Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jack & Seren Dippity

We're processing photos of our yurt trip on this snowy Sunday morning.  We thought you might like to see who from The Sunshine Family got to go on our yurt trip.  Jack and Seren had a wonderful time!  The rest of The Family listened with rapt attention with Jack & Seren returned to tell the tales of their trip into Snow Country. (Click here for some genuine background on The Sunshine Family.)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Night Symphony

Susun is off to the Symphony.  Susun IS a symphony, that's for sure.  But tonight she is actually GOING to the Symphony not as a fee-paying spectator but as a Volunteer!  I am so proud of her.  She has cultivated her relationship with the Idaho Falls Symphony and she is considered to be a very valued member of their team.  Tonight is Red Dress Night and you should have seen her when she walked out the door.  WOW,  FLAMING RED HOT SUSUN!  What an item!  (Editor's Note: Sunday morning I uploaded a photo of Susun with the Star Performer Janice Martin.)

(Click here to go to the Idaho Falls Symphony website. Tonight's gig is "The Gershwin Fantasy."  Check it out!)

I give great thanks that I do not have to partake of her relationship with the Symphony.  It's just not my cup of glee.  Dear Friend & Loyal Blog Reader Dave E. is an Usher Emeritus at the San Francisco Symphony.  Heck, he might even be the Alpha Male Usher there, too, as long as he has been doing it which is like forever.  Ushering at a Symphony is great but "it ain't me."  As Susun walked out the door, I told her how proud of her I was.  Same goes for Smilin' Dave.  DAVE ROX!

 As far as the rest of Saturday went, we dilly-dallied on the computer as long as possible today--it seemed like almost noon before we pulled out the digital IV and sallied forth into the Real World.  These days it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the Digital World and The Real World.  One thing I do know for sure is that in the Real World heavy metal objects (AKA trucks & cars) can run you down and kill you if you are not careful.  This does not happen in the Digital World, even in the wildly popular video game "Grand Theft Auto."

We actually had quite a productive day.  I got a haircut--first one in like forever---hum, perhaps 2 months, maybe 3?  My hair was so long I thought about growing a pony tail.  Nah, just kidding.
Susun did the honors of cutting the hair.  I bought a new clipper at Wally World for a mere ten bucks.
Susun does my hair a lot better than the cheap-o places at the Mall, etc.  However, she's a lot slower and I am impatient.  This is not a good combination.  Anyway, we both dealt with it and the haircut turned out great.

I spent sixty bucks on canned goods.  You read that right.  That's 120 cans @ 50 cents a can.  January is "Pantry Restocking Time."  The heart of our pantry is tomatoes, beans, and vegetables.  Tomorrow, I will do a separate blog post on the pantry--it's an annual tradition.  Anyway, I had to make a few trips to Fred Meyer to take advantage of the coupon special for 50 cent canned goods.  The whole trifecta was on sale--tomatoes, beans and veggies.  Even though I spent $60, I'd reckon I saved much more than that over the price one would pay if one HAD to buy any given canned good at any given time.

I went to Wally World and dropped a hundred bucks.  I bought 5 gallons of RV antifreeze good to fifty below.  I popped for a $63 two-gallon air compressor and a $7 set of accessories.  Poof, there goes a C-Note.  Anyway, as you will recall from the "JT" post below, we learned what we needed to know about the pipes.  It all revolves around RV antifreeze and an air compressor and some valves.
The $50 estimate I made in that post did not include the cost of the air compressor because it can be used for a lot of other tasks.  I've always wanted one and now I have one.

After all of the above, there was somehow still some daylight left.  First, I tried to burn off the daylight by making a list.  Any good procrastinator worth his or her salt knows that making a list is a totally awesome way of procrastinating.  Well, one of the items on the list was "Secure South Door."  So, I figured I could burn the entire rest of the day simply by looking for a stout piece of steel to accomplish this task.  Lo and behold, I found the perfect piece of steel within minutes.  Opps, that meant I then had to go to work.

One thing led to another and just as the sun was edging ever closer to the horizon I finished drilling and bolting the south door into oblivion.  No garden variety burglar will be able to bust that door now.
Nope, it would take at least two cordless tools or a truck mounted winch to pop that door now.  Prior to today's burst of activity, that door could have been popped by a teenage slacker using nothing more than a skateboard.  Now?  Maybe it would take a cordless drill, sawsall and perhaps a pry bar, too.  The key word here is "maybe."  Muy bueno trabajo!

Today is my Mom's Birthday.  She is now 86 years young. When we called, she was having a really fun day receiving calls from Family and Long Time Friends.  She had a plethora of cards, flowers and so forth.  She's in great health and aging quite gracefully.

OK, one last tangent on this rambling post.  Why is it that I know so many women with birthdays in this time period?  Some astrologer could probably enlighten me.  Let's review, shall we?  My Mom was born January 30.  The late Mom of Susun was born January 31.  Susun was born February 2.  One of our Best Friends here was born January 29.  There are others, too, that I can't remember right now but it's uncanny.  It's some sort of cluster.

Well, OK, it's time to wrap up this blog post and go back to tweaking and improving on my list.  When the chips are down and the lines in the sand are drawn, Johnny makes a list.  Trust me, list making is a survival skill I learned a long time ago.  The better the list, the more certain the survival.

If we're going to "get outta Dodge" less than 5 weeks from now, "Lists R US!"

Cheers, J&S

PS--Thanks for your comments, Maggie J. and Deano!

Snowbird Blog is BAACK!

We've reactivated our Arizona Snowbird blog.  We're going to keep both blogs updated probably well into May.  Click here to read the Snowbird blog:

JT & The Pipes

The wheels of our new future began turning pretty rapidly yesterday.  (See the "first day" post below.)  One of the biggest technical impediments to a timely departure for Arizona are our plumbing pipes.  As you know, that was a big issue on our first trip south.  Luckily, Friend Jeff S. saved our bacon and with Jeff's help and over $100 in extra electrical costs, we dodged The Big Bullet and didn't have any burst pipes when we returned on New Year's Eve.

Sooo.....we can't really head south again until we deal with our pipes.  More than a couple of years ago, we met this elf at Home Depot.  The elf's name is JT.  Believe me, he looks like, talks like and completely acts like a genuine elf.  If you put him in an elf costume, people would naturally assume he was the Real Deal.  Anyway, JT was a plumber in a past life and he gave us some consistently good advice whenever we encountered him at Home Depot.  Way back then, I taped his phone number in a place where it would always be available.

Yesterday about five o'clock, I called JT and told him I needed some help.  He very quickly declined saying he was retired and didn't and wouldn't do plumbing jobs any more.  I already knew that, of course, and so I quickly countered with, "But JT, I don't want you to turn a wrench or lift a tool--I need a plumbing CONSULTANT and I will pay you simply to stand around and tell me what to do.  You don't have to do nothing except talk!"  Well, the elf fell for that one hook, line and sinker.  In fact, JT said, "Well, can I come over right now?"  How do you like that--our very own elf making a house call on a Friday evening.

JT was at the front door lickity split, decked out like the Good Elf he is.  What a elf smile that guy has  And the elf beard is perfect.  Anyway, we dived right into the basement like trolls under a bridge and he commenced to give us a professional discourse on how to winterize our old galvanized pipes without going to a lot of expense.  I know I overuse the word "awesome" but it was awesome.

He took us step-by-step through the whole plumbing system and laid out a detailed game plan for protecting all of the pipes, the traps and even the washing machine.  It was brilliant and we can do it all ourselves without hiring a plumber.  In fact, I think our total expense, including the RV antifreeze and some new valves, etc. will be under $50.  Such a deal.

Well, I had a pre-signed check in my shirt pocket and when he finished, I said, "Well, JT, how much do we owe you?"  And he said, "Nothing, I'm just a neighbor helping a neighbor!"  WOW!  So, on the first day of the rest of our lives, we almost instantly overcame one of the biggest road blocks to a safe and economical trip to Arizona.  Now, we will be able to have the city turn off our water and electricity and save over $100 a month while we are gone.  Thanks, JT.

The Short Yurt Story

The Yurt was fantastic.  It far exceeded our expectations in every way.  We will be writing quite a bit about our yurt trip in much, much more detail--far more detail that you may wish to endure.  This blog post is the "short & sweet" of it.

The yurt was huge--at least 16 feet in diameter--and the legroom and spaciousness were awesome.  The little wood stove kept it toasty warm--it was often in the upper 70's, even when it was five below outside. Sledding our stuff to the yurt was a piece of cake--totally easy.  We brought all the right stuff and it all worked as planned.  Our menu was perfect.

