Monday, August 29, 2016

Pinedale, Wyoming; New Friends; Wind River Range; Seneca Lake

The next leg of our summer tour took us to Pinedale, Wyoming, where we found a campground with a great view of the Wind River Range. "The Winds" are a backpacker's and rock climber's paradise, although the season is relatively short: mid-June to mid-September, and even that is optimistic. It can snow any day of the year here. Pinedale sits at 7,182 feet elevation, and has a population of 2,030 of the nicest folks you would ever want to meet. Its motto, "All the civilization you need", is perfect for this cowboy and cattle town that also caters to visitors from around the world who want to experience Wyoming hospitality and the unmatched beauty of the Wind River Range. We originally scheduled a stop here to visit one of Suzanne's mom Ruthie's very best friends, Gina Feltner, but I had a selfish motive: I had never backpacked The Winds, and this might be my best opportunity. 

We arrived at our campground, contacted Gina, and met her and Bob at their house just outside town. Gina was born and raised here on a cattle ranch, and knows horses like most of us know our closest relatives. Bob is a real cowboy who transplanted to Pinedale after his Army service. He then spent over 20 years punching cattle and guiding elk hunts in The Winds. He also had his own farrier (blacksmith) business and knows the mountains here like the back of his hand. For years he spent summers in cow camps in the high country, taking care of cattle, guarding them against marauding wolves and bears, and moving them from winter to summer grazing grounds in "drifts". Bob and Gina took us to lunch at a mountain lodge run by some friends. You can see the transition of sagebrush to pines and spruce in the background of this photo.

I knew the weather on my backpacking trip might be a bit chilly, so I got a new, 29 ounce, 19 degree F sleeping bag (my old one was rated to 32F, totally inadequate for this trip above 10,000 feet in Wyoming, even in mid-August). Food wouldn't be a problem, since My Lovely Bride had given me a big box of freeze-dried meals as an anniversary gift (yes, I have ribbed her about her romantic gift since then). By the way, I had mentioned my new sleeping bag to Bob, and he showed us his cowboy sleeping bag, which he still uses, that must weigh at least 29 POUNDS! But then he has a pack horse to carry it.

In researching The Winds, I was drawn to an area called Titcomb Basin, described by Backpacker Magazine as "a perfect 10" and "North America's most beautiful alpine ridge". One writer stated that he had hiked trails from Tibet to Timbuktu and found nothing more gorgeous. Suzanne dropped me off at the trailhead near Fremont Lake, and I started my four day adventure into the Bridger Wilderness, named for the 1820s mountain man Jim Bridger. The trail started off in a mixed forest of lodgepole pine and spruce trees, and because of the possibility of encounters with bears (both grizzly and black), I carried an industrial-sized can of aerosol bear spray. 

Fortunately, the most dangerous mammal I encountered was this Wyoming ground squirrel (Urocitellus elegans) who was trying to mooch a meal. I decided not to use the bear spray on him since I was able to successfully fend off his vicious attempts to take my lunch...

After a few miles, meadows and small glacial lakes (tarns) appear, with the rugged peaks in the background providing many scenic vistas.

After a few more miles, larger lakes followed, providing primitive campsites (no showers, toilets, running water, or even hot coffee) and fishing opportunities for those who can spare the weight; since my pack was already at 32 lbs., I decided not to decimate the local golden and rainbow trout population and left my gear at home. (No smart-aleck remarks, Bob).

The trail followed an up-and-down traverse of hills, valleys and small mountains leading into the heart of the Wind River Range. The higher I climbed, the more sparse the forest became. Treeline was about 10,400 feet, above which there would be no big trees. 

I did run across a few other day-hikers and backpackers. This guy/gal was just far out in front of me that I never caught up; more folks were headed back home because I left on a Monday; mid-weeks are my favorite time in the backcountry because there are fewer people to share it with.

The trail was often very rocky, making for slow going, since loose rocks can be a hazard - a twisted ankle or fall out here would be troublesome. 

After 6 hours and 10 miles of hiking, I turned a corner and this vista opened up - Seneca Lake, my first night's destination. I had been told that it would be crowded, but at first glance, I didn't see another soul. 

