Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cheetos Surprise; Trail of the Hiawatha; Cold and Wet in July; Big Ed; Bang Bang!

It was t-r-e-a-t time for Rudy and Gretchen yesterday. We now give them little half-pieces of Cheetos because we ran out of Pupcorn, and the ingredients are very similar. I picked up the bag of doggie treats, gave them their rewards, and decided to nibble a couple myself to satisfy my cravings. I popped a couple in my mouth and started chewing... What the heck? It tasted partly like delicious Cheetos and partly like bitter tree bark. I spat out the foul mixture in the sink... it was half orange and half grayish-brown... I had forgotten that mixed in with the treats were Rudy’s Dasoquin, a chewable medication for joint pain. It took a half glass of orange juice to get the bitter flavor of Rudy’s meds out of my mouth. Now I know why Rudy sometimes spits out his medicine while hoping for the cheesy treat that always follows it. Guess it serves me right for eating his Cheetos... sigh.

While walking the puppies one morning along Clear Lake, I spied this beautiful milk thistle (Silybum marianum) growing in a marsh. It is said to be edible (roots, shoots, bracks, stems and leaves), but not being hungry, I offered some to Rudy and he declined to partake. (Just kidding, in case there is an SPCA director reading this blog.) I took the picture with a macro lens I got just before we departed. 

On my last bike ride, I had to take a photo of this sign that a beachfront landowner had erected to notify visitors of his feelings about trespassers... 

On that same ride, I passed this baseball diamond with a high fence topped with razor wire. Boy, they sure don't want anyone playing on that field after hours, do they? Well, it turns out that this was part of a juvenile corrections facility. It was a pretty depressing place, with nary a soul in sight.

We departed the Spokane area on Monday and headed through Idaho to Montana. Our first stop was at Lookout Pass, elev. 4,730 ft., where we got tickets for a unique mountain bike trail. Starting in Montana and ending in Idaho, the Route of the Hiawatha is a 15 mile trail that follows an old Milwaukee Railroad grade through the Bitterroot Mountains and some beautiful, rugged scenery in Idaho Panhandle National Forest. You pedal through 11 tunnels and across 9 high railroad trestles, some towering 230 feet above the rivers and gorges below. Here is Biker Babe about to enter the first dark hole, St. Paul Tunnel, which is 1.7 miles long and unlighted. It takes about 10 minutes to transit this tunnel, and the temp dropped from 75, sunny and dry outside to 40, pitch-black and damp inside. By the end you are chilled to the bone (perhaps that is why jackets are suggested?). 

You are also required to have a bright light mounted on your bike or helmet to avoid collisions with other cyclists, hikers, cars, elk, deer or moose, the last three of which do not normally don headlights or reflective strips. Paraphrasing the Greek historian, Thucydides, a collision with a 1,200 pound moose could ruin your whole day. Here is Suzanne about to exit the first tunnel... But really, how often do you see deer on this trail? Suzanne spotted one big doe trotting down the trail within a mile of leaving that first tunnel. Cyclists are not even allowed to start on the trail until trail rangers make a sweep to make sure the tunnels are clear and moose and elk have been shooed away.

The trestles were built in the early 1900s , and a few were destroyed in the 1910 Great Burn, a catastrophic forest fire in which 86 people died, mostly firefighters, and over 3,000,000 acres burned. It was the greatest loss of firefighters until the Muslim terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In one incident, one train from Avery, Idaho, with 1,000 passengers aboard had to seek shelter in one of the tunnels, remaining there for a week until the fires and heat outside subsided enough for the crew and passengers to walk out to safety.

At the bottom of the trail, a 1,000 foot plus drop from the start, you have two options; (a) is to pay $9 per person and bike to ride an old yellow school bus up a dusty fire service road to a spot near the exit of the first tunnel; (b) is to turn around and start climbing in low gears back up the 15 mile grade that you just descended. I wanted to head back up the trail, but being a gentleman, I didn’t want My Lovely Bride to be totally exhausted at the end of the day. (Perhaps I was being a bit selfish, but she had promised me a very special meal, and I certainly didn’t want to miss that!) Besides, she was a bit wet from the rides through the wet tunnels. 