On Thursday, we had Blue Bird skies, no wind and temps in the upper 20's. Our snow shoe adventure took almost 4 hours out around Silver Lake.  It was somewhere between five and six miles.  It was totally awesome.  We only saw 3 people all day.

Our only real adventure of the trip was when we were frozen inside the yurt.  No, not like that.  What happened was that the wood stove melted water from the top of the yurt--it drained down in front of the door Wednesday night and formed an ice dam. There was no way to open the door from the inside.  Luckily, we used our cell phone to call for a rescue mission.  Obviously, we needed to get to the outhouse Thursday morning as "time was of the essence."  They sent a speeding snowmobile to our rescue and used an antique ice breaker to chip us out of the yurt.

We played a lot of cribbage and, no, we didn't take the XM.  It was a blissful trip in every way and we are now even more in love with Harriman than ever before--if such a thing is possible.  What an incredible place.  Well, that's the short version--the long version will take all weekend to prepare.

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

You know how that cliché goes?  I think I first heard that cliché over 40 years ago and quickly grew tired of hearing it.  Please, not THAT cliché again!!  So, I apologize for dusting off such an "oldie" but it really fits today like that glass slipper on Cinderella.  (Did you know Cinderella got her name because she was forced to sit in cinders?  Click here for the Wiki on her story.)

So, yes, it's cliché time once again.  It all started yesterday when we returned from the yurt.  (We had a great time at the yurt but that's another story best told in a separate blog post.)  I checked my office email account and it was official--that guy got the job. Well, that sealed the deal and it didn't even take a few minutes before we activated a Brand New Life Plan (BNLP for you acronym lovers).  So, yesterday was the Milestone Day that we discussed on the day this blog was born January 1.  No doubt about it.  It felt absolutely great and liberating and wonderful and all those other hackneyed, cliché words.

I will give my two-week notice on February 12 and my last day at the office will be February 26.  We will be heading out for Arizona sometime the following week so as to arrive before The Great Hogan Adventure.  (Yet another, soon-to-appear blog post.)

We have huge gobs of stuff we need to do in a very short period of time to make this happen but the die has been cast and the decisions have been made.  It's time for a new chapter in our lives.  Almost immediately, we began to see and experience all sorts of little things that showed us we were making the right decision.  I'd like to share one of those things with you.

Back on my first day on the job in August 2007, they finally gave me a copy of the federal grant narrative that supposedly guided the program.  We took it back to our travel trailer and I flipped out.  I decided to quit the job the following day as the narrative was ridiculous in every way.  The following morning, we parked a couple of blocks away from the office building and, while walking toward work, we called our federal state director in Boise.  We told him we were quitting and he gave a world calss sales pitch over the cell phone and successfully talked me into staying on.

OK, let's fast forward from August 2007 to yesterday.  One of our friends turned 50 yesterday.  We went to her office in the Courthouse to sing Happy Birthday to her.  As we were leaving to go to our truck, I decided to call the federal state director in Boise to tell him we had decided to retire from the job.  We were sitting in the cab of the truck in our parking spot talking with Kent when, almost at the same instant, Susun and I both realized that we were parked at the precise location where we had talked with Kent on August 23, 2007!!!  Talk about uncanny and strange--all three of us were shocked and awed.  Even Kent said, "Well, what goes around really does come around, eh?"

Yea, verily.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Hour At Hand

We love 5 pm. It's Happy Hour Time. We have this friend named Merlot. Ever heard of him? He drops 'round 'bout 5 pm to say hello. It's always good to see an Old Friend on a snowy wintry day. The truck is fully packed, boxes, sleds, etc. Susun's backpack is also fully packed. Mine? Not so much. We have a few odds and ends to drop into our tubs before departure. Looks like it's going to be a snowy morning tomorrow. I think this snow won't be unmanageable. We shall see.

we're "on" to meet with the park staff @ 11 am tomorrow morning. We had some really great email interchanges with Elizabeth L. in Island Park. She is doing really great things there in many, many ways. It's always so refreshing to learn of someone who has dedicated their life to a place, a people and a sense of community. YOU ROCK, Elizabeth!

Well, I couldn't resist. I was planning on taking that clunky old pack frame to tow my sled. I kept looking at the spiffy hip strap The Leather Shop made for Susun and I became jealous. So I went down there and had them make one for me, too. We're both stylin' now!

The big debate tonight concerns whether to take the XM radio. Susun says "NO." I am waffling. It will be interesting to see if it goes. So far, we haven't picked who from The Sunshine Family gets to go. Ah, the last minute details.

Well, enough chatter, I have to go have some civil discourse with Mr. Merlot.

Cheers! jp

PS--The photo was added after writing the post.  Susun really went over the top tonight, eh?  Butter simmered flounder, roasted tomatoes and all that other stuff, too.  WHOA!

Snow Job

Hum...looks like we are having a convergence here: a road trip and a snow storm. Here is the edited version of this morning's Pocatello NWS Forecast Discussion. (Note the NWS people type in ALL CAPS. It's annoying but it's what they do.)




Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Evening

We often receive blog comments from a diverse variety of sources. Today, we rec'd several blog comments via emails and one by actual telephone from Dear Friend Dave E.

Dave and I go way back to maybe 1980 or 1981, I can't remember precisely. We met in Chicago, I think. He traveled on the famous peak flow 100,000 cfs Colorado River trip river trip with Nancy McC. and Sue W., both of whom are blog readers. He also met blog reader Wayne R. when Wayne passed our trip on the Lower End with George M's way too fast trip. It's so fascinating how we all keep in touch together after all these years. That river trip will be 27 years ago this June-July.

Today was a real blur at the office. What Monday isn't? The "they" of what constitutes leadership at my employer were conducting interviews for a new director for our division today. You could tell it was an impotent day because of all the people walking around in really abnormal high quality clothing. Everyone was smiling unnatural smiles--it was kind of spooky so I holed up in my office and ignored it mostly. Some co-workers came in and shared gossip during the day. Turns out one of the applicants from within the agency applied for the position.  If this particular guy would actually get the position, though, I would resign as it would be practical to do so. make a short story long, if the this guy gets the position, the milestone in Milestone Year happens a whole heck of a lot sooner than later. No doubt about that!

After doing some obligatory paperwork and various bureaucratic BS, I returned home before 3 pm and set about rigging for the yurt trip. I think we have our menu planning pretty well done and the food pretty well packed. Then I worked on rigging the toboggan and I think I achieved a really spiffy rigging set up. Meanwhile, we put the Bed Sled back together. This time, all the bedding is really well protected from snow and weather. I think the Big Sled will weigh danged close to 100 pounds.

Why is it that we can't learn to travel without the kitchen sink? One wonders.

At least I have stopped fighting and complaining about taking along the kitchen sink. Now I take it along with almost nary a gripe or complaint. Kitchen sink? Who cares? What's a few more pounds among friends, eh?

Susun concocted a great dinner tonight and life is good. We will post up pictures of the Challis Senior Center gig tomorrow. Hopefully, I can do a video, too. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Have a great evening and a wonderful tomorrow. Remember Annie's immortal words:

The sun'll come out Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar That tomorrow There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about Tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs, And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day That's gray,
And lonely, I just stick out my chin
And Grin, and Say, Oh!

The sun'll come out Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on 'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!

(While editing this post the following morning, I found a YouTube video that has the audio version of the above lyrics. The video just shows the DVD cover and plays the audio of "Tomorrow" in the background. Click here to hear those wonderful words in song.

Craters of The Moon

Press the "play" arrow and then press the "pause" button. Use the right and left arrows to navigate through the slideshow.

This just in as of Monday evening: Wayne R. says the snow depicted in the slide show is called "sastruga." Wayne ought to know--he learned about it first hand at the South Pole way back in the mid-1980's. Click here to read the Wiki link that Wayne sent along.

Now I think I will go into the kitchen and casually say to Susun, "Honey, let's go do some sastruga!" I will let you know what happens.

Weekend recap

We left our house at 8:30 am, fully expecting to spend almost 4 hours getting to Challis. The roads were quite bad--mostly ice across the entire Arco Desert. In some stretches, it was ice as far as we could see. Thank God for studded tires! North of Mackey, there was a stretch of pure glare sheet ice. The Willow Creek Summit was manageable, at least at 25-30 mph. Much to our abject surprise, we arrived in Challis precisely 3 hours after we left. Luckily, the motel let us check in early.

Naturally, we headed right off for one of our all-time favorite places--The HUB Thrift Store. HUB means "Helping Us Build." For a few minutes, we actually tried to avoid going there as we knew we would buy a lot of stuff that we probably really didn't need. But we couldn't resist. Afterall, it's The HUB. There's only one HUB and, for our money, it's consistently the finest thrift store on earth.

