of these hikes are within one hour's drive of SLC. I could live here!

We did have one misadventure while kayaking on the Great Salt Lake. As we drove into the state park of the same name, we noticed that there were no other boats on the lake... how cool, we'll have it all to ourselves! We launched our kayaks, noticing a lot of fly-like insects near the shore. "No sweat, Suzanne, once we get out in the lake, they should disappear..." WRONG!!!! Here is MLB paddling hard, with Antelope Island in the background, trying to outrun swarms of what we later found were billions of "brine flies". You can actually see them on the surface of the water; thankfully, they did not bite, but they were totally GROSS!

Near the shore of the Great Salt Lake as you are headed west from SLC, you will see an enormous stack - the smelter stack for Kennecott Copper, a facility that produces about 25% of all the copper used in the USA. The open pit Bingham Copper Mine in the Oquirrh Mountains is the largest man-made excavation in the world, and the deepest open-pit mine in the world. 

While in SLC, we also had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with Irene Bozich and Mike Muir, spiritual leader of the SLC Unity Church.  Irene graciously provided her home and good Internet signal for two of Suzanne's online events.

Contrary to the photos above, we were not always hiking, kayaking and eating out in SLC... for example, two of our neighbors at the KOA campground had a pool party... in the bed of their pickup truck! (For a moment I thought that we might have been transported back to my home state of Louisiana...). I was about to accept their invitation when MLB said, "That young blonde isn't wearing many clothes.." (I was about to respond, "What's your point?" when the Husband's Survival Instinct set in). Sigh...

We also got out on several bike rides on the Jordan River Trail, a 40 mile bike and walking trail that passed right behind our campground. Here is MLB perusing the selections at a private mini-library behind a riverside home (perhaps created by a generous English teacher???).

Our time in Utah at an end, we reluctantly struck camp and headed north to Idaho... please join us next week for more Summer Tour adventures!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Flagstaff Hiking and Biking; Bismarck Lake; Walnut Canyon; Aspens; Backpacking Dachshunds; Sedona Side-Trip; Las Vegas Friends and Verite

Flagstaff has always been one of our favorite places, and having great friends there makes it extra special. Janean Quigley and Suzanne hit it off really well, both metaphysically and "PT-physically". Both gals love to hike and bike, and trying to keep up with them is getting to be more than tough... it's almost impossible! Here we are on a "mellow" mountain bike ride near Mormon Lake, southeast of Flagstaff.

I did a solo overnight on the Arizona Trail, which has few water resources. Janean kindly carried extra water for me before returning to her car; her Labradoodle Luna is an amazing hiking dog, with unbounded energy.

I set up camp at Bismarck Lake, under some trees that provided some relief from the sun. I was the only overnighter here; I was surprised, because it's a pleasant spot to camp. Dinner was freeze-dried sweet and sour pork, while breakfast was biscuits and gravy (also freeze-dried). These meals in a bag only require adding boiling water and waiting 8-9 minutes; that beats carrying all the ingredients, which would be about 2-3 times the weight of the prepared meal.

The view from my tent was impressive. Bismarck Lake (in summer, the size of a small pond) actually had some water in it, but local residents (elk, mule deer, skunks, rabbits, birds, etc.) use it as a primary water source, and (a) I didn't want to use their limited water supply; and (b) they also tend to poop and pee in the lake, so water quality could be, shall we say, problematic.

This photo with the San Francisco Peaks in the background was to prove to My Lovely Bride that I wasn't at Hooters... but I probably could have convinced her that I had been out hiking by showing her the worst blister I have ever had on my left middle toe. (I refrain from showing it on this blog because it was really gross...)

While in Flag, we had an RV meet-up with our friends Jim and Diane. It was their first time here, so we took them to Walnut Canyon National Monument. The main trail taking visitors past the 25 cliff dwelling rooms was closed, but we got a short hike in on the Rim Trail. The river (dry in summer) is 350 feet below the rim. The pre-Columbian Sinagua (literally "without water") people lived here from about 1100-1250 A.D. Historians think that they abandoned these cliff dwellings because of threats from other nearby tribes.

