Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tree Pose; Sloppy Kisser; An Olympic Hike; Fishing Advice; Far Southern Fish & Chips; Sequim; A Short Voyage

My Lovely Bride spotted a trio of trees the other day and decided they would make a good prop for her yoga routine. Here she is displaying the Tree Pose.    

Back at The Coach, Dog Dad was getting some sloppy kisses from his Best Dog Friend, Rudy. (It’s a good thing we brush the puppies’ teeth daily!) 

Unusual house designs always intrigue me. I like to guess what inspired the homeowner to select a particular design. Here in rainy Washington State, this design was probably chosen for its many windows that allow maximum light in to cheer up the house on many otherwise wet, dreary days. Since the area is primarily rural, there aren't any housing developments as such, so there isn't much standardization of house designs.

Fortunately, Friday wasn’t a dreary day, and we got in a double workout. Up early to get a hike in near Olympic National Park. It was too far to drive all the way to the park itself, so Suzanne found a hike along Deer Ridge in the adjacent national forest. I recall her asking me, “How about this ‘more easy’ trail?” When we got there, it was definitely a workout. I asked, I thought this was supposed to be an ‘easy’ trail?” She replied, “No, Ty, I said ‘more difficult!"  You can get an idea of the trail's steepness here...

Here is one of the lovely rhododendron flowers (Rhododendron ferrugenium) we found along the trail. 

This view of the Olympics was worth the climb. We met one group of seven kids and their two leaders who were headed out for a three week backpacking trip into the mountains... I envied them that experience! 

After our hike and lunch, we went for a great bike ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Up and down hills and through thick forests, the trail gave us a challenge and beautiful scenery. We finished near this Bed and Breakfast created from eight old railroad cars. For Suzanne, whose dad was a railroad engineer, it was a special treat! 

While not hiking, I have thought about fishing a lot, but the rainy Seattle area weather kept me from getting out with my rod and reel. I did, however, get some excellent advice from My Good Friend Bob, who texted me a photo of some fish he had enjoyed for dinner. I texted him back, asking what lure he had used... I received a typical New England one-word reply: “Mastercard”.  

On the subject of fish, while living in England back in the 80s, I developed a taste for fish and chips. It was with great surprise when we saw a sign for Kiwi Fish and Chips while walking around downtown Sequim, Washington, where we spent the past couple of nights. We chatted with the shop owner, Bryan, who with his wife Daisy, had emigrated from New Zealand to the US and opened his business this year. We didn’t meet Daisy, but Bryan was a charming Kiwi (yes, named after the bird). He was a farmer back in NZ, but is happy that he moved to the USA. 

Sequim (the “e” is silent) is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. It gets much less rain than the surrounding area, which makes it a popular retirement community. We may return next year for the entire month of July, as the hiking and cycling here are fabulous. We found a nice place to stay, the John Wayne Marina and Campground. It sits on a hillside overlooking Sequim Bay, a protected harbor with great kayaking. The Duke was also enamored with Sequim and bought land here many years ago, which the Wayne family still owns and operates. 

Sequim also has local Native American tribes living in the vicinity. Rudy was particularly interested in the carving techniques used in his totem pole in the town park.   

On Saturday we took the ferry from Port Angeles, WA, to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We were almost the largest vehicle aboard, but one semi and trailer took that prize. Nevertheless, we did get some comments from other folks on the ferry. 

It was a perfect day for a crossing - light winds, low waves and sunny skies. The puppies enjoyed being out in the sun for the 90 minute trip, and got to meet a few other canine passengers. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Naval History; Wet Shorts; A Lost Award; Coffee Kiosks; America's Deadliest Bingo

We are now in rainy Bremerton, Washington, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Bremerton is a Navy town, and even here in the Elks Lodge is a reminder of this town's naval history. I stopped to admire this beautiful mural-sized photo from 1907 of part of the Navy’s Great White Fleet. These battleships/armored cruisers included USS Washington, USS California and USS Tennessee. The photo was obviously taken on a clear day, since the snow-capped peaks are quite visible and stunning. Clear days in this area occur at least once a year... but maybe it was more common back in ought seven... 

For a year or so (1999-2000), we lived in Navy quarters on a cliff overlooking Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Our house had been built about a hundred years earlier, but renovated over the years and was very comfortable. We took a stroll through our old neighborhood on base, and aside from a few minor changes, it looked much the same as 13 years ago when we moved back east.  