There weren't a lot of choices for campsites that offered a flat place to pitch my tent and some shelter from the wind, but I was able to find this primo spot with a great view of the lake and some small, stunted pines for a windbreak. My one-man tent weighs just 3 lbs, including a ground cloth to protect the very thin nylon fabric from the rocky terrain. After walking down to the lake for 4 quarts of water, purifying same with chlorine tablets, and then adding another chemical to neutralize the chlorine taste, I brewed up coffee and my freeze-dried dinner, a "nominal" double serving of fettuccine Alfredo with chicken (total 540 cals, 12 g fat, 36 g protein, 72 g carbs). Lest you think I was being a piglet, I could have eaten more, since I brought no dessert or wine... what a mistake!

That night I fell asleep with the sound of wind in the willows, so to speak, but it finally died down around midnight. I got up to take a biological break, and looked up into the moonless sky (it had not yet risen) to see the Milky Way in all its glory. It was about 30 degrees F back in Pinedale (7,100 ft), and while I didn't have a thermometer with me to check the temp up on Seneca Lake at 10,272 ft, I was as snug as a bug in a rug in my new sleeping bag. More about this fantastic trip in my next post... 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

River Rafting; Vandals; Stinkers; RV Repairs; Firefighters; Galley Food; A Donut Fix; What's in a Name? PMS What? A Tap Dancing Galley Slave

Boise is now one of our favorite places in the USA! Not only are the people very friendly, and the bike trails perfect for us "mature riders", but we had a great rafting trip on the Boise River. We discovered this opportunity while riding on the Greenbelt Trail, when we stopped at a city park that happened to offer raft rentals. We arrived the next morning 30 minutes prior to the concession opening, and were the very first rafters on the river. 

In fact, there were no other rafts, canoes or kayaks on the river the entire two hours of our float. We did see some fishermen, and some neat cairns on a gravel bar. 

The river was running at a moderate pace, tumbling over minor riffles and a couple of low diversion dams. The white water was fun but safe, and the water temperature only a trifle chilly. We saw kingfishers, hummingbirds, ducks, great blue herons and hawks. My Lovely Bride did a great job of paddling...

... while I relaxed and observed the many birds and a few trout jumping. My only complaint was that MLB had forgotten the wine and grapes; in spite of that, we continued to enjoy our time in Boise.

After our rafting trip, we went into Boise. While enjoying an al fresco dinner, we were intrigued by the sign on this bus, "Vandals Work"; the takeaway line is that 90% of University of Idaho students have jobs or plans for graduate education upon graduation, an amazing and admirable achievement. And yes, their mascots are the Vandals, a name given their basketball team almost 100 years ago by a sports writer after Idaho gave an opposing team a drubbing.

Boise did surprise us with this business: a local convenience store chain named Stinker Stores, with a skunk logo. Their logo reminds me of road-kill, but obviously the brand is doing well here in Idaho. "Think Stinker", indeed!  

The weather out in Idaho has been a bit warm, in the 90s in Boise, and one of our three roof air conditioners went out. I ordered and installed two new capacitors, but that didn't fix the problem of the compressor drawing excessive amperage on start-up. Calling around to local RV repair places didn't help, because the unit would have to be ordered and shipped, and the timing wouldn't work out until we get to Denver in 3 weeks. Here I am on the roof - MLB had hoped that this photo would be a Victory Shot when the unit ran flawlessly, but alas, it was not to be...

Firefighters are like Marines. You don't know how much you need them until the poop hits the fan, and then you call for help. While returning to our Gowen Field campground one day, we met Boise Fire Department Safety Captain Jeremy Kircher and a dozen of the BFD firefighters training in 95 degree heat and full firefighting suits. Captain Kircher took the time to tell me about his firefighters and their training, which is similar to Navy firefighting training - very realistic, and conducted in whatever environmental conditions you have on that day - extreme heat, snow and ice, or rain. Also, our good Forest Service friend Brad Bernardi, mentioned in the previous post, has been coordinating the efforts of 12 helicopters and 6 fixed wing aircraft fighting the Pioneer fire in Idaho, which covers 137 square miles north of Idaho City. The smoke from that fire occasionally drifted south over Boise during our four day stay. We too often take our firefighters, police, EMTs and military service members for granted, until we really, really need them...

As we prepared to depart Boise, we decided to eat breakfast at the base galley (a Navy term for a dining facility, what the Army calls a mess hall). There is a Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center on Gowen Field, and I suspect that in the division of responsibilities, the Navy was assigned the dining facility. This makes sense, because Marines and Army soldiers would be getting much better food than the normal Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) that they are used to, and if the Air Force was assigned the task, the costs of steak and lobsters every night would be prohibitive. On the subject of food prep, as I was fixing breakfast the next day, I asked Suzanne, "Sweetheart, do you know what the Indians in South Dakota call the person who prepares their meals? A Sioux chef... Har, har, har..." For some reason, she looked at me a little funny and didn't laugh.