So we arrived in time for the last shuttle bus of the day, and met Ed, who is one of those “characters” you never forget. A former high school baseball coach from San Francisco (pop. 1,840,000), Ed now lives in Kellogg, Idaho (pop. 2,105), horses bikes on and off the shuttle in the summer and runs a ski lift in the winter. He has more stories than you can shake a stick at, and some of them may have an element of truth to them... but most of all, he is a really nice guy.

This is how the bikes are hung on hooks in the back of the schoolbus. It's a pretty clever arrangement, and maximizes the space available for people and bikes. It was a dusty ride back, but My Lovely Bride surprised me with a delicious meal of Bang Bang Shrimp with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. (I'm sure glad I selected the shuttle option, or we might still be on that 15 mile uphill climb with the moose!)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Idyll; Party On! Paperwork; A Serenade at 0415

Idyll: a simple descriptive work in poetry or prose that deals with rustic life or pastoral scenes or suggests a mood of peace and contentment... I experienced this state of nature this morning while walking Rudy and Gretchen. It was about 9:00 AM, and we were in a part of the campground that yesterday was filled with a group camp, four tents and fifteen or twenty adults, kids and dogs, but which now was devoid of humans (except myself). Rudy wanted to lie down in the sun, so we all plopped down. Within a few minutes, by being very silent, we were “part of the scenery”, in a manner of speaking. Two or three robins dropped in, searching for insects or worms in the lush grass. A dozen honeybees were working the various sources of pollen. Two red-wing blackbirds sitting on a fence flew among the cattails in the marsh bordering the big group campsite. A half-dozen coots were swimming in the lake, diving for plants. Several pairs of mosquito hawks (dragonflies) were flitting around collecting insects for breakfast. A lone osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was circling about 200 feet above us, looking for crappie or small trout in the shallows. (I had seen her nest on a power pole while kayaking, and when I approached, she made it clear that I should keep my distance.) The osprey is also called the fish hawk, because its diet consists almost exclusively of fish. (My Good Friend Bob is probably saying, “Ty, with your fishing skills, you might not survive long as an osprey.”) He is such a card. 

Higher in the sky, bands of thin cirrus clouds with their characteristic wispy tails were marching eastward, foreshadowing a cooler change in the weather. We spent about 30 minutes just lying there. I would scratch the puppies’ bellies or behind their ears, and they seemed very happy just to “veg” for awhile. Every now and then one would give me a sloppy kiss or nuzzle me. It was one of the simplest, and most enjoyable, half hours I have ever experienced. 

On Friday evening, I was invited to a birthday party for someone I had never met. In a previous blog, I mentioned campground neighbors Trudy and Rich, grandparents to two beautiful young girls, Delaney and Kali, who showered little Gretchen with affection in The Coach. Their mom, Vesta, had downloaded Messages of Hope and read it within 24 hours; she then invited me to her husband Larry’s birthday party. I drove to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to a very nice Italian restaurant, Tony’s on the Lake, where I met Larry, who is an electrical engineer and commanding officer of an Air Force Reserve Intelligence squadron. It was a delightful evening and a delicious dinner, with prosciutto and calamari appetizers and superb hazelnut-encrusted steelhead trout over brown wild rice. But even better than the food, I was particularly impressed with the strong family values and gracious hospitality that one finds more often in smaller communities like Coeur d’Alene and Spokane than in big metropolitan areas. I could live here. I think Suzanne and I will be spending more time here next summer... (I fell very bad about not having photos from this party, but I had removed the memory card from my compact camera and forgotten to replace it when I left The Coach; I took a dozen photos, but when you don’t have a card in the camera, you are “outta luck”... bummer.)

While I was out partying, My Lovely Bride was completing her week’s visit with Her Lovely Mom Ruthie, taking care of business (see photo of paperwork she had to wade through), giving readings, and conducting a Sanaya channeling session. (She also completed her aforementioned prettifying tasks: mani/pedi-cure, hair salon visit, massage, etc.) With the jet lag/time zone difference and concomitant lack of sleep, I think she will need a few days rest back in The Coach before she’s back to 100%. 