My Lovely Bride wanted to get a run in today before her hair salon appointment. It had only rained 17 different times over a 6 hour period today, which was actually a dramatic improvement over the past 5 days’ weather. She said, “Look at the radar and pick a warm, sunny 30 minutes for our four miler.”  In Seattle, that’s like saying, “Ty, go buy a $1 lottery ticket so we can become millionaires.” But who am I to protest? So off we go, and literally as we were about to turn around at the half-way point, here comes the Mother of all Rainstorms. Even worse, the temperature dropped from a lovely 72F to about 52F in three minutes, with a brutal 20 kt wind in our (wet) faces. (We were only wearing shorts and light nylon singlets.) By the time we returned to The Coach, we were soaked and pretty tired. I think I heard her say something like, “Some weatherman you are!” but I can’t be sure, since I was shivering so hard my hearing was badly affected. This photograph of the woods next to our campsite gives you an idea of how green everything is here... the huge ferns and lush undergrowth prove it...  and they do not need sprinklers here at all. Ever. 

After getting her locks trimmed, The Commander asked to go visit her old turf. We drove a few miles down the road to the Bangor Submarine Base, where Suzanne had been Commanding Officer of a shore-based command. We looked around and chatted for awhile with the Chief Petty Officer who was serving as the Command Duty Officer (CDO). Then we drove over to the gym to see if Suzanne’s award for the most push-ups and sit-ups by a woman was still on the wall. At age 38, she held that record for the two years she was stationed here, but alas, no awards at all were posted. It’s probably that way, like in many civilian schools around the country, so that underachievers don’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem... (Okay, I’d better drop my potential lecture about competition, natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc. Maybe we should cancel the Olympics, but then Nike, Adidas and NBC would complain... Sigh...)

Anyone who has lived in the Pacific Northwest is familiar with the ubiquitous coffee and espresso kiosks on many street corners and in every strip mall. We visited one near our former residence in Seabeck, WA, right on the Hood Canal. Turie’s Seabeck Espresso has fabulous coffee and scrumptious-looking pastries (not sampled because we had just had lunch). Flower boxes and hangers compliment the waterfront view. The owner, Turie, is a Seabeck native and is of Norwegian ancestry, as are many of the locals here. The nearby town of Poulsbo, in fact, has a statue of a Viking and a Norwegian-themed town center, complete with one of the most repulsive meals on the planet Earth, Lutefisk. (“Ty, don’t you dare barf in this blog!”) 

Just outside of Turie’s was a pick-me-up truck with a unique hood ornament... a rooster complete with a cock-a-doodle-do horn. The local guy driving the truck was more than happy to have his rooster sing for us. 

I almost made a fatal mistake tonight. I had walked into the Bremerton Elks Lodge to register for another night in their delightful RV Park. The office was closed, and in most Lodges the bartender takes your nightly donation. While waiting at the bar for the lady to finish what she was doing, I observed the bingo caller pulling balls, calling the numbers, and posting them on the lighted board. He had just called the seventh number. As the bartender was finishing her task, I jokingly said, “What would happen if I yelled ‘Bingo!’ just for fun?” She looked at me with disdain and said flatly, “You wouldn’t make it out of here alive.” 

But it got worse. As I stood there, I felt a ripple of angst and anger roll through the audience. One woman said loudly, “What happened to B14?” Another said, “Yeah, B14, what’s the story?” A final authoritative voice said, “You pulled B14, looked at it, and didn’t call it. Fix it.” The caller flushed red and said, “Ladies and gentleman, I apologize. I did pull B14 and forgot to call it aloud and post it on the board. B14...” You could tell that the crowd wouldn’t be satisfied until the poor caller was hanged, drawn and quartered, and his entrails pulled tightly around his throat... another guy at the bar stated (not quite sotto voce... in fact, loud enough to hear for about 50 feet), “I called this game for 13 years and have never heard of anything so dumb.” (I wanted to say something like, “Dude, lighten up... this is only bingo, after all...” but I knew my life was on the line, so I meekly snuck out the back before someone said, “Hey, who is that guy without cards and an official red ink card stamper... let's tar and feather him!”)   

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ft. Lewis; BCC; Tacoma Narrows; Flattops; Pom Poms; Peek-a-Boo! A Great Book

We spent two delightful nights at the Army campground at Fort Lewis, now part of Joint Base McChord, just south of Tacoma, and 30 miles south of Seattle. Traffic in this large metropolitan area was busy as we transited on I-5, but as we had noted when Suzanne had her commanding officer tour at the nearby Bangor Submarine Base back in 1998-2000, almost everyone is law-abiding here, especially on the freeway. 60 mph meant 60 mph. It was a nice change from the East Coast's I-95 with all its crazies.  Our campsite alongside American Lake was also very nice; here is the view from The Coach... the only problem has been the rain, which has fallen for about 65% of the time we have been here since crossing Snoqualmie Pass. (And this is the dry season!) 