While driving through part of Flagstaff near the mountains, I was amazed to see hundreds of sandbags protecting residential homes. There was a serious fire on the slopes above this area a year or two ago, and when the summer monsoon begins, there can be 2 feet of muddy runoff cascading down the streets. 

Aspen trees (Populous tremuloides) are common in Flagstaff (elevation 6,970 ft), and we love to hike through groves of these beautiful trees. They are often part of a cloned colony sharing a common root system, and grow to about 80 feet in height. The ferns at the base of these aspens are about four feet tall.

This lovely hiker is obviously happy to be in the aspens...

An aspen grove is an excellent place to meditate!

Suzanne introduced Nellie to hiking by carrying her in a backpack for a couple of miles and letting her walk the third mile; she did GREAT! Rudy, being over 15 years old, preferred to be carried......

Our final hike in Flag for this year took us to Sandy's Canyon Trail, named after a friend of Janean's. The scenery was terrific, and it was a fitting finish to a fabulous two week stay...

A short side trip to Sedona allowed us to enjoy (even briefly) the incredible red rock scenery of this beautiful area between Flagstaff and Phoenix. 

We had lunch at Butterfly Burger, a "couture burger lounge" created by Chef Lisa Dahl, a good friend of Suzanne's. The food was amazing - real gourmet hamburgers with ingredients that were perfectly selected to make your taste buds explode, and served in a setting that was sexy and stylish. This picture greets you at the door... if you're ever in Sedona, it's well worth a visit.

We departed Flag headed west to Las Vegas, where we stopped for two nights to have dinner with Jerry Facciani and Karen Barret Facciani. As we were getting out of the car, they met us in full bio-warfare facemasks... what cards they are! Fortunately, Jerry allowed us all to go mask-free so we could enjoy two gourmet dinners and some of the finest wine we have ever had, 97 and 98 point Verite La Muse and La Joie. Jerry and Karen are true oenophiles

We would have liked to have spent more time with Jerry and Karen, but it was getting HOT! We struck camp and headed north to Hurricane, Utah, near Zion National Park, one of the most spectacular places on the planet... but more on that in my next post. Ya'll come back, ya hear?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Boatbuilding; Lynette, the Scheduling Princess; Ingrid Honkala; Gonging; Masking Up; E-biking; Two Anniversaries

One of the most important reasons for our move to South Carolina was to be near our dear friends Irene and Tony Vouvalides. Irene is the Vice President of Helping Parents Heal, and she and Suzanne are like sisters... Tony is a retired elementary school principal, and an expert ship model builder. He is such a craftsman that the Smithsonian asked him to restore a model of the schooner America, the yacht that won the silver cup that became the America's Cup for 153 years. Tony wanted to build a kayak, and ordered a kit from Chesapeake Light Craft. Lest you think that a kit is easy to build, I can assure you that it is not; here is Tony with some of the materials...

Tony, John Friday and I worked on the kayak off and on for several weeks, stitching and gluing, sanding, and epoxying - making good progress on her, and seeing her lines come together.

Our summer tour departure date came and we had to leave before she was completed, but Tony sent some pics of his new kayak, and she is a beauty!!! He is looking forward to getting her out on the water, and Irene is happy to get her garage back for her car!

Our new puppy Nellie is growing like a weed, and is a real lap dog... she loves to lie touching us, like she did with her mom and siblings.

After we departed SC, we stopped in a couple of lakeside campgrounds, this one in Georgia. There was a nice hiking trail around the twin lakes, which provided a pleasant change from the 65 mph driving on the Interstate.

A stop in Atlanta allowed us to spend some quality time with Lynette Setzkorn, Suzanne's Scheduling Princess. Lynette is a fabulous writer, and has a terrific blog,, which I recommend highly... 