Naturally, we walked out stuffed with stuff. HUB stuff is impossible to resist. Susun got this AWESOME bag full of cold weather baby clothes for her grandkids. I got a great hatchet, a cell phone thingie and a real tiny 25 cent gavel. The gavel is made of real wood and it's about 3 inches long. I will take it to a Staff meeting and tell people the size of the gavel is proportional to the importance of the meeting. The hatchet is an Old Beater, perfect for taking to Harriman this week and I didn't have one. It reeks of "coolness" and I will have to take a picture to post here. I also bought an excellent pair of Rossignol x-c skis for $2. I've needed a cell phone thingie forever but they cost a lot and, welll, you know...Anyway, this one was 25 cents--typical HUB stuff.

We showed up at the Senior Center at 1:30 pm and left near about 4:30 pm. It was a wonderful event that worked out really, really well. I even got to tell them that I loved them not once but twice and they loved it. I hugged a lot of people, too. Geeze, they are such wonderful people and their hearts shine right through their sparkling eyes and smiles. We took a lot of photos and video and will post that up hopefully today so the Senior Center portion of the story will be via the photos and video.

We went back to the room and hung out until just before 7 pm and then went back to the Senior Center for bingo. Luckily, we only had to stay until a little past 8 pm. All-in-all, I get to log it as a 12 hour work day.

I drove out to get coffee shortly after 6 am and dang near hit some deer coming back. Luckily, I was driving slowly but this particular herd seemed intent on running into the side of the truck. Luckily, we didn't make contact. People hit deer there seemingly every day. The newspaper has a habit of making fun of the drivers who hit the deer. Last week, some passerby's vehicle sustained $4,500 damage after hitting a deer. People have been killed up there by swerving to miss deer only to find themselves in fatal rollovers or upside down in the Salmon River.

After a leisure morning, we departed at 9:30 am and enjoyed some wonderful Sunday sunlight showcasing the many mountains along the highway. I think something like 12 out of Idaho's `13 highest peaks line that highway. The road was just declared the "Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway" only 2 weeks ago.

Luckily, we brought along our snowshoes and turned west at Arco for the 18 mile jaunt out to Crates of the Moon National Monument. Saturday's hellacious winds had wrecked havoc with the snow at Craters and we were the first people to venture onto the snowshoe trail since the windstorm. It was wonderful, of course. We tried breaking some trail in virgin powder but it was hip deep and no fun so we called it quits on that idea. We spent more than an hour goofing off out in the snow and then arrived home at 3 pm. We will post up a slide show later.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent unpacking and shopping. Then we watched a little football and called it a night.

I have quite a story to tell about some things taking shape up at Harriman State Park but that's another post. Thanks for reading & Cheers, jp

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back in Eye-Dee-Hoe Falz

We're home safe & sound @ 3 pm Sunday.  Great trip.  Lots to tell--time to unpack, do some shopping and will report more later this evening.  Thanks for your comments, Deano & Sue!  Awesome to have some comments.  Thanks, Wayne, for your email about the blog, too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ah, Another NoEx

There's simply no way we can describe the pleasure of watching Northern Exposure.  Tonight, we finished with the Season 3 episode where Joel got inducted into the tribe.  It was so totally awesome and so totally appropriate.  Everything about it was a deja vu in advance of Going To Challis.  We give honor and thanks to the writers, producers and people who made that TV show.  They went above and beyond all that we once knew.

Tee Minus 14 hours

We're getting ready to launch for Challis tomorrow morning.  I'm estimating our ETD @ T-14.  That's NASA talk for roughly 8:30 am tomorrow morning.  Heck, I might even go roaming 'round and find a countdown clock and put it up here for grins.

I made up all the certificates today.  It's dang near half a package of parchment paper.  We triple checked with the management of the Senior Center up there and we're locked and loaded.

Going to Challis is always a sort of pilgrimage for us.  We have so much personal history with that place.  I think it's one reason we love Northern Exposure so much.  Challis could have BEEN Cicely, Alaska.  The two of them are joined at The Hip.  We can substitute exact people in Challis for fictional characters in Cicely.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about Challis is that it has continued to live a genuine Northern Exposure Reality long after the TV series ended.  And none of the Challis residents really know this.  They think their life is normal.  Well, I guess in a lot of ways it is.  How can you argue with survival and success?  Survival IS success sometimes in Challis.

We both truly love Challis.  Heck, we almost bought a house there.  Well, no, it was a $35,000 shack.  But who's counting?  When I go back to Challis, I feel like I am coming home.  I call Idaho Falls home but Challis is really home to me.  It's official population is 909 people.  No one knows if that's a real number or not.  No one cares.  It's a county seat and it does not even yet have a stop light.  Heck, it doesn't even have a single national franchise either in the entire county!  Nobody pays any attention to Custer County and NOBODY pays any attention to Challis, the county seat.

I get to stand up in front of the stalwarts of Challis tomorrow and make a speech.  I get to then hand out over four dozen certificates of appreciation to volunteers who serve at the Challis Senior Center.  It's going to be a poignant scene. Why?  Because I love Challis and I love their Old People.  I love each and every one of them from the frail to the flagrant. They feel like my extended family--my distant cousins and forgotten aunts & uncles.  Heck, maybe they are.  Who knows with inbreds?

I want to tell them tomorrow how much I value them.  I want to tell them how much they matter.  I want to tell them that they make a difference.  I want to tell them that their community simply wouldn't be the same without them.  But most of all, I want to tell them that I love them.

That is a tall order for a speech maker.  You have to be really, really careful with you use the "L" word.  You have to craft your speech in such a way that you have your audience totally involved and hanging on your every word.  You have to have them moving forward in their seats.  I learned a long time ago to watch their heads.  If their heads aren't nodding, you're OK.  If you can see their eyes, they're OK, you're OK.

Well, it's a Big Day tomorrow.  I'm bringing a portable PA system to amp it up.  As I sit here in Idaho Falls at this computer, I can see their eyes, I can see their faces and I know I can Stand and Deliver.

They deserve nothing less than the Best I have to give.

Here is the Nov 13, 2007, rendition of our last Volunteer Recognition Event.

Traveling with The Nut Box

It's not as bad as you might be thinking.  Nope.  We both love Traveling with The Nut Box.  It's a BIG, long-time tradition with us.  Before each trip, no matter how small or how long, we prepare The Nut Box.

Tonight, I had been home barely but a few minutes and Susun puts her hand on her hip and said, "Well, I DO have a favor, John!"  And I said, "Well, what is that?"  And she said, "YOU are in charge of The Nut Box."

Now I know a lot of our Loyal Readers can have a field day with that type of lingo.  But it's not as weird as you might think.  It's simply a box full of nuts, seeds and legumes.  It sits in the front seat of our vehicle and when we get "snacky," we call out, "I'll have a hit from The Nut Box."

All sorts of goodies reside therein.  Pecans.  Almonds.  Walnuts. Spanish Peanuts. Toasted Soynuts. Pumpkin Seeds. Sunflower seeds, Dried Cranberries.  Dark Chocolate. You name it.  You can find it in The Nut Box.  It's awesome and it's nutritious.  It's filling and it easily fuels the longest trip.  Give me some water, an aspirin once in awhile and The Nut Box and I can drive at least 500 miles a day, sometimes as much as 600.  Luckily, we only have to drive 160 tomorrow.  This is a piece of cake for The Nut Box.

The nice thing about The Nut Box is that we have "proofed" the carb content of all the nuts therein and found the lowest carb content of the nuts that we travel with. (Traveling with nuts is not normally recommended.)  It's pretty amazing the wide variety of carb content between various nuts, seeds and legumes.  Spanish peanuts are SO much lower in carbs than any other type of peanut.  Soynuts are like NOTHING.  You can munch to your heart's content (quite literally) and enjoy Life On The Road with a custom configured Nut Box.  We highly recommend them.

The only thing we are missing in this Nut Box is walnuts.  They are a normal staple of our Nut Box.  Unfortunately, we forgot to restock before this Road Trip.  Bummer.  Walnuts and us go way back.  We're going to miss an Old Friend on this weekend trip.  You can be certain I won't let THAT happen again.

All clear

Please sound the imaginary "all clear" sirens. It's over--at least for this round of flooding.  Thge hydrological forecasts were all wrong, some more wrong than others.  The forecasts for the Upper Verde were just about as wrong as they could possibly be.  All the professionals were wrong and I was, too.