As some of you may know, there is a big difference between the Army and the Navy. For example, the Navy deals with beaches a lot, and any Navy guy can tell you that beaches are very changeable. If you’re trying to land on a beach in combat, wind, waves, tides, currents, beach gradient and other environmental conditions make it an interesting and often challenging evolution. The Army, on the other hand, has evidently decided to exercise superior strength and establish dominion and control over the beach... as this sign confirms... 

Suzanne gave two radio interviews on Monday. The first was for a Vancouver station called Synchronicity Radio and the second for Rev. Temple Hayes’ show “The Inspirational Life” on Unity Radio.  We departed Ft. Lewis following her interviews and headed across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This bridge is infamous- when it was built in 1940, it was nicknamed Galloping Gertie for its shaking in high winds. Shortly after its completion, it collapsed into Puget Sound, and was not rebuilt for 10 years. At the time of their construction, the twin spans were the third-longest suspension bridges in the world, after the Golden Gate and George Washington Bridges. The view from the bridge is great, but in windy conditions, you don’t want to take your eyes off the roadbed. 
We were planning on staying at an Elks Lodge on the north side of Bremerton, WA, and we had to pass the Naval Shipyard where these four mothballed Forrestal-class aircraft carriers are moored. They are USS Ranger (CVA-61), USS Independence (CVA-62), USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63), and USS Constellation (CVA-64), all of which saw service in Vietnam. (In fact, my first destroyer plane-guarded for most of these carriers on Yankee Station off the Vietnamese coast, and my frigate and I deployed with Ranger to the Middle East in the 80s.) Their nicknames while on active service were Ranger, Indy, Hawk and Connie. Not seen here is USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), an active flattop that calls Bremerton home. The mothballed ships were all conventional propulsion (oil-fired boilers and steam turbines) while Stennis is nuclear powered. For the last year Suzanne was stationed here, we lived in a house overlooking the piers. A visitor to our house once looked down at the ships, and seeing the huge 64 lighted up, said, “How nice, the ship even tells you the temperature...”  

Pom poms... are we thinking of cheerleaders with handheld decorative paper balls? No, we are thinking of these 40 mm anti-aircraft guns we passed on our way through Bremerton.  They were originally designed by British Vickers Armstrong in 1940, and later modified by the US Navy Bureau of Ordnance for our ships. The name came from the sound they made, and thousands of these anti-aircraft guns were placed aboard ships during WWII. They helped knock down hundreds of attacking Japanese aircraft, in particular the kamikazes (“divine wind” in Japanese) introduced late in the war. 

As an aside, when I was the commanding officer of the US naval base in Sasebo, Japan, I had two very Japanese acquaintances who were then in their mid-60s. They caught me off guard over dinner one night when they mentioned that at the end of the war, they had been in training to become kamikaze pilots. They both stated that they had not been volunteers, and were very happy that the war had ended before they completed their flight training...   

It has been raining a lot the past few days, and today was no exception. We were awakened at 0500 by rain, which lasted until about 0800. Then we had glorious sunshine for several hours, so we drove to a nearby bay near Poulsbo, WA, and launched our kayaks. We had just reached the breakwater when Suzanne spotted this harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) playing peek-a-boo. Harbor seals share several characteristics with its fellow mammals Homo sapiens. They are gregarious; males fight over females with whom they wish to mate; females’ gestation period is 9 months; females live longer than males; and males often laze about on the beach or rocks hoping to attract females.  

Lastly, I would like to recommend a book for your summer reading pleasure that Suzanne and I agree is one of the best novels we've ever read: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. It is told in the first person by a philosopher dog named Enzo about his life with his master Denny, an aspiring race car driver. It is spiritual, funny, sad, uplifting, and has some great moral lessons for us all.   Suzanne's sister recommended it months ago and we just got around to reading it. Don't wait as long as we did.  You will love it. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Special Guests; Skype-ing; Fish On! Oregon; Dam! No More Wine For You! Snoqualmie Pass; Giant Bugs!

We were delighted to have our good friends Rebecca and Jerry Arndt as our first dinner guests in The Coach recently. Jerry is a retired precision tool executive and Rebecca is a former policewoman and now a medium who specializes in remote viewing and missing persons cases. They returned early from a trip to Yellowstone National Park in their motor coach to have dinner with us, and we very much appreciated their changing their schedule to accept our invitation.   