Our little Rudy woke me up yesterday morning around 0430... like, “oh-dark-thirty”... at first I thought he simply had to go pee, as old coots and dogs sometimes have to do. The air conditioner had been running on low, so I hadn’t heard any sounds outside, but I think he had. As I clipped the dogs into their leads and stepped outside, I could distinctly hear the calls of a pack of coyotes (Canis latrans, or “barking dog”) no more than 100 yards away. It is a bit chilling when you are still groggy and are standing in a dark area unable to see what’s lurking in the bushes. There have been about 200 documented attacks on humans by coyotes, mostly in Southern California where hunting is uncommon. Coyotes often hunt in packs of 4-6 adults or juveniles, and livestock (particularly sheep and deer) and domestic pets (cats and smaller breeds of dogs) are their principal prey. I always carry a folding knife in my pocket in case we (Rudy and Gretchen in particular) are attacked, either by coyotes or other dogs. 

The pups have been enjoying this interlude in Spokane, because we’ve had almost daily visits to Fairchild AFB where there are several lush, heavily treed lawns around the chapel and the housing office. Here are Rudy and Gretchen trying to figure out what variety of squirrel/chipmunk/gopher population they’re dealing with today. We go to the base to avoid the goose poop minefield in much of our campground. If I were in charge, I would have an aggressive, mechanical barking dog on tracks moving back and forth where the goose land to scare them off. But this is a kinder, gentler military than I grew up in... I guess they’ve learned to put up with a lot more poop than I am comfortable with.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Resigned to Their Fate; Roast Yak? Centennial Trail; Plant Quiz; Hooters or Bratwurst?

Yesterday was a monthly bath day. No, not for Your Intrepid Reporter, who bathes at least weekly, but for Rudy and Gretchen, who were “less than enthusiastic”, shall we say? The process starts with removing and washing their harnesses, which they wear 24/7. Naturally, they get a bit dirty, so I scrub them in the sink while the puppies watch and figure out “we’re next!” Here is Rudy looking a bit concerned about his bath; I think he’s trying to say, “Dog-Dad, can we negotiate this?” 

Gretchen, on the other hand, has found a good hiding place under the bed. Well, she thought it was a good hiding place until I found her... Rudy goes first because he dries much more quickly, and I have to use Suzanne’s hair dryer on little Gretchen. (That leads to an interesting story... how many times have you ladies found the air inlet on your hair dryer clogged with dust/lint, and asked your hubbies to clean it? It happens here every couple of years, and yesterday it happened to me... not while I was blow-drying my hair, for you Smarty-Pants who want to make fun of me, but while I was blow-drying Gretchen. I had to take the hair dryer apart and do maintenance before I could finish the critical job of beautifying our little girl.)  

While I was washing the puppies, Suzanne and her mom Ruthie were enjoying dinner with Jan and Bob Blythe, our friends and neighbors back in The Villages. Here is Jan setting the table and Bob slicing roast yak... oh, maybe it was pork tenderloin... my bad. In any case, Suzanne said it was a delicious meal. (So, Bob, are you sending me some?) 

On Thursday I met a new campground friend, LtCol Bill Willburn, (USAF-Ret), for a bike ride on the Centennial Trail east of Spokane. This “rails-to-trail” bike and walking path runs along the beautiful Spokane River. Here is Bill showing me our route (Bill is a former B-52 pilot and past commander of the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School. At age 71, and in perfect athletic shape, he has been through every survival course the Air Force offered!) . Of note to both cartographers and map-lovers, this was the first map I’ve ever seen with an “upside-down” orientation... note the N for “north” and arrow pointing down! I’m not sure what desk-bound bureaucrat decided that the map looked prettier upside down... must have been a Democrat.  ;-)   

We rode 28 miles in 90+F heat and sunshine, with precious few shady areas, unlike the trails near Seattle which have precious few sunny spots. Anyway, there were several scenic vistas, the first of which was at this bend in the river after only a mile on the trail - the tan building at the top of the hill is a winery... (I wanted to ask Bill why they didn’t have a tasting stand on the bike trail, but I thought he might think I was more interested in wine than the bike ride... Well, what's wrong with that, I ask you?)  

We then came to this cable car contraption used to ferry folks across the river during Spring flooding, before a bridge was put in. The land across the river had been owned by a paper and timber company which had a number of employees that lived on the other side of the river. To ensure their mill kept operating, at times it was necessary to “highline” their workers across the raging Spokane River. 