None of the streamflow monitoring points in the Upper Verde came anywhere close to their forecasts. I'd suspect there is no damage in that vicinity and nothing was even put at risk.  The people who were evacuated have to be wondering "What happened here?"  Well, trust me, the forecasts were logical and prudent at the time.  If anything, they could have been understated for what everyone thought was certain to happen.  Anyone who has ever seen it rain on snow knows what happens in that case.  Well, it rained on snow--heavily and for a long time and yesterday turned years of conventional wisdom on its head. 

How could that happen?  Simple.  The snowpack was apparently deep enough and big enough to simply absorb the rainfall like one giant white sponge.  There's really no other possible explanation.
Let's take Baker Butte, for example, since that's the one we watch.  The snow depth there is now 67 inches.  Meanwhile, the "snow water equivalent" grew 5.8 inches yesterday alone.  It did NOT shrink--it increased.  If the snow water would have been falling off the edge of a cliff (The Rim), the readings would be less, not more.  The number don't lie.  The same situation is true at the Happy Jack SNOTEL.  I thought that the low snow would flash melt and cause abnormally high streamflows.  Nope, it didn't happen.  This is a VERY good thing and I am VERY happy to be wrong.  Joyous, for that matter.  It's a great way to start the day  TGIF!

Well, I am sure I will be able to recap whatever else happened around the state later--much later.  In the meantime, it's back to the future and I need to get boatloads of stuff done today.  No more procrastination wiggle room. 

Have a great day and thanks for reading.  Cheers, jp

Looks like its peaked.

Got up about 3 am. Whew. Looks like it's peaked. The Agua Fria didn't come close to 31 feet. It peaked at 27.91 at 11 pm for a flow of 47,600 cfs. Yes, that's a new record peak but nothing like 31 feet would have been. Now it is 25.18 feet and "only" 36,000 cfs. Readings upstream and the current weather indicate that this river will now continue to drop.

Tonto appears to have peaked as well about 12:45 am. It's dropped a half foot. The peak flow was 64,700, well below it's record of 77,000 but still a very high flow and one that surely caused a lot of damage.

The Verde gauge stopped putting out cfs flows but it still producing height readings. It appears to be topping out around 22.5 feet. This flow is probably someplace in the 120,000 range. A reading of 21.75 feet roughly equates to 110,000 cfs. The peak flow as February 20 1993 at 145,000 so the Verde isn't going to come close to the prog of 180K. -Still, this would one of the highest flows ever seen for the Verde. Yesterday is was running perhaps 700 cfs.

The Salt River into Roosevelt is nearly 80,000 right now and rising rapidly--roughly 7000 cfs every 30 minutes. It's 1993 peak was double this flow so I seriously doubt that what's upstream can come close to helping break the record.

The Upper Verde has (so far) dodged a bullet. It doesn't appear that there has been any kind of a "wave" of water coming off the Rim. Unless it is going to appear very soon, everyone's prog's might just have been wrong about this portion of the river. That's VERY good news. The clock is ticking on that wall of water supposedly coming off the rimlands. The next few hours will tell the tale.

All-in-all is was bad, very bad, but not as truly terrible as it could have been. Even if the Salt rallies a lot higher, it's not flowing through populated territory.

Take a look at the Flagstaff precipitation graph above.  It clearly shows that is is tapering off right now.  It's nowhere as intense as it was earlier.  ALthough the winter storm warning there continues until noon Saturday and as much as 2 feet of new snow is expected, we can say theya re getting abreak from the incessant snowfall.  The remainder of Friday might well be a different tale but I'd have to say they are "out of the woods" from the bulk of this storm.

Well, back to beddy-bye now.  C-YA in a few hours.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A tribute to Uncharted waters

We are clearly in uncharted waters tonight. There is no precedent for this event. There is no computer model to tell us what to expect, what to think, how to feel. This is a primal event wherein each of those at risk survives by their wits and their instincts. This is a night of reckoning for those who live in or near the floodplains.
Only the dawn can tell what havoc wrought tonight.

I will never forget being flooded out the night of February 20, 1993. Those sounds and images and feelings will haunt me forever. If you have never been flooded, you will never know the fright and fear and emptiness that swallows your spirit. You will never hear the cannon crack of trees snapped like twigs in the gloom of a rushing river night.

You will never know the smell of the surging, roiling waters and see the shadows of debris flowing fast in the dim beam of your flashlight. You will never know the despair of seeing water surge ever higher toward your home, creeping ever inward to your very foundations and carrying away your belongings. There is a psychic toll that a flood takes from the human heart.

It took me a long time to recover from that flood. Susun's help was pure gold. I was a zombie for a long while afterwards. She had been in San Diego, returning after it was all over. She never knew the feelings of that night on The Verde.

Whenever the floodwaters come, I can see them and they echo in my mind and reverberate in my heart. Looking back, I can clearly see I was paralyzed with senselessness. I could have and should have done so many other things to avoid that fate. But I didn't. Looking back, I can see it all had a great purpose and put us on the proper path to a brighter and better future. Looking back, it's all easy to understand.

But I didn't know any of that at the time. All I knew was a primal fear and confusion and the paralysis of indecision. I couldn't see the future--all I knew was the present. I can still feel the cold chill of that night that seemed to last forever.

My heart goes out to those who will share that experience tonight. My prayers are with them and for them and I pray that they also can use the havoc and mayhem of this lonely and difficult night to move into a far better future for themselves, too. I wish there was a way to bring them comfort and faith in a brighter day. But there isn't. Those who have chosen to live in the floodplain will now pay the price. They will come to know their river like they have never known it before. And, for better or worse, tonight's memories will be fused forever into the rest of their lives.

May God be with you all and keep you safe!

Let's resume, shall we?

Well, we took a 2.5 hour break. Went down and fed the geese & ducks and then went shopping. Now enjoying some merlot as the light fades on another fine Idaho day.
There's lots to report. I thought I should start from scratch again rather than continue adding stuff to the bottom of the previous post. Actually, I should be using Twitter and simple code it into the left column. I might get industrious and do that. On the other hand, I might just drink wine and blow it off.

OK, let's have a recap here. Maricopa, Coconino and Navajo Counties have all declared a state of emergency. Believe it or not, there's various degrees of tornado watches and warnings posted in Arizona! Streams are rising very quickly. The New River gauge was indeed destroyed. I-40 is progged to close at 6 pm. The Weather Channel is doing a live remote from Flagstaff. NWS forecast centers predict 'major flooding' on Agua Fria, Sycamore Crk. nr Ft. McDowell, Verde Rvr. Oak Creek. (Uh, huh.) FAA ordered ground stop at Sky Harbor Tornado watch in Phoenix - very rare. Evacuations have begun in Sedona--Oak Creek expected to peak at midnight about 22 feet, close to 1993 level.
Click here to read the latest out of Flagstaff.

(5:47) OK, we're going back to the time stamps and such. As we expected, the Agua Fria has taken Center Stage. I can't remember who I said this too earlier this week but I can remember what I said. I said, "If I lived in Black Canyon City, I would be scared, VERY scared." Well, the chickens are coming home to roost and all hell is breaking loose in Black Canyon City. The last reading on the Agua Fria there is over 20,000 cfs. The gauge ht. is about 21 feet and the flow is rising roughly a 1,000 cfs every 15 minutes. The total flow has doubled in about 3 hours. I'm not sure it is going exponential but I sure think it is. Bear in mind this point has a 1,111 sq. mi drainage area. ALL of this drainage is located at Ground Zero of this storm. ALL of this drainage was saturated prior to today. There is a LOT more water coming downhill.
Click here for the link to watch it yourself.

(5:57) Hey, here's some potential good news. I think Tonto Creek might be peaking. Uh, huh. In the last 15 minutes, it's risen only 600 cfs. During the same interval fort the past few hours it's been rising as much as 1500 cfs. In other words, it's rate of rise appears to be slowing. That could be from the fact that it DID NOT rain on the snowpack! This is a good thing, as Martha would say. If the Tonto can hold a peak in the 30's, there's hope for the whole state.

(6:07) There's a widespread rumor on the internet (mostly Arizona Twitter accts.) that Gov. Jan Brewer is poised to declare a statewide emergency. We shall see.

Riders on The Storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

Jim Morrison, The Doors

Well, folks, the wave is rolling out upon Arizona. We are beginning to get some reports from our Arizona friends. Snow level is 3360 feet @ Cornville--that's about 2000 feet lower than progged. Flag might have as much as a foot of snow already. I-17 closed both directions for 50 miles south of Flag. The reports roll in--we will add them to those post with separate time stamps. Keep 'em coming!