Speaking of mediums, Suzanne has been hard at work while we have Wi-Fi giving Skype readings and whittling away at her two year long waiting list. The puppies and I went for a r-i-d-e into t-o-w-n (McCall, Idaho) during today’s reading since it was a sunny day - Rudy and Gretchen had been cooped up in The Coach yesterday because of the constant rain and thunderstorms. They enjoyed their outing and the (relatively) warm 55 degree temperature. I wanted to stop at this pub next to the airport for a beer, but decided that the local pilot training program may be somewhat deficient... 

McCall is a cute town, oriented mostly to its winter sports visitors. Many houses have a rustic ambiance. It fits well with the mood of the area, which is definitely not like the Hamptons, Fire Island or Nantucket...

Skiing and snowmobiling are very popular here as are summer boating activities on beautiful Lake Payette. In fact, it was on Payette Lake where I made my second Idaho fishing foray and came away with lunch, a nice 18 inch trout. I caught it, cleaned it, and cooked it, which pleased My Non-fishing Bride. (She really, really, really hates cleaning fish.) 

We departed McCall, Idaho and headed west on Friday morning, even skipping a workout because of the long mileage planned for the day. Our drive initially took us down some steep, windy mountain roads (max speed 25 mph) with logging trucks as company, and I realized immediately that I should have given Corvette Chick the first watch at the wheel. 

Nevertheless, we made it safely into lower elevations where Idaho farming exists, and then westward into Oregon. The eastern part of the state is much drier than the part west of the Cascade Mountains, but irrigation has allowed it to blossom with lush, green farms. We followed the Interstate system to Umatilla, OR, and then across the mighty Columbia River to our campground in Plymouth, Washington, just below the McNary Dam.  

There is a set of locks on the left that allows tugs, barges and boats to move up and down river, and a nice marina on the south side of the river. This impressive cliff overlooking the dam appears to be basalt, probably remnants of a large lava flow from millennia ago. 

While on a bike ride along the Columbia, we met Arch and Shirley Besancon, camp hosts at the beautiful Corps of Engineers campground, which unfortunately was full when we arrived (we stayed a mile away in a commercial CG). I noticed an anchor tattooed on Arch’s arm under his sleeve, and asked about his Navy service. He had joined the Navy at the start of the Korean War, and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Boxer. After the Navy, he worked as a highway heavy equipment operator until he retired 14 years ago, and then sold the house and went full-timing in a big motor coach with Shirley. They have been camp hosts here for 7 years.

Saturday’s long drive took us across Washington State. We passed through the Yakima Valley, with dozens of wineries calling to me to stop and taste their bacchanal delights, but Prudence (AKA My Very Careful Bride) outvoted me again, much to my chagrin. On westward we drove, crossing the Cascade Range at Snoqualmie Pass, one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Who couldn’t be happy in this mountain setting?  (Please ignore the bug splats on the windshield. There were very few places for us to pull over and take snapshots along I-90!)

Lastly, I regret to report that Your Faithful Outdoors Correspondent has had another Wildlife Misadventure. While walking perfectly innocently along the Columbia River, I was set upon by a giant mosquito (Culiseta longiareolata). (Perhaps this is revenge for the bug splats...) I am recovering from the encounter, but it was a harrowing experience...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pioneer Family; White Water; A Cutie By the Fireplace; Brrrr.....; A Tale of Four Fishies

While reading the Oregon Trail Hysterical Markers, I found several inscribed stones on the wall of the Visitor’s Center. One was for Oleah Crockett True, whose parents had been two of the pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail and settled here in Glenn’s Ferry. Distantly related to Davy Crockett, she must have had some wonderful stories of life out West for her children. 

We departed our Snake River campground and traveled through busy Boise into real Idaho mountains. State Highway 55 took us up along the Payette River. It was a steep, windy, narrow two lane road, and much of the route was through a canyon cut by the river. This typical scene shows the Class 5 white water that the Payette is famous for. Expert kayakers consider the Payette one of the most challenging Class 5 runs in the world. (Class 6 is considered impossible or too dangerous to attempt.) Take a look at the semis in this photo to get an idea of the scope of this attention-getting river.

Our latest campground is at Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho. We are snuggled into a site with a large Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa... I'm not kidding about its scientific name!) only 4 inches from the side of The Coach. There is no cell phone service, but WiFi is available for a daily fee. Since we are staying Tuesday-Friday, the campground is only sparsely occupied, which we really like. The weather here is not as warm as that back in The Villages. Today was in the mid-40s with wind and rain; tonight is supposed to drop into the 30s. (Did I mean 30 Centigrade? No, 30s F, like just a few degrees above FREEZING!) We had our electric fireplace running all day long; Gretchen especially liked curling up in front of its vents (she hates being cold!)