While on the subject of food, I have to recount an incident that occurred at our next stop, in Layton, Utah, between Ogden and Salt Lake City. We had set up camp at Hill Air Force Base and were driving around town when I spied a red sign that indicated that the local Krispy Kreme's donuts were hot off the production line. I made a U-turn without telling Suzanne what I was doing, pulled into the parking lot and jumped out of the car without a word. I heard her say, "Oh, no..." On entering the donut shop, a nice young lady grabbed a donut off the conveyor belt and handed it to me with a smile. 

I ate it on the spot, and got another couple along with a coffee and a neat hat. Unfortunately, I had to eat them all myself, Suzanne being on a healthy nutrition crusade. Darn the bad luck!

As we returned to Hill Air Force Base, there was almost no traffic at the gate, so we stopped to chat for a moment with the young gate guard, whose name tag read "Lanros". I asked her if it was a Greek name. With a wry smile, she said, "No, sir. Our family lives in Minnesota, and our grandfather's name was actually Larson, but he was so tired of getting other people's mail that he changed the name to Lanros." Yup, that would sure solve that excess mail problem... those Minnesnowtans are sure different!

On the drive to Pinedale, Wyoming, our next destination, we stopped for 80 gallons of diesel fuel, and I had to go into the truck stop to pay the bill. I was taken aback by the display of chocolate bars at the register. I asked the friendly cashier, Beverly, if she would hold one up for the camera. She said that they were popular among truckers, but that I might be sitting out in the parking lot alone at the end of the day if I brought one back to the coach for My Lovely Bride. (I wisely decided not to find out if she was right... the label reads "PMS Chocolate for Women".)

Finally, I was doing the washing up after dinner the other night, and as I was about to scrub the plates, MLB says to me, in a tone of voice I rarely hear... "Ty... Stop! What are you doing with that yucky scrubbie? Where has it been?" "Um, well, I think, I mean, oh, I remember, I used it on the windshield, you know, to scrub the bugs and road dirt off, but I surely wasn't going to use it on the dishes. Heavens, I know better than that! I was going to use this fresh, new, sweet-smelling scrubbie on the dishes, and throw this dirty, stinking scrubbie in the trash." "Ty, if I didn't know better, I might think you were tap dancing right now..." 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Homeward Bound! Riggins, ID; McCall, ID; Gowen Field; Boise; "Sweetheart, It's NOT a Craft Fair!"

Homeward Bound! It hardly seems possible that we are 143 days and 7,887 miles into our summer tour, with 53 days and about 3,335 miles to go before returning to The Villages. Future major stops include Ogden/Salt Lake City, Utah; Pinedale, Wyoming; Denver and Estes Park, Colorado; St. Louis, Missouri, and Asheville, North Carolina. 

I received some well-appreciated support on my "Beer Blues" comment in the last blog post (mostly from men) and also took some unnecessary grief from My Formerly Supportive Friend Brenda, upon whom I will exact retribution at some date in the future. As an aside, we stopped for lunch today at an Argentine fast-food establishment (and those are pretty rare, even in Argentina) and ordered a Cerveza Quilmes beer that came out of the cooler ice-cold and refreshing. That pizza joint back in Whitefish could take some lessons from the Argentine immigrant proprietor/chef who knows what service means.

After departing Spokane, we dropped down into the Salmon River Valley in Idaho, where the river has cut over 7,000 ft deep into the earth's crust, deeper than the Grand Canyon. And oh, by the way, the Snake River Canyon, 25 miles to the west, is even deeper, but we didn't have time to visit the Snake. Our campsite for one night in Riggins, Idaho, was on the Salmon River, maybe the most beautiful campsite we've ever been assigned, and for only $31/night! Here is My Lovely Bride on an evening stroll before dinner, enjoying the river noise and solitude along the banks of the Salmon.

Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho, was our next stop. On scenic Payette Lake, it was a busy (and full) campground, but we got away from the crowds for several hikes. Boulder Lake was our first destination, and the scenery was lovely, with lots of Ponderosa pines, some of which soared to over 200 feet (the tallest is 268 feet, but it's in Oregon).

Boulder Lake itself was beautiful, and because it is located in a National Forest and not a National Park, hikers can bring their dogs. Rudy and Gretchen were disappointed that their legs were too short for a long 3 hour hike, but this black Lab was enjoying himself. 