(9 am) Release of 2000 cfs below Bartlett begun this morning. NAU closed down. ADOT Road COnditions website inaccessible due to internet overload.
(9:45 am) Snow turning to light rain in Cornville
(10:15) Hwy 89A closed north of Sedona--extra DPS officers to Northland. Approx. current total snow depth @ Flagstaff = 36 inches
(10:30)Cave Creek up 7 feet since yesterday; New River up 5 feet; Agua Fria up 4 feet--their hydrographs are vertical.
(10:37)Baker Butte SNOTEL has gained 5 inches of water in 3 days--snow pack gained 30 inches--depth now 52 inches.
(10:40) Here's the latest streamflow forecast as of 9:45 AM this morning:
(12:50) Went to Dentist 10:50 until now--OK, here goes. 1) Maggie J. in Flagstaff had this to say, "Looks like Flagstaff of old. People on bikes, cross country skiis, walking in the streets with dogs, sledding down a street nearby that has a good hill. Streets are getting narrower due to the snow on the sides. It just keeps coming down steady but light. May be turning to rain. It's a good heavy snow, though."
2) Gary W. in Rimrock said: "Raining moderately all morning/0.68” this morning @ 07:00 this was for the 24-hour read total/At 11:00 we already had another 0.50” over the last four hours/Sheet flow and large puddles everywhere." He also noted the Verde Search & Rescue has been put "on stand by" for rescues.
(1:00) Flagstaff airport closed, mall closed, City offices closed.
(1:12) New River has exploded. Running 17000 cfs. Click here to see all New River streamflow peaks--it's odds on to blow past its all time high of 18,600 set in Sept. 1970!!!
(1:32) Since midnight today, Baker Butte has picked up 2.8 inches of pure water and 13 inches of VERY wet snow!
(1:33) Just noticed that the Baker Butte SNOTEL temp has jumped 4.6 degrees to 35.2 degrees--this site is located at 7,700 feet! If the snow turns to rain at that elevation, really, really wild things are going to break loose.
(2:23) Looks like Sky Harbor Airport is basically shut down. Southwest cancelled ALL operations. Hellacious cross winds are to blame. Airport website says airport is NOT closed.
(2:24)New River flow gauge is probably destroyed. Reading forzen at 17,000. Any flows much higher will endanger the I-17 bridge at New River.
Will it survive?
(2:25)NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED WIDESPREAD FLASH FLOODING near Roosevelt, Globe, Superior, U.S. 60 out of Apache Jct., urges extreme caution.
(2:27)SRP's Twitter says: "Larger water releases from Verde, Salt River dams begin tonight. 4 safety, stay clear of Salt Riverbed in Phx."
(2:30) DPS says power lines lying across I-17 near Kachina VIllage--both lanes. DPS closes Hwy 87 Winslow to Pine.
(2:52) Granite Creek @ Prescott: 1970 cfs--could set a new peak flow. CLick here to see peaks of record.
(2:53)Flagstaff newspaper Twitter says, "This likely to make the Top 3 for snow accumulation. We'll update the web site with a full story soon."
(3:01)TV 15 says DPS closing westbound I-10 near Casa Grand--zero visibility on interstates in Southern Arizona.
(3:08)East Verde up six feet today alone--6,000 cfs @ 3 pm.
(3:10)Tonto Creek rose 2,200 cfs in the past 15 minutes.
(3:11)Taking a break to enjoy sunshine & 40 degrees here in Idaho Falls.

Totally Thursday

Thanks, Kris, for your great comment this morning. You said the blog helped jump start your day. Well, your comment sure jumpstarted our day! Here's part of her comment, "Your philosophy and style start my day focused on what is important--the joy we find along the journey, if we look for it. Also, letting the BS roll off like water off a duck. THANK YOU!"

(Note Added about an hour later--I just noticed Nancy M.'s comment. WOW--Two comments to start the day. Here's what Nancy had to say: "Everyday I say "Give us this day our daily blog" when I pray. Thanks again...".)

I've been up since 5 am and will be going to work early so I can squeeze in a dental appt. at 11 am. Still have those Challis certificates hanging over me--sometimes my procrastination tendencies become very annoying. Oh, well, they will get done.

I had a wild hair this morning and applied for a Middle Fork of the Salmon permit. I'm feeling lucky and my intuition said "go for it." I put in the for the first weekend in August. The gubmint has made the process insanely easy and it only costs $6. Heck, that's more worthwhile than buying six Powerball tickets. Lot better odds--in a typical year, your odds are about 10,000 to one.

I've been messing with Facebook during the last few days. I am not a Facebook fan--actually I have Facebook-o-phobia. However, supporters of Harriman State Park have started a great Facebook site and I wanted to participate. You have to have a Facebook account to participate so I made one up. I am not sure how to link in a Facebook account to this blog but will figure it out soon. There is a major groundswell of opposition to closing Harriman State Park. What a bone-headed move that would be.

It snowed a little again overnight. Nothing major--just enough to annoy the paperboy, I'm sure. Today is the day when the leading edge of The Big Arizona Storm begins to spread across that state. It will take about 36 hours for the impacts to reach their peak and perhaps 48 hours for the peak streamflow to occur. We are quite literally on the edge of our seat waiting for this one to unfold.

Gotta run--Cheers, jp

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You may never see this again

This graphic says it all--it's the gubmint's latest QPF prediction. Parts of Arizona are progged to get over 8.5 inches of pure water between now and Saturday! That's in addition to the two inches that has fallen in numerous areas already. Folks, this is truly amazing for Arizona. You may never see this again. It's simply incredible.

Open Comments!

I've decided to unlock the comments thingie--no word verification, no moderation. You can comment "at will." I will keep this setting until I get burned. If and when the first SPAM comment comes through, I will go back to word verification and moderation. In the meantime, I want to warn you that some offensive comments MIGHT make it onto the blog before I can catch and remove them. Don't worry, this is an experiment. In the meantime, you comments will show up immediately and be MUCH easier to make without the stupid scrambled egg word verification. Let's all cross our fingers and hope we don't get SPAM comments for awhile. jp

Another Wednesday

I always look forward to Wednesdays because that's when the food ads come out. It's a lifelong tradition. I can't even remember how far back I was reading food ads. Probably sometime in the 1960's would mark the beginning of that OCD behavior. I love them. This week was unspectacular so I didn't bother going to either Smith's or Albertson's I just went to my Main Fave--WINCO. I love WINCO, it is like an Old Friend.
As I've said, I couldn't care less about the relative mayhem going on in the store. It was pretty crazy there today--you just never know what to expect. I think someday somebody could write a really professional piece making a connection between WINCO and the meaning of life. I won't get into that now--it's way over my head.

The highlights of the day were twofold. First, we both went to The Leather Shop and spend a little over $11. Rachel--the owner--understood what we wanted and she made the spiffiest thing you ever saw. It's a hip strap for Susun to be able to tow the Bed Sled. Gee, it's so spiffy it's spooky! I think I will take a photo of it and post it soon. Anyway, that vexing problem is a problem no more. Susun really likes it and that's all that matters. It was all "no sew," too nary a stitch in it!

The other highlight was when I went out to pay some bills and decided to get my reading material lined up for the yurt trip. I went to our fabulous public library--the one with the koi pond in the atrium beside the grand winding pseudo spiral staircase. That library is awesome.

Anyway, I checked out the history of Island Park--it's a tremendous book and you've have to pay $60 to buy it. It's about maybe 36 years old and the authors got stuff back in the early 70's that are truly priceless. Harriman is smack dab in Island Park--that's why it's relevant. I want to be hunkered down in a snow covered yurt reading this tome. I also picked up a volume on Idaho's Gold Road and a book full of historical photos of Idaho Falls.

Jeff was talking today about the concept of the "career facade." Last year, he was given the title as Chairman of The Institute of Profound Thoughts & Theories (IOPT&T).
He does a good job in his role as chairman and his expoundment on The Facade Theory was most excellent. Thank You, Jeff, for upholding the standards of the IOPT&T.

It's good to work with people who don't take their job seriously and realize they are all part of a charade. I really like that! it makes going into work a whole lot easier to know at least SOME of your co-workers have a clue.

I bought 200 sheets of card stock parchment today so I can get started on the Challis certificates. I am in serious procrastination mode with this project and time is really running out. I can feel the grains of sand falling through the hour glass.

It's fish night tonight. Why wait until Friday? Then more Northern Exposure. We are definitely being MAX OCD about this TV series. Gawd only knows what liberties the script writers will take tonight!

Cheers, jp

A skiff of snow

Just a little bit of snow here this morning. It's the type of snow you sweep off the sidewalks with a push broom.

Updated the Food Shopping & Weather blogs this morning. Arizona is still on tap for a real hum-dinger between now and Friday.