At our turnaround, just across the Washington/Idaho state line in far western Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Bill used this hand pump to refill his water bottle. The water was cool and some of the sweetest I have ever tasted. The sign on the pump read, “May require 20 strokes to prime”. The sign was accurate. 

We also stopped at this hysterical sign. It commemorates an incident in 1858 when Army Col George Wright was sent from Walla Walla to suppress an Indian uprising. He captured about 800 Indian horses, and to keep the Indians from mounting any more attacks, killed all the horses near this spot. Evidently his actions were quite effective in stemming further bloodshed, if not humane by our 21st Century standards.  

Okay, we haven’t had a quiz in quite awhile... the first person to email me the correct answer at ftgiesemann@aol.com wins a breakfast for two with Your Intrepid Correspondent and His Lovely Bride. What is the popular name of this plant and to what use did the pioneers/settlers of the 19th Century put it? (Note, it is sometimes used for the same purpose today, but I did not take the opportunity to try it!) 

Finally, Suzanne was somewhat concerned about my eating well while she was away. (Do some “geographic bachelors” eat bratwurst and nachos when their wives are out of town?) She called me this afternoon and asked what I was going to do for dinner. I thought about saying, “Well, Hooters has a special on wings...”, but I know she would prefer that I not spend time at that establishment while she is away... or while she is here, for that matter. (Something about the scenery... I dunno...) Anyway, when I told her that I was making my own dinner of homemade Caesar salad with zucchini and “stoplight peppers” sautéed in olive oil, she thought I had shifted from carnivore to vegan. She insisted that I needed more protein, so I whipped up some boulettes de viande... along with some nice Mirassou Pinot Noir, it was a great meal.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back Home! Shoeless in Florida; Suzy’s FL To-Do List; Too Many Geese! Medical Lake; “No Way!”

Good news... after flights from Spokane to Denver to San Antonio to Orlando, Corvette Chick is safely back at home in The Villages visiting Her Lovely Mom Ruthie. Fellow Villagers Lynn and Bailey Spence drove Ruthie to the airport and picked Suzanne up. What great friends!  

After getting a good night’s rest after her long flight, My Lovely Bride decided that she needed a run before it got too hot. Oh, No! She thought she had a spare pair of running shoes at the house, but alas, she was shoeless. Off to the store which just happened to have a pair of Saucony performance runners in bright neon fuschia. She claims that they are lighter, more comfortable, and faster than her old shoes. (Plus, they look really HOT!)

While Suzanne is back in The Villages spending quality time with her mom and sitting with several people for readings, she also had a few minor items on her to-do list...  hair salon (so what’s wrong with the stylist in George, Washington, pop. 501, I ask? Well, I looked it up, and there is none. Okay, she’s off the hook on that one.); mani-pedi-cure (I’m not sure of the spelling of that two-fer); spiritual attunement; driving her Corvette; hanging big photos from Antelope Canyon on the wall; riding her racing bike; etc., etc.

With My Lovely Bride on TDY (a military abbreviation meaning “temporary duty”, usually at a distant or remote location), I have been spending my time with double workouts each day. Monday was kayaking and running. This view of Clear Lake’s shore rock formations gives you an idea of the topography. These rocks are basalt (volcanic magma) from the Miocene Period, between 7 and 17 million years old. The lake is a popular stop for Canada geese (due to a paucity of goose hunters, the population of geese has exploded in recent decades), which unfortunately leave lots of poop around the waterfront area of our campground. It’s like walking through a minefield.... The lake has lots of Ponderosa pines surrounding it, and the shade from these trees helps moderate the high temperatures just a bit. It’s been 90-93 in the sun, but only about 80-85 in the shade. 

This shot of a small sailboat on the dock was taken at dawn after dropping Suzanne off at GEG (Spokane International) for an 0630 departure. Most of the boats on the lake are used for fishing and waterskiing, but there have been several canoes and kayaks out in addition to mine. 

On Tuesday, I rode my bike up to Medical Lake, a small community built around a lake that had been used by American Indians for therapeutic purposes centuries before Europeans came here.