This small spring had free, ice-cold water available. As you can see by MLB's fleece jacket, the weather in central Idaho in mid-August is slightly cooler than back in central Florida. We never used air conditioning and kept the heaters ready for the 57-59F evenings and early mornings. Fortunately, Rudy and Gretchen make great little bed warmers!

On another hike, we found this this heart-shaped rock, reminiscent of those given away by Wolf in Suzanne's book Wolf's Message, seen atop a cairn - it was the subject of one of Suzanne's Good Vibe Videos; you can find it at

This was a typical trail scene: lots of pine trees, steep hillsides and no other hikers in sight. Fortunately, we didn't run across any bears, either.

For those harvesters in our readership, you might have been pleased by this specimen of mushroom on the forest floor that Suzanne measued with her hand. We left it there, of course, but I have heard that others collect various flora for dinner... I am not so adventurous.

We finished our last hike and returned to the coach to prepare for a 1300 (1:00 PM) checkout from Ponderosa State Park. Imagine our surprise to find a car parked right behind ours, blocking us in, and a tent set up in our campsite, just behind the coach. Evidently the two millenials were too anxious to wait for us to leave, and decided to set up their camp almost two hours before we left. This is akin to walking into someone's hotel room and unpacking your bags before they've checked out.  We were shocked, amazed and almost a bit upset, as this type of behavior is unheard of among campers... finally we had to laugh at the "clueless" twenty-somethings who had obviously not been raised well.

After departing McCall, we drove down the Payette River valley to Boise. This is an exciting river drive, with 7-8% grades and tight turns. At one of the very few pull-outs that we could fit in, we walked down to the river for a few moments of contemplation. The river was roaring past us at only moderate volume; it's hard to imagine what it would be like during Spring snowmelt. 

As we drove south, we knew that our good friend Brad Bernardy was on the fire lines of the Pioneer Fire only 30 miles or so to the east. Brad is a Forest Service senior firefighter, and is right now helping manage the efforts of over 1,000 firefighters to get this dangerous 67,000 acre fire under control. We wish Brad and his teams all the best luck in their 24/7 efforts near Lowman and Idaho City. (Photo from KIVITV)

Upon arriving in Boise, we arrived at Gowen Field National Guard Base. After passing through security, we noticed this M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank with the business end of its 120 mm gun pointed right at the gate entrance. Very Impressive! We then checked in at our campsite (1 of only 6) in the small military campground located alongside a running track. 

One morning found 30 or so Army soldiers doing their quarterly PT test. The soldier seen in cammies is seen providing spiritual guidance to his compatriot in gym gear trying to qualify in the 3 mile run. It always helps to have a senior leader giving you encouragement when you are struggling...  

While visiting Idaho's capital, we learned that it's pronounced "BOY-see", not "boy-ZEE". It helps to be linguistically correct when visiting new places. Boise is a neat, friendly city, and as soon as we could, we went for two delightful bike rides on one of the best urban bike trails we've yet ridden, the Boise River Greenbelt Trail. We passed a group of people and stands set up in a park, and Suzanne said, "Ty, I would like to stop at this craft fair..." We stopped and walked our bikes for a minute, and then MLB said, "Ty, There's a distinct hippie feel here." I looked at the scruffy-looking college kids and then noticed a small sign with a green leaf logo, and said, "Suzanne, this isn't a craft fair; it's called Hempfest!" Whoops... Exit stage right...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Butterfly Lady; A Door with a Message; McDonald Creek; Whitefish Trail; Beer Blues; "No Problem"

Looking back through my recent photos, I noted that I had neglected to mention one delightful woman we met back in Unity Village. Cheri Neal was sitting on this butterfly bench, and looked like she had sprouted wings! Turns out Cheri is a life coach with an amazing background. Not only has she completed three triathlons and three half marathons, but she also jumped out of three perfectly good airplanes (okay, with a parachute) and was Illinois' first female snow plow operator! I was particularly impressed by Cheri's friendly, positive and caring attitude. You can learn more about Cheri and her life coaching on her web site

Another photo that I ran across was this house in Livingston, Montana, with an unusual decoration. I'm not sure what message (if any) the homeowner was trying to give, but it sure got my attention... I wonder what the homeowners association back in The Villages would say?