We are in the final stages of preparing for our weekend trip to Challis. I have to prepare perhaps 30-40 customized certificates of appreciation today. I haven't yet begun to draft my speech for the event. I always wait until the last minute for that type of stuff. I'll betcha I'll be working on it right up to the deadline when the event begins at 2 pm Saturday in the Challis Senior Center. Click here to see the place where all this will occur.

As some of you know, Challis has a special place in our hearts. For four summers, it was our main contact with civilization when we were volunteering in the middle of nowhere at the Bowery Guard Station. It took over 3 hours round trip to drive back and forth to Challis. A typical Challis trip then would take 8-9 hours--burning a whole day. The last time we did an VRE (Volunteer Recognition Event) there was November 13, 2007. We never have actually recognized the volunteers at the Senior Center--they are clearly overdue to get some "atta boys & girls." You can click here to see photos of the 2007 event. Susun took those pix and she did a great job. I suspect she will take a lot of great photos again this weekend.

I think I said earlier on this blog that we have to play bingo that evening. Susun really thinks that's funny and she said she is going to get some shots of me playing bingo so she can tease me relentlessly forever afterwards. I'd almost rather walk the plank that play bingo.

It appears that the new water heater is feng shui now. Whew--we spent a chuck of each of the past 19 days messing with the situation. It turned out to cost far more than we projected. Luckily, the city is picking $425 of the cost and will spread that over 36 months with no interest on our utility bill. Our out-of-pocket will add up to a little over $200. It was touch and go last night as one of the pipes I installed was leaking and I had to redo the installation. I think we got it right but I've been reluctant to go into the basement this morning to check on it. "Out of sight, out of mind."

We watched another couple of Northern Exposures last night, too. Man, those script writers were SOOOO very far "out there" back in 1991. WOW! One of the episodes features Maggie developing a relationship with a Malamute that she is certain is Rick Reincarnated. Unfortunately for Maggie, the dog's owner comes along and takes the mutt-a-mute away.

Maggie's plane has to make an emergency landing in the wilderness and she and Joel are marooned together. She goes out hunting and bags a squirrel. The scene of them sitting around with that rodent on a spit over the fire is hilarious. Joel fixes her aircraft engine, much to Maggie's disgust, and they arrive safely back in civilization. (such as it is)

Meanwhile, Ed finally got a real movie together and screened it in Cicely's little dinky theater. It brought tears to the eyes of the make believe audience and, yes, it even misted the eyes of John & Susun. These episodes are a timeless piece of artwork and I suspect their fan base will grow larger as the years pass along.

Looks like health care reform went down in flames again. There really wasn't anything in that 2000-page bill that would have directly benefited either of us anyway so I guess I don't care. We still have only two choices: continue working until we turn 65 and get on Medicare or bite the bullet and pay thousands of dollars a year for Open Market coverage. Unless interest rates rise at least two percentage points, the latter option is out of the question. I think I've mentioned that my employer claims they are paying $12,800 (plus or minus) for coverage for both of us--$4800 of that amount if coming out of my take home pay. OUCH! What a rip off.

There are 7 candidates for the new Division Director. Get this--our employer won't let any of the members of our division participate in the interview process. Yesterday I was at least successful in getting the acting director to ask the Executive Director (our kinda, sorta Alpha Male) to include one question in the interviews. Here it is:

"What steps will you take to recognize, respect, enhance and celebrate the self-esteem of each unique individual on the Area VI Agency on Aging?"

Fat chance the question will ever get asked.

Well, have a great day and Cheers! jp

Monday, January 18, 2010

Got lucky today

I had an intuition and stopped by Hastings and got lucky. They actually had Season 3 of Northern Exposure for rent. They don't have Seasons 1 or 2 or 4 or 5, but they have Season 3. Go figure. Anyway, we were able to pick right up where we left off last night and start watching Season 3 without missing a beat. We watch two episodes and laughed all the way through. What a hoot they are. Watching the whacky people of Cicely, Alaska, is a perfect tonic for these winter nights. We have 22 more episodes left in Season 3. Whoop-dee-doo!

We spent most of the day prepping for the yurt trip. Most all the major stuff is packed and ready to go. I even found the correct mantles for the gas lantern and got it running again. We bought two new headlamps, too. You might wonder why we are prepping so far in advance of a January 27 trip. It's the reality of our schedule--this is about the only time we truly have to focus on the prep work. Once this week's whirlwind begins tomorrow, we will spin round and round and suddenly it will be Tuesday, January 26 and we will be leaving the following morning and, gee, is everything ready? That's how it's going to work for this trip so we have to prep now--it can't wait for tomorrow. Luckily, we are very much ahead of the game and all is well.

Storm chatter has been a highlight of today, too, both on the phone and via email. There are some truly amazing things that are possible for Arizona. The weather people think a big chunk of Central Arizona might get as much as 10 inches of water out of this week's events. Bear in mind that ten inches is about an average year's worth of precipitation--except it will be coming in a week instead of being spread out over a year. It's possible that the total water from the storms will rewrite Arizona's winter record books. Obviously, we are very excited about this sort of thing.

Cheers, jp

Sled passes test

The new sled, a toboggan, actually, passed with flying colors.  It weighed nearly 100 pounds and was towable.  I felt it in my legs, especially my thighs and I was sweating after only a few minutes but it wasn't too bad.  What helped was the old style aluminum pack frame.  We bought this frame at a yard sale in Gold Beach, Oregon, in July 2002.  We stripped off the mildewed pack fabric and hosed the frame off in a car wash.  Then we rigged it to carry trail tools up the Rogue River Trail near Agnes, Oregon.  We got ourselves season parking passes for all the Northwest Recreation Sites by spending a couple of days doing trail work.  We haven't used the frame in almost 8 years!  Wouldn't you know it's perfect for this task--distributing all the weight evenly across my shoulders and hips.  It's ideal.  We put six 14-pound concrete blocks in the 2 tubs.  The sled itself is rather heavy.  The blocks weigh 84 pounds (probably 85-86) and the sled and tubs probably together top the rig out at 100 pounds.  I suspect we will be well below that for our final rigging.  I just wanted to know that I could tow 100 pounds if I had to.

Storm update & Yurt prep

We just finished posting a storm update over on our weather blog.  This promises to be a really, really big storm.  You may wish to read it at

We spent a bunch of time yesterday hunting for another sled to carry our gear.  We popped for a $33 66-inch toboggan out at Sportsman's Warehouse.  Today we will spend some time rigging it.  We also have to get our kitchen box, food box, and the misc. box pretty much rigged today, too.  We're going to be carrying our clothes and personal items in a backpack and we're certain now we can take over from the truck to the yurt and back in a single trip.  I will post up a picture of the new toboggan when it is loaded later today.

Idaho is out of the mix for this upcoming storm.  We're bystanders. The January weather here is great--best we've had since we moved here.  Yesterday was officially in the 30's but it felt like the 40's when you were out in the sunshine.  It felt great.  If this morning's current temp of 26 in an indication, today will be more of the same.  We are going to take some day old bread down and feed the geese and ducks today--we haven't done it once this year so far.  Shame on us.

We watched the final episode of Season Two for Northern Exposure.  None of the episodes were as weird as the Dead Guy thing.  Last night's episode was totally awesome.  I can't remember when I've heard Susun laugh as hard for so long as she did last night.  She was in stitches through the whole episode.  We both agreed we have to see Season 3 but will tread cautiously about Season's 4 & 5.

Our next TV series we're trying to get is Cheers and The Golden Girls.  We have Season 1 of M.A.S.H but we've never watched all the episodes.  It's probably time to get back into M.A.S.H, too.
I've said this before but it bears repeating--the close captioning on the DVD's makes it a wonderful experience for me.  I love it and Susun says she does, too.

We're taking the big truck in today to get a windshield washer pump R&R'd.  We came close to a disaster in Salt Lake on New Year's Eve.  The other traffic was kicking up a heavy wet, dirty mist that bonded to our windshield and was impervious to teh action of the wipers.  When we had to get off I-15 heading the wrong way--we were heading right into the morning sun and it was totally impossible to see out of the windshield.  Honest, I couldn't see a single thing.  We had to change lanes and find an exit with a useless windshield.  It scared the daylights (no pun intended) out of both of us.  We vowed to get that fluid pump fixed so we'd never have to face that scenario again.  It's supposed to cost $75 including part and labor.  We shall see.

Well, I guess my weather skills suck. I just looked out the window and it snowed last night.  So much for the idea of a bright and sunny day today.  DUH!  I often rag on gubmint weather people for "not looking out their window."  I guess I fell victim to the same stupidity myself.  It didn't snow much but it snowed.