Moving west, we arrived in Tupelo, Mississippi, where we were joined by Ingrid Honkala, a marine scientist who has seen beings of light since she was a child. Ingrid was a recent guest on Suzanne's Unity Radio Show, Messages of Hope. While she and Suzanne discussed spiritual topics, Ingrid's husband Mike and I discussed Navy stuff... 

Mike is a retired Navy Special Ops guy who trains security teams around the world. They traveled up from Bay St. Louis, MS, with their son David, and spent the day with us at our Tombigbee State Park campsite. I've always wanted to have a physique like Mike's... he could probably bench press 250 lbs... maybe if I start going to the gym twice a week... my internal voice is saying, "Ain't gonna happen, Ty!"  Sigh...

Westward Ho, on to Memphis, Tennessee, where My Lovely Bride had an appointment at the Memphis Drum Shop... but for a very cool gong, thanks to a friend back in Hilton Head, Candace Blair.  Suzanne has taken up the gong as part of her spiritual practice, in particular for sound therapy and meditation. Candace had introduced us to the gong in a special "gong bath", and even I had a transformative experience, when she created haunting sounds much like the songs of humpback whales that I had listened to for years on Navy ships' passive sonars. Nellie seems fascinated by Suzanne's gonging as well.

While in a nearby campground in Marion, Arkansas, we saw this wrecked trailer, and asked one of the staff about it. He told us that a straight line wind storm had come through and toppled a huge tree onto the trailer with a couple inside, but miraculously they weren't hurt. This could ruin your whole week!

Our next stop was in Ozark, Arkansas, where we stayed in a small campground owned by a vineyard operator. We hadn't eaten out in a restaurant for awhile, so we made a reservation. We only had one real mask, so I improvised with a couple of purple doggie poop bags (unused). I received some strange looks from the other diners... 

Moving west, we refueled at a truck stop that also had a staff member who opines... or at least that's what I surmised when I saw this sign.

Our next stop was Tulsa, where Suzanne gave her Serving Spirit mediumship class, the first in-person event since the Wuhan virus struck the US. Then on to a two week stay in Flagstaff, where we met up with our friends Janean and Jack Quigley. Janean leads the Helping Parents Heal affiliate group here, and Jack is a surgeon. They took us on a mountain bike ride through the national forest, but on E-bikes for the first time. What a hoot! You can pedal all day, but when you need an extra boost going up a steep hill, you twist a throttle like on a motorcycle, and Presto Zingo, you are screaming uphill almost effortlessly! Way Cool!

More about our time in Flagstaff next time, but in wrapping up this post, Suzanne and I want to wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day, otherwise known as the 4th of July. Our wonderful country is 244 years old this week!  Suzanne and I are also celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary TODAY!!!  Yee Ha!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Feeling Positive About the USA

This is a short post, but a positive one, after a walk around our campground in Flagstaff, AZ. I have been pretty bummed out by the infantile, moronic, criminal and frankly stupid anarchist actions of some of our young people in several of our major cities. But today, we met a young woman of 19-20 who is on her way to US Navy boot camp to start a new career and serve her country. She was from a family with several generations of sailors and Marines going back to WWII. She was so enthusiastic about joining the Navy that she had started a serious physical fitness program, lost 80 pounds, and met the run and push-up requirements to make it to boot camp. This was not an easy task. She said that after her rigorous fitness program, boot camp would be easy. (It is a minority of kids her age that can even qualify to serve, much less have a positive attitude about boot camp, which is meant to stress young recruits and raise their breaking points.)  Unlike the pampered snowflakes in many elite universities, military personnel are trained to accept hardship. She reminded me a lot of my daughter Susan, who was a career Marine sergeant before we lost her in 2006 to a bolt of lightning. Most kids are raised well, with decent values, but some lose their way to foolish ideas or drugs, and only want to destroy the country they were blessed to be born and raised in. Having been to 65 countries across the globe, I can assure you that there is nowhere that even approaches the USA. I have lived for years in Europe and Asia, and would not want to live anywhere but here in the USA. While imperfect, our nation provides equal and unlimited opportunities to anyone willing to work hard, regardless of color, faith or creed. Few countries around the world have these opportunities. This young woman restored my faith in the youth of America... at least the ones who have not been corrupted by the evil nihilistic philosophies of the main stream media and the radical intelligentsia. If I insult some of my readers, that's okay. God Bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

On the Road Again; Farewell, Gretchen... A New Home; Hello, Nellie! Grumpy Rudy...