This next photo requires some explanation... it's not of a lazy guy taking an afternoon snooze. Steve Henneford is a self-taught master carpenter who creates some of the most amazing furniture I've ever seen; many pieces are made of exotic materials like bubinga and lacewood. (I would have left the show with this exquisite rocker, but since we're traveling in an RV, it just wasn't practical; in retrospect, I should have purchased it and had it shipped home... Sigh.) We met Steve at the Event at Rebecca Farm, where several of his works were on display. Steve was a championship gymnast and Olympic contender, as was his wife Jeanine. They also run a highly regarded gymnastics school in Kalispell, Montana. You can see some of Steve's beautifully hand-crafted furniture on his website, .   

Mountain rivers are some of our favorite places. While in Glacier National Park, we hiked alongside McDonald Creek, at 25 miles the longest stream in the park. It's a beautiful place, and once you're away from the turistas near parking pullouts, it's almost deserted. 

This view of McDonald Creek looks downstream at the Lower Falls, where you can see the horizon line of the drop.

We also got in a couple of great mountain bike rides; here we see a cute young cyclist taking a break on Montana's Whitefish Trail. She's hardly glistening, while her partner below is breaking a sweat, but at least he's upright and not face-planted in the dirt.

I started out this day in a long sleeve jersey because it was chilly (58-60F) but it warmed up quickly on the trail. I'm almost back to normal (if that's even possible) after a spill back in June. 800 mg doses of Vitamin M (Motrin) also help. 

This entry is mostly for guys. I'm not trying to be sexist, but really, in my humble opinion, women don't generally appreciate beer. I'm not trying to start any on-line flaming arguments, but I will give you one example. There are only two meals that we both regularly enjoy with beer. My Lovely Bride likes a Corona with lime when we have Ty's Famous Chicken Enchiladas or pizza. She doesn't care much for IPAs, ambers or ales, so when we go out, she will order a Corona and I will order a Fat Tire, Alaskan Amber or a local craft beer. Recently we went out to a highly recommended pizza joint (which shall go unnamed) in Whitefish, Montana, which has several reputable craft breweries. After ordering our pizza, I ordered two beers; since the establishment in question (a moniker which actually should have been "a questionable establishment") did not serve Corona (were they anti-Mexican beer, perhaps influenced by a brainless, draft-dodging presidential candidate? But I digress...), I ordered a local lager for My Lovely Bride and an IPA for myself. The bottles were served, and as I picked mine up, my astute tactile receptors sent a signal to my brain saying, "This bottle isn't very cold!" I tasted my IPA, and while my taste buds gave it a favorable rating, it definitely wasn't cold enough for my palate, even though I had spent two years in England with the Royal Navy, but 55-60 F English bitter is a totally different experience. MLB tasted hers, and said "It's okay." (This is not what I would call a rousing endorsement...) I went inside to the young woman at the counter and asked for cold versions of the two bottles in question. The conversation went like this:
"I'm afraid these beers are not cold enough to drink."
"Gee, sorry, our cooler hasn't been working very well. That's as good as it gets." 
"Okay, I'd like a bucket of ice to cool them off." 
"Gee, sorry, we don't have buckets." 
"How about a couple of freezing cold iced mugs?" 
"Gee, sorry, all we have is plastic cups, and even if we had glasses or mugs, none of our coolers are cold enough to frost glass anyway." 
At this point I was about to say, "Gee, sorry, cancel my order, and we'll go somewhere that knows what 'service' means..." But (1) Suzanne has been trying to train me to be more loving, compassionate and tolerant, and (2) I had already paid the bill and left a generous gratuity; and (3) we were starving, so I said to myself, "Isn't this interesting?" and "I would really prefer having cold beers instead of these insipidly warm excuses for beer." So, I gently and lovingly said, "Okay, how about a couple of large cups of ice so I can immerse these unsatisfactorily warm beers into an ice bath to make them drinkable?" 
"So, I guess we can do that." 
"No problem." (This leads to another pet peeve to be discussed in the paragraph below...)
My Lovely Bride was more than amused by my travails, and took this photo of Your Faithful Correspondent in the act of icing down two bottles of warm beer in 16 oz. plastic cups. By the time our pizza (pretty decent, actually) arrived, the beers were almost drinkable... but I was still hot!