Hey, here's something positive to talk about--studded snow tires.  I have no clue why we didn't get them two winters ago.  They have made a world of difference in our safety driving around town.  It's incredible.  I think they might have cost maybe $150 total for everything for two rear tires installed and mounted.  What a difference.  We actually bought four lightly used studded tires for the big truck this spring off Craigs List from a woman in a trailer park in Rexburg.  We paid maybe $250 for the four of them--something like that.  I have been dragging my feet in putting them on the big truck.  I need to amp up that process.  Yesterday was a wake up call, slip sliding over to Lowe's to pick up the water heater.  If we needed the big truck in a pinch, we wouldn't DARE take it out without having those studded tires.

Can't think of anything more to write this morning so will go get some more coffee and C-YA later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Hey, look who's coming to dinner--The Big Round Thing! He's ready to pull up a chair and sit right down at our table. Who'd a thunk it? What's a 50 gallon water heater doing in a dining room? Why, getting ready for a hot meal, of course!

We brought home our guest about mid-day today. Tucked him into the back of our truck and gave him the red carpet treatment right into the house. And then...well, and then we realized we had no clue how to get him down in the basement. So, we dropped back 10 and decided to tuck the heater into the dining room. The Big Round Thing can chill out there until Tuesday afternoon when we get some reinforcements and cook up a plan to SAFELY bring it down into the basement. Yeah, we could have tried to do it ourselves today. But what if something went wrong? What would be the price we would pay?

I've been thinking too much lately about my late Friend Frank. As the heater sat poised at the top of teh stairs I thought of all the things that could go wrong--life changing stuff--and I backed down from the challenge.

Afterall, what's the hurry? We've got a great dinner guest for the next few nights and we're pleased as punch to have Mr. Heater hang out in our dining room.

The Final Four

Vikings-Saints & Colts-Jets. The Final Four.

Who's gonna go to the Stupor Bowl? Well, guess what? I have no clue.

Any of those four teams are capable of winning it all. A case could be made for each of them that they DESERVE to win it all. Deserving to win it all doesn't count for much in pro sports. Luck, timing and "being the best team on any given day" counts more. The story lines and plot lines for these matchups are the best they've been in years and years for the NFC and AFC Championships. I can't remember when there was so much of a "backstory" to each of the teams. Wow--where to begin to tell those stories?

The Bret Favre Story with the Vikings is pretty amazing. But the story is really about the team owner and coach. It's a deep story and it's really complicated. Obviously, it's been very effective. But Favre is the key that the media will turn to unlock public interest in the Vikings. He doesn't get much better than this!

The Saints? One word: Katrina. All of the baggage of that terrible chapter is wrapped up in The Saints. We could write chapters on what the Saints mean to a few million people there. It's possible they are a Team of Destiny. Only time will tell.

Colts? Gee, how could they be back here without Tom Dungy? Well, they are--get used to it. Peyton Manning is as close to a perfect quarterback as anyone has ever been in the history of football. It's difficult to think of anyone truly better than him. He is an eerie machine! Who else plays for the Colts? Gee, I can't remember a single name. One name says it all--Peyton Manning. As Peyton goes, so go the Colts.

Jets? What's not to like about the brash, outspoken coach Rex Ryan? What's not to like about Mark Sanchez? What's not to like about a team that's been success-starved since the Days of Broadway Joe Namath?

Imagine, the New York media gets to make fun of cow town Indianapolis ALL WEEK!
What a field day the New York media has with Naptown. There are fewer cool bars in the entire city of Indianapolis than there is on a single block in New York. Indianapolis doesn't even know how to spell gourmet, let alone go to a restaurant that serves such food. Cultural diversity in Indianapolis means your neighbor grew up in Illinois.

I spent our dinner tonight filling Susun full of football stories. Oddly, she likes my stories and she tells me so. I find it hard to believe but she says it's so. I like the whole "backstory" of football. I couldn't care less about the "front story."

Well, I am sure that all of my chatter about football has pretty much put you to sleep. That's OK, it's Playoff Season and I am fully engaged.

The Bed Sled

Here it is in all its glory--The Bed Sled. There are two sleeping bags, two real nice sleeping pads and four pillows on this sled. I got it rigged correctly so nothing would shake loose. Then I put on the snow shoes and took it for a spin around the yard. It pulls real nice, you hardly even know it's there.

After messing with the bed sled, I took off all the bags and then put an 18 gal. tub in the sled.

I added a pickle bucket, too. I then put in four 14 pound concrete blocks--that would be a little over 50 pounds and towed it around. I'd say 50 pounds is pretty much max. Lighter would be better. Anyway, we are getting a plan.

We dug out our back packs and will be rigging them this weekend, too. I am hoping that we can make this work with just one trip between the truck and the yurt. Two would be OK but one would be better. So far, so good.

Slow Sunday

Not much going on this morning. Fiddling with the weather blog--adding gadgets and getting ready to follow the Monster Storm that's washing ashore this week down south. It's gonna be a "douzie," to paraphrase Ned Ryerson in Ground Hog Day.

I will be thinking all this coming week about my Friend, Frank Protiva. He was killed last January 23rd. A year ago during the last few days of his life, he and I exchanged all sorts of emails about how to stay alive in his airplane. The so-called Miracle on The Hudson was the spark for this electronic conversation. We talked and talked via email about what he would have to do to react in a similar situation to stay alive. Who could know he would have his chance to implement the lessons of our discussion on the morning of January 23rd. Unfortunately, he failed his test and died when his plane went into the pine trees south of Flagstaff. It haunts me to remember all of our words a year ago this week. I am haunted because I know he could have survived. Indeed, he should have survived. But he didn't and death is final. No reruns allowed.

Last year I thought about making some sort of online memorial to him but I never did. It was too hard for me to accept his death. I think I am finally coming to terms with it and somehow the first anniversary of his passing will bring a degree of closure to that sad day.

I now doubt that I will ever make an online memorial to Frank. I've been unable even to contact his widow. I have hundreds of emails from Frank, including those poignant observations sent back and forth a year ago today and each day until the night of the 22nd. I now think that I will put them all into a blog format and then print the blog via "Blog2Print." Then I will send the document to his widow with letter explaining how and why it was that I never sent my condolences last year. Each of us faces and copes with death in a different way. No two people react the same.

I think so very often of the lessons in Frank's death. I hope that I have taken those lessons to heart. Even though I am not a pilot and won't be making decisions about whether to fly into a winter ice storm on a cold January morning at an airport 7,000 feet above sea level, I can still apply Safety Consciousness to my daily life. I can still ask myself if my decisions make sense. Are they reasonable and prudent? Do they risk the safety of others? Is there a practical alternative to my proposed action(s)? Do I REALLY need to do this or can it wait? Am I in an unreasonable hurry? The "why" of what I am doing becomes an important part of the safety equation. Why am I doing this? Can it wait?

Sometimes just asking these questions can lead us to make decisions that keep us safe, alive and ready to face another day.

Late this week, a co-worker was describing his plans to drive to Boise late Friday night. All of those lessons from Frank's death crowded into my mind. I never told Jeff that my words were echoes of a year ago. But I did my absolute best to talk him out of driving over to Boise with his plan of arriving at midnight.
I really laid it on thick and drew diagrams on the white board and showed him conclusively how it made absolutely no sense to drive over there at night when he could drive in safety the following morning, arriving fresh and rested and ready to help his son.

After Frank's passing last year, I put a little more "power of persuasion" into my words in situations such as that one. It isn't just our life that we're risking, it's the impact of the lives of so many other people, our family, our loved ones, our friends and people we don't even know.

Promise me, Dear Reader, be safe always! Slow down, be careful, pay attention, and THINK! OK? Thank You.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Whew--ravens finished

Glad to see The Ravens fly away home and depart until next year. Whew! Even though it was 17-3 at half and the final score was 20-3, the game was closer than it appeared. Only a few fluke plays kept it lopsided on the part of the Colts. A few breaks for The ravens and the game could have easily gone their way. Such is the way the football bounces.

Looking at the situation tonight, it's pretty exciting actually. Any of the three AFC teams still alive would be great to have in the Stupor Bowl--Chargers, Jets or Colts. Two out of three of the NFC teams would be great--Vikings or Saints. The only team we are rooting against is the Cowboys. We know it's not fair to pray for a team to lose and so we won't do that. But we're mightily tempted, aren't we? We hope The Boyz go home to the Big D with their tails between their expensive legs. if they DO happen to win up in the Twin Cities tomorrow, please let the Saints win one for the Gipper. Oh, please, oh, please!

Who would I really like to see either the Vikings or the Saints play? Good question--I guess my homeboy genes would have to say The Colts. Colts Vikings would be great and Colts Saints even better because of the Drew Brees Purdue connection. As a football fan, it's shaping up to be a great finish to this season. The plot thickens tomorrow and we can hardly wait. Go Vikings--Go Chargers!