Medicine men would place their patients next to very hot stones, then pour lake water on the stones; the steam was said to help cure afflictions. The Spokane Tribe’s name for this lake was Skookum Limechin Chuch, meaning “strong medicine water”. They also collected salt crystals from boiled lake water and carried them away for those unable to come to the lake. (Then some 1890s-1920s entrepreneur figured this might be a lucrative business opportunity...)

Even today, the area has a medical flavor... just back from the shore of the lake are the Eastern Washington state mental hospital and a home for the developmentally disabled; there is also a women’s prison nearby. I found this historical note interesting: writing in 1900, the Superintendant of the mental hospital complained that the most violent patients from Western Washington had been sent to his facility on the other side of the state. He noted that “some of them are vicious and desperate men who have lost little of their cunning by becoming insane.” This photo is of Lakeland Village, a residential facility for the developmentally disabled. Its name in 1914 was The Home for the Feeble-Minded. It is a beautiful facility, and there were several residents on a field trip to the waterfront lake where I was riding. 

I was also fascinated with this additional piece of lakeside trivia: in its resort heyday, 1900-1920, a record was set on one particularly hot July day, when 1,400 bathing suits were rented. (I’m trying to visualize standing in line to rent a bathing suit for a couple of hours...) Okay, folks, would you prefer these or today's fashions? (I know what my answer would be.)

Your Faithful Correspondent has also been busy walking puppies and meeting new neighbors in our campground. Our next-door neighbors, retired USAF first sergeant, Rich, and his lovely wife Trudy, asked if their two granddaughters, Kali and Delaney, could meet Rudy and Gretchen and tour the coach. Grandma brought them over and the girls showered our puppies, Gretchen in particular, with love and affection. She is now totally spoiled! The girls were also fascinated with the photos on my computer of My Lovely Bride with President George W. Bush after 9/11. They said he was really cool, and that he and Lincoln were their favorite presidents.  I asked Trudy if she’d like to get in this picture. Her instantaneous reply: “With this housedress and no makeup? NO WAY!”  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Buff and A Marauder; Eastbound; Could You Move Your Coach?

Okay, you smarty pants, “Buff” in the title has to do with an airplane, in this case, not a physical description of My Lovely Bride, who actually would indeed fit that term. (For those not familiar with the word, “buff” means “having good muscle tone; physically fit and trim”.) In this case, the word “Buff” has to do with the aircraft in the photo, a B-52 Stratofortress, here seen at Fairchild Air Force Base. This strategic bomber was introduced in 1952, and over 75 are still flying on active and reserve service.  

Also in Fairchild’s historic aircraft park was this WWII B-26 Martin Marauder medium bomber. It was nicknamed “The Widowmaker” because of its early poor accident record during takeoffs and landings. Fortunately, it was quickly improved and achieved the lowest loss rate of any US Army Air Corps bomber by the end of the war. It was the chief air bombardment weapon on the Western Front, used mostly against German formations in Europe. 

We moved from Fort Lewis on Saturday morning, and drove to Vantage, Washington, where we stayed in a small campground overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. When we arrived, the temp was about 105F. We had left Tacoma in pleasant 65F sunshine. Even worse, it was blowing like stink, about 35 knots, when we stepped outside after dinner. This area has such high winds that there are many “windmill farms” on the hillsides, and the local delicacy is the Blustery Burger. The river was beautiful, but we didn’t have time to paddle here; nor would we have wanted to, with high winds and waves making small boating potentially very hazardous. This was the view at sunset from our campground... not too shabby a view of the Columbia River, eh?

We are now at the Clear Lake Recreation Center in a pleasant military campground 12 miles from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, WA. I will be here for eight days while Suzanne visits Her Lovely Mom Ruthie back in The Villages. When she returns, we will continue our eastward travels, with a slight detour to Alberta, Canada, returning home on 1 October.