Finally, on to that other pet peeve... the use of the modern phrase "No problem" in place of the traditional "You're welcome". The use of this annoying phrase is so pervasive that any attempt on my part to convince millennials of its incivility would probably be met with blank looks and replies of "Whatever", so I guess I will follow My Lovely Bride's advice and just suck it up. Where are good English teachers when you really need them?  Sigh... 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Absaroka-Beartooth; Whitefish, Montana; Glacier National Park; Heading Home; IANDS; Birthday Girls; An Oak Grove

We are now two-thirds of the way through our summer tour out west, and are about to turn east and slowly head back to The Villages. But first, we have some more visiting, sightseeing and hiking to do in the Rockies... This is Mill Creek, east of Emigrant and Pray, Montana. See how many houses, cars and people you can pick out in the photo...

I got lots of hiking in while My Lovely Bride made a quick trip to Albuquerque, NM, to teach her Serving Spirit course. When she returned to Montana, we went on a hike together in the Beartooths... I think she is making a face because of the name, which implies some relationship with the "business end" of grizzlies. (Note: we did carry industrial cans of bear spray, but I never saw a bruin in several solo hikes into the area.)

Wildflowers were in bloom due to recent rain, and this species was prevalent in a burn area where I hiked; the Ponderosa pines were all dead from a lightning-generated fire, but wildflowers, plants and seedlings had returned. 

Hopefully, in 20-25 years only experts will know that this area had burned, but for now, it looks pretty grim.

Our last day along the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana, provided this view of the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains and wilderness at dusk. If it weren't for the bitter winters, I could live here quite happily. Summers are mild (75 F is a warm day) and the crowds are rather small... like, nonexistent! And the fishing is good - I mentioned to some friends that I had caught and released three brown trout in the Yellowstone, and My Good Friend Bob asked, "And what happened when you woke up from that dream?" I didn't have a 2 x 4 handy when Bob made that hurtful, sarcastic remark. But I am looking for an opportunity to get even...

While on the subject of fishing, I should relate an incident which occurred as we were walking down a creek and met some fishermen carrying a couple of trout. We stopped to talk, and I asked the trio what they used to catch the fish: flies, spinners or bait? They replied that they had all used nightcrawlers, the "universal bait". We walked on, and I noticed that My Lovely Bride had a naughty smile on her face. I asked her what was up. She turned to make sure the fishermen were out of sight, struck a sexy pose and replied, "No, Sweetheart, this is the universal bait!"

Our next stop was Whitefish, Montana, where we got to enjoy some quality family time with Suzanne's nephew Matthew, his lovely wife Eleanor, and their daughters Olive (7) and Ruth (3). 

We were staying at a KOA campground, and the swimming pool there provided a good opportunity for some fun in the water for the kids. (Hey, looking at them from my age and perspective, they are ALL kids!)

Matthew took us to an internationally renowned equestrian event, The Event at Rebecca Farm. Originally called Militaire, and designed to test cavalry horses and troopers, Eventing has evolved into the equivalent of a Triathlon for horses and their riders - dressage, cross country and show jumping. We were there on Thursday, which was the novices' day, but got a good look at several competitors and their trusty steeds. 

We also got out to Glacier National Park for some hiking and a trip up the Going to the Sun Road. Unlike during our visit a couple of years ago, the road was clear of snow this time... but the scenery is still spectacular! 

We departed Montana for Spokane, where we left the coach and flew back to Florida for a visit with Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie, and for Suzanne's keynote speech and workshop at the annual conference of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) in Orlando. This was the first time that I have attended one of her "away" conferences, and it was a treat. You will note that I am wearing a name tag, but My Lovely Bride is not - because just about everyone knows her!

Her keynote speech was filmed and streamed live.  Without my awareness, Suzanne alerted the film crew to focus in on me because she was going to tell a joke about me to warm up the audience.  She predicted I would put my face in my hands and shake my head, which is exactly what I did.   Does she think she knows me after 20 years, or what?

Today was a special day: Suzanne and Ruthie celebrated their shared birthday. I will not reveal their ages, because gentlemen don't do that, but I can say that Suzanne is now a legal Villages resident! Suzanne's brother Brent and His Lovely Bride Cheryl took us all out to dinner at our favorite Japanese restaurant for sushi, and a good time was had by all.

Finally, during our visit we also got to spend some time in our new house. The weather was very hot, but we would get out for a bit at sunset to enjoy this grove of oaks festooned with Spanish moss near the house. I'm not sure what that green area between the trees is all about, or the holes filled with sand and the yellow flag stuck in the ground. There appeared to be several small groups of people standing around periodically, sometimes rejoicing and sometimes wailing and gnashing their teeth, but so far it's a mystery...