My Lovely Bride thought that a mountain biking excursion would be fun today. I voted for dozing in front of the fireplace with Gretchen, but was outvoted 10-1 (husbands will understand my math). We rode a great bike trail along Lake Payette and up over a big hill, leaving us ready for the fast downhill scream on the other side. Here she is (with a plastic bag over her seat) just before a thunderstorm arrived and we had to seek shelter in The Coach. 

Idaho is also known for its skiing, hunting and fishing. I chose to check out the last activity, and wet my line first at Little Lake Payette. It was a very pretty mountain lake, ringed with trees and no houses at all, but I had not a nibble there... 

... so I moved on to a small unnamed lake, cast my ultralight lure... and Bingo! Four rainbow trout landed in one hour; another two threw the hooks and one stinker took my lure. (And yes, Bob, they were all larger than sardines!)

Here is one happy fisherman preparing a trout dinner for His Lovely Bride. You can’t smell the garlic, but rest assured that no werewolves will come around for several days... 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ogden; Salt Lake Sunset; Cruising Friends; On to Idaho; The Oregon Trail; Dancing with Sprinklers

We had a sushi dinner the other night in downtown Ogden, on historic 25th Street.  Back in the 20s and 30s it was called Two-Bit Street; legend has it that when Al Capone visited the city, he commented that Ogden was too wild for his tastes. (Our sushi was pretty good, but not up to the standards of our favorite sushi bar in Sumter Landing back in The Villages.)

Ogden had some interesting sculptures in the city center, such as this memorial to fallen firefighters. It reminded me that we often take firefighters, EMS techs and policemen for granted. We expect that they will be there to help when we need them, but don't give them a lot of thought most of the time... then we are shocked when we read of firefighters killed in forest fires or arson-related warehouse fires, or policemen sitting in their cars killed by terrorists. (I would like to compliment My Wonderful Mother-in-Law Ruthie for her thoughtfulness in taking a home-made cake to her local fire house after an engine and EMS team visited her one day when an alarm went off accidentally...)

Another Ogden sculpture that caught my eye was this young baseball pitcher who was frozen in his windup... unfortunately, some vandal had stolen the bat from his opponent’s hands. 

Driving back to the base from Ogden, we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Unfortunately, we were driving on the freeway and couldn’t pull over and get out of The Coach, but Suzanne got this shot out the front window. 

We were able to get together with longtime sailing friends Jim and Marie for lunch on Sunday. We have known them for eight years when we crossed the Atlantic to Italy in our sailboat Liberty, plus Jim has sailed with us on several occasions. It was great to meet up again on Marie’s turf; she lives in Park City, Utah, overlooking two ski areas. Jim is a retired airline pilot and has an American Eagle similar to the one we recently traded in.  

On Monday, we packed up our Coach and continued our journey westward, just like the pioneers. And like those brave souls who traveled on the Oregon Trail, we camped at Three Island Crossing (now an Idaho State Park) where in the mid-19th Century, there was a ford that the wagon trains would use to cross the Snake River. I really liked this not-very-politically-correct monument to those brave pioneers, which was erected in 1931 by Boy Scout Troop 1 from Roslyn, NY. 

This Conestoga wagon is a replica of what the emigrants used to carry their food and meager belongings across the frontier to Oregon and California. They were usually drawn by oxen, less frequently by mules or horses. Many of the 400,000 men and women who completed the Oregon Trail walked most of the 2,000 mile route across plains, rivers and mountains from Kansas through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho, then into Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 

And what, you ask, did they eat? Well, here is a plaque listing the recommended loading of a wagon with food for a party of four. Remember, there were no grocery stores along this route... and while the menu might not appeal to many low-fat dieters in the 21st Century, it was pretty standard for hard working farmers and emigrants in 1840.  

Here is a view of the Three Islands Crossing. The faint diagonal line on the hillside is the Oregon Trail itself (no longer in use, since I-84 is only a few miles to the north, paralleling the Trail for many, many miles). 

I will end with a funny story about My Lovely Bride, who was near the back of The Coach while I was backing into our campsite. All was going well until a nearby rotating high volume sprinkler caught her in the back. I expected to hear Sailor Words, but then I saw her dancing with apparent glee in the spray. (Then, over dinner she perfectly described the sprinkler sound, almost making me lose my wine through my nose...)  

Part Two of this story occurred when we went for a run, and she spied a lady in one of the cabins launching soap bubbles. I swear she has the enthusiasm of a six year old sometimes...