Well, it was pleasant enough until we had a knock at our door an hour after getting settled in, and just before dinner (I was making My Lovely Bride’s favorite dish, Chicken Marsala, again). “Hi”, I said, cheerily, thinking he was welcoming us to the campground. Dave, a retired Air Force guy, replied, “Uh, I’m Dave, your neighbor here, and could you move your coach up 10 or 12 feet? It’s blocking my satellite TV reception.” I looked at Dave in disbelief and wonder. The slots here are relatively narrow, to get the most RV’s in, and they are only about 52 feet deep, allowing barely enough room to park our 42 foot coach and our Honda CR-V without the car jutting into the road. Our neighbor pointed to his satellite dish on the ground, noting that his signal was indeed totally blocked by our coach. “Dave, I really don’t think that’s feasible; the front of my coach would be at the edge of the road with no room to park my car. Why don’t you just get an extension coax cable so you can move your antenna behind your RV and then I wouldn’t be blocking it?” Dave was obviously not happy with my suggestion, but I was not about to move our RV so he could watch TV. I almost suggested that he buy a book or a Kindle, but it was apparent that my suggestion would not be well received. Sigh... 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mt. Rainier Hike; Payback; NC Kayaks; Mount Rainier; A Romantic Dinner; A Possessed Microwave?

Suzanne was in a hiking mood the other day, and picked a moderate trail in Mt. Rainier National Park. (It must have been a mistake, because she usually opts for the “Very Hard”, “Miserably Hard”, or “Sure to Kill Your Husband Hard” trails.) The trail was part of the Wonderland Trail that circles the mountain, and wound through lush forests to viewpoints looking at Mt. Rainier, at 14,411 feet the highest peak in Washington, and site of the largest glaciers south of Alaska. 

Have you ever gotten squirted in the face opening a soda that someone had shaken up? On our hike, I had such an experience at the hands of My Lovely Bride. We had driven up from sea level for our Rainier hike, and she was opening a water bottle filled with Gatorade. As she turned the cap, the change in air pressure forced a stream of blue liquid right in my face. My face, not hers. This was hardly fair. A half hour later, it was time for payback. Through a well-documented scientific experiment, we found that you can get the same effect by pointing a full water bottle at your target and squeezing hard...  

Log bridges are not Suzanne’s favorite structures, but this one was very solidly built, and she decided to show off her Rockettes style kick...  

But waterfalls are a favorite of hers... Spray Falls was near our hiking route, and the guidebook said not to miss it, so we made a short detour to see if the book was accurate. It did not disappoint... this waterfall with a 354 foot drop is considered the most beautiful in Mt. Rainier National Park. You can see that it made Suzanne want to leap for joy! 

It was hard to leave Rainier, but it had been almost a two hour drive to get to the trailhead, and our puppies were awaiting us back at Ft. Lewis. Before we left, we had to get the "tourist shot" to prove we had actually been there. 

Back in Tacoma, we visited Novus Composites (AKA NC Kayaks), the shop that built the 15 foot fiberglass kayaks that we love so much. We met the owner, Doug Searles, who gave us a tour of his production facility. If you’ve never been in a fiberglass shop, it has a unique smell that most boaters (from kayaks to big motor yachts) know and love. Doug’s designs are very fast and seaworthy, and are my favorite kayaks ever (I have had seven over the years). If you are looking for a new kayak, we recommend NC Kayaks highly. See http://www.novuscomposites.com for more info. 

Of course, we then had to go paddling on nearby American Lake in our NC kayaks! Here is Your Faithful Correspondent returning to The Coach after a delightful paddle. The stern of the kayak (the red one is Corvette Chick's, wouldn't you know!) is on a small two wheeled dolly that allows lazy... er, smart... paddlers to transport their kayaks without developing a hernia or having to ask a second person to help. 

The day was drawing to a close, but what were we to do for dinner? I had told My Pretty Paddling Partner that I would take care of it... so the choices were: (1) Chick Fil-A; (2) Domino's; or (3) Chez Tyler. I decided to surprise My Lovely Bride, and following a quick stop at Safeway for ingredients, I created a delicious Chicken Marsala dinner from scratch. (Husbands, take note: you get Major Brownie Points for doing this, and if I can do it, anyone can!)  