Saturday night

It's past 7:30 and going on 8. After doing battle with The Big Round Thing, we have a fine and fun day. We found an eight dollar sled at Shopko and I really had fun rigging it for the Yurt Trip. We're calling it The Bed Sled. it has our inflatable pads, two sleeping bags and four full size pillows on it. Tomorrow, we will take it to a park and see if it skids along on the snow OK.

We spent a lot of time tonight making notes on what to take to the Yurt. Chocolate is high on the list both in bar form and hot chocolate form. It would be against the law to go our snow camping without chocolate. Would you agree?

I bought some really spiffy little boneless pork loin chops at Smith's for dinner tonight and Susun rustled up a great salad and some nice veggies to go with it. We spent a lot of time over dinner talking football. Susun loves to hear my football stories. I told her some really fun stories tonight and she is fired up to watch portions of tomorrow's games. I told her how I didn't care who won the Cards-Saints game but that I was partial to New Orleans. She couldn't wait. She said, "Well get online and find out who won!" Of course, the Saints won 45-14, humiliating the Cards and sending the New Orleans population into a frenzy of joy.
I am very happy for the Saints Fans--they truly deserve this and I really hope they go all the way and run the table and take the trophy home. If ever there was a sentimental favorite, it would have to be the Saints.

Meanwhile, it's Colts 17, Ravens 3 at halftime. I sure hope the Colts send the Ravens packing back to Hotel Baltimore. Cross your fingers.

Speaking of "cross your fingers," the upper element in the hot water heater is working fine and we have plenty of hot water for showers and dish washing. We're good to go until we get a new unit installed Tuesday. All is A-OK. (Thanks, Kris, for your concern and gracious offer--YOU ROCK!)

This whole gig with going to the yurt is spawning a whole new "camper mentality" in both of us. It's really invigorating. I'm not so sure that summer camping has ever been this much fun and, heck, we haven't even left home. How good is that?

I haven't checked up on the latest about the BIG Storm due to wash ashore this coming week. I am sure there is a lot of chatter about it. I just haven't had time to keep track.

Speaking of the Water Heater Caper, we did go to Lowe's and pop for $400 on our credit card for a new heater. We will go pick it up tomorrow morning. The sales rep cut us a deal. When the city opens for business Tuesday morning, he will call and get the gig approved and have the city finance it and then cancel out our credit card. Sweet scam, if you ask me. Meanwhile, we're probably going to be paying $11 and change a month for 36 months for this really hot rod 12-year heater with all sorts of intelligent features. I hope it can cook bacon, too, it seems smart enough.

Well, time to settle back and enjoy the 2nd half of fotbol action from Naptown.
That's what Hoosier Natives call the City of Indianapolis--Naptown. Most other people nickname it "Indy." Naptown works better for us native Hoosiers. There are lesser terms for it that can't be repeated on a family blog.

We wish them well--GO COLTS!

Water Heater Caper Continues

We went mano y mano with the Big Round Thing today. I'm not sure who won. Perhaps I should declare victory. The victory is hollow. Here's what happened.

First, we turned off the power and then turned on the hot water taps and then drained the water heater. Oddly, no sediments came out of the hose end. Hum...that's weird.
By and by, the 50-gallon unit was fully drained. Then we took off the top of the unit to expose the input wiring. ground is visible. We called our electrician--he said it was grounded through the metal pipes. He verified he was pretty certain that it was 12 gauge wire. He also verified if we had to put in a new heater, we'd need to upgrade to 10 gauge wire.

Then we popped the access port to the lower element. Bad news. The element had shorted out and badly burned the insulation, the wiring itself and the plastic base of the heating element. Opps. Luckily, we were able to crack the element out of its thread and gingerly pull it from the heater. More bad news.

The bottom of the heater is totally filled with compacted flakes of calcium. One giant brick of sediments! Even more bad news. The lower element was destroyed. One whole side was completely burned away from its base. It was badly bent and useless. We're lucky the water heater didn't burn the house down!

I got back on the phone to the electrician. He said cut off the dangling part of the element, remove the burnt wire, tape up and protect the "hot" wire, teflon tape the element base, screw it back in, refill the tank and use the top element. He said he would come by at 3:30 pm Tuesday and redo the wiring. That gives me some breathing room to get the new water heater purchased and wrangled down into the basement.

I put it all back together as instructed and then filled it with all four hot water faucets wide open. After they stopped blowing air and everything seemed truly full, I turned the power back on at the breaker box. So far, so good, no apparent leaks and the breaker hasn't tripped. In an hour or so we will know if we have some minimal hot water to get us through to Tuesday afternoon. Cross your fingers.

Meanwhile, I called Jeff S. who is in Boise this weekend and he agreed to help Tuesday afternoon. We are marshaling our forces for a final assault on The Big Round Thing. Something tells me we are going to win this war and win BIG! It's ain't over until the hot water fills the bathtub. In the meantime, we can hope.

Biblical storm heading for SOCAL

This morning I have been researching the storm that's heading for Arizona. Well, Arizona will get table crumbs compared to Southern California. It's shaping up to be a true Biblical storm worthy of a Charleton Heston movie. Rather than describe it here, please visit our weather blog:


Saturday morning is about to dawn clear and cold...ten degrees. We're staying home this 3-day weekend. Time to wake up and smell the coffee and wiggle our toes in comfy slippers.

Yesterday was a typical Friday. Hardly anyone was at the office. I was able to wrap up the Clark County Project. Made a nice letter and certificate for Peg L. from Indiana. She's been helping 18+ months as a "Virtual Volunteer," doing a website from afar. Prepped an invoice for $93 reimbursement for expenses I paid on Clark County's behalf. I also finished up the Staff album (except for the Salmon people).
Big whoop-dee doo, huh? Jackie W., my employer's receptionist who might as well be an air traffic controller, said only 3 applications had been turned in for the division director's position.

Continued to mess around with the water heater caper. Went back to the Power Company and struck out once again in trying to get forms and information. Oh, well, we're not replacing it this weekend--only doing battle on the draining and possible element replacement scene.

Bought a mess of shrimp for dinner and we had a little buffet with oysters, avocado, WASA crackers, olives and so forth. It was a relaxing Friday evening. Watched another episode of Northern Exposure. It wasn't as weird as the Dead Guy episode.

Susun's Pop, Don M. isn't doing too well. He's been in Managed Care for many months now but had to go to the hospital and then into a rehab facility. It's not looking good for him. This morning I've been researching Delta's bereavement policies and preparing logistics in case Susun needs to make a sudden trip to Mesa, Arizona. There are some pretty good flights from Idaho Falls to Phoenix--just about 3.5 hours total trip time from departure to arrival.

The big news is the impending series of storms down in Arizona. Looks like El Nino is finally going to deliver. The boy child has been truant so far thsi winter with nothing to show for all the hoopla. However, there's going to be 3 storms hit Arizona this coming week with the Thursday-Friday storm being the biggest. Chances are that our little straw house at Montezumawell will see upwards of 2 inches of rain, maybe more and possibly a lot more. Luckily, the house is now ready to rock and roll for such a storm and we aren't concerned about its ability to weather the coming onslaught of Pacific-borne precipitation. That's what spending 50 days working on the place will do, eh?

This is a pretty big football weekend and I actually intend to watch portions of each of the four games. I'm especially interested in the Vikings-Cowboys and, of course, the Cards-Saints. I'm also looking forward to the Chargers-Jets and the Colts-Ravens. It would be huge for Indiana to win the Super Bowl. Hoosier Heads would swell up and explode if the Colts took it all!

Meanwhile Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez are quite the pair of winners in New York and you know how The Big Apple is about celebrities. Up in frozen Minneapolis, Tony Romo will face off with his childhood hero, Bret Farve. I think Romo was in Pop Warner football when Bret first started with the Packers.

I have mixed feelings about the Cards game. Drew Brees is a Purdue product and I've always been his fan. Meanwhile, I'd like to see The Saints win the Super Bowl because of all the city has been through since Katrina. The New Orleans psyche could sure use such a boost. So, I will be happy no matter who wins that game.

I hope San Diego wins because that's where Susun's daughter lives and they are really big time Chargers fans. But, on the other hand, I'd like to see those rookies ruin the table, too, Ryan & Sanchez are so likeable! The only team I definitely do not want to win is the Ravens. I wish they would go home and leave everyone alone.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This & That

We had a snow overnight--2-3 inches perhaps. Made a pleasant mess in the morning. Oh, what fun to drive with studded rear tires! Had a fine Staff Meeting this morning. Normally, I hate Staff