On the road again...  It's June, and I haven't posted since October. We have had some difficult times, and frankly, I haven't felt much like writing. We had been in our new home in South Carolina for about 3 weeks and had just finished unpacking boxes when I was scheduled for a simple outpatient medical "procedure" to clear an obstruction in my throat, an esophageal diverticulum. The procedure, which the doctor assured me would take about an hour, and then I'd be on my way home for a hike or a bike ride, involved the doc using an endoscopic laser to remove the offending tissue that was obstructing my throat. Imagine my surprise (nay, consternation) when I awoke in a post-surgical ward with a 4 inch incision in my throat, drain tube from my chest, a feeding tube through my nose and an IV, and found that I had five days to spend in the hospital in Savannah, an hour's drive from home. I DON'T LIKE SURPRISES!!! The worst came that night when I almost bled out from a ruptured jugular vein. Thanks to an exceptional senior resident, my near death event turned out as well as could be expected. But recovery has been very slow, and for two solid months I endured serious insomnia. IT WAS NOT FUN!

Then on Christmas Day, we lost our precious little Gretchen, one month short of her 14th birthday. She was a sweet, quiet little girl, and a world class, award-winning kisser. She never complained, and we miss her so much... Thanks to our dear friends Beth and Mike Pasakarnis who made her transition as painless as possible. We know she is still with us as an Angel Dog...

On the positive side, we are all settled into our new house. Suzanne is especially happy with her meditation room where she also does readings, her weekly radio show and on-line courses. Our back yard backs up to a small lagoon, and one day this great blue heron was seen walking around. We don't go near the water's edge because of the alligators...

Thanks to a dear friend, Jean Marie Randall, I now have a proper sign for my very own parking place! 

The beach at Hilton Head is a great place to walk, and Suzanne even found an office with a view...

We also get out for bike rides and long walks in our community, which has a small nature preserve and several ponds, including this one where the sunset views are spectacular.

The fishing is usually pretty good from a nearby dock... this cute fisherwoman is happy with her catch... "Great job Suzanne, just get 30 more and we'll have a meal!"

After we lost Gretchen, we found that we needed another little girl to lighten up our lives. We also thought that Rudy, who was used to playing with his little sister for the past 14 years, would benefit from a playmate... well, batting 50% isn't too bad... Meet Nellie, a long haired English Cream Dachshund... she weighed only 2 1/2 lbs when she joined our pack.

Nellie likes napping on her back, alongside her favorite chewtoys... it's also a good way to get a belly rub from Mom and Dad!

For the first couple of weeks, she also slept on Suzanne's throat, which was a little weird....

Rudy's initial reaction was positive, but at the end of the first day, we are sure we heard him say, "Wait... do you mean that she is staying???"  Rudy is 15 years old, and pretty set in his ways... and he can be a bit grumpy - adjusting to this new little girl has been tough for this old dog.

Finally, we see that they are getting along pretty well... sometimes. Here is Rudy teaching Nellie how to use the water bowl...

I will continue with short blog posts until I catch up with life in South Carolina and on the road. Our travels this summer will take us through Atlanta, Tulsa, Flagstaff, Zion National Park, Salt Lake City, Boise, and into the mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, then back home via Longmont, Kansas City, Tuscumbia, Chattanooga, Charlottesville, Fairfax, and Asheville. We are looking forward to our adventures through the Heartland and the mountains, happy to be back on the road to see our great country and meet more wonderful people!