Finally, we had a microwave event the other night prior to one of Suzanne's readings. You can find out more about it on her Facebook page, but suffice it to say that the microwave was doing things on its own, as if there was another being inside the controls, making it beep and change settings apparently at random. The next day it was acting normally until the middle of Suzanne's reading, when it started beeping again. The lady who had lost her son confirmed what Suzanne sensed from him in the reading:  that he had been a practical joker who manipulated electronics and electrical appliances....  (If I hadn't been there the night before and seen it acting up with my own eyes, I would have been very skeptical, but I was there!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Two Corvette Chicks; Robbed; CSL Seattle; On the Bench; Ft. Lewis; Cecilia's Goat

Our good friend Elizabeth Magee from The Villages (who by the way also has a Corvette) dropped in on Saturday for a short visit. She was in Los Angeles visiting family and decided to make a quick trip up north to see Suzanne and attend her activities at the Seattle Center of Spiritual Living. Here are Elizabeth and Suzanne relaxing after her flight from LAX and discussing friends back in TV and Elizabeth's grandchildren.  

On Saturday we were unable to get a campground near Sunday’s venue, so we dry-camped (no hookups) in an Elks Lodge parking lot in Lynnwood, Washington. It turned out to be a disastrous decision. We loaded the car with all of the books and audio-visual gear needed for the next day’s events at Seattle CSL, as it would be a 0600 reveille to make a 0800 meeting at the church 30+ miles away. The car’s rear hatch was broken by thieves/druggies and all of our equipment stolen. Because they were able to reach in without opening the doors, the car alarm didn’t activate. Of note, they musn’t be very literate, because no books were stolen, only electronic equipment that could be easily fenced at a disreputable pawn shop. Most of the break-ins around here are perpetrated by crack and methamphetamine drug users...

After making the report to a very nice Lynnwood, WA, police officer, we moved on to Seattle’s Center for Spiritual Living, where we met Reverend Barbara Novak and Heather McCants, CSL’s Event Coordinator. Suzanne then gave the primary message at two services. There was a fabulous Gospel singer, Gino Walker, who raised the energy of the 500 or so congregants prior to Suzanne’s message. After lunch, Suzanne gave her Making the Connection Workshop to 40 very receptive and enthusiastic participants. Our great reception at CSL made up for the mess from the night before and the church provided the equipment we needed until we can replace it all.  What a pain. 

On a happier note, here is our smiling Suzanne, enjoying the beautiful flowers and perfect weather here in the Pacific Northwest. Every day since 27 June has been sunny and clear, with highs of 70-80 and lows of 45-55. 

We are now back at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, WA. This morning’s big event was getting the car window repaired ($500 out of pocket, the exact deductible on our auto policy) while Suzanne did a reading for a mother and her daughter who lost a son/brother.  Suzanne reports the reading was "five bars" with new evidence and photos from his mom to share. Then a bike ride around this huge Army post. Some of the interesting sights included a truck from the Aardvark Bark Blowing Company (I am NOT making up that name.  Try to say THAT several times)...

Behind these razor wire-covered fences is a Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) camp. It is used for what the military calls SERE Training. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. These four phases of a potential POW’s life are unbelievably high stress, and not all military personnel go through SERE training. It is primarily for pilots and Special Operations personnel (SEALs, Green Berets, Marine Force Recon, and others) who operate behind enemy lines where they are more likely to be captured by enemy forces. Run by defense contractors and highly experienced military, SERE training gives you a harsh taste of what captivity might be like, and hopefully improves the probability of a service member surviving capture, imprisonment and torture. 

This “industrial” sized car wash (called “Wash Racks”) is for heavy tracked vehicles like tanks, mobile artillery, and huge trucks. It has 19 separate wash areas, and belongs to the “Triple Nickle” Brigade, the 555th Artillery. I suggested to My Lovely Bride that she stand under one of the washdown sprays while I got an action photo, but she was not amused...

Finally, in a show of our good culinary taste, here is My Lovely Bride with Cecilia, the mobile chef in this Caribbean Cuisine Wagon on base. She opened for business just last week, and has been enjoying great success among the hungry soldiers assigned at Fort Lewis. We really enjoyed her tasty curried goat with peas and rice, which is much better that you might think if you’ve never tasted Jamaican cuisine. 

I have to tell one story on My Lovely Bride, who speaks seven languages but is not as up-to-date on international flags as Your Faithful Correspondent who was also a ship captain... as we were driving away, she asked, "I wonder what army unit that green and yellow flag belongs to... you should put it in the blog." After nearly choking, I said, "My Darling, that's the Jamaican flag." She replied, with a pained look on her face, "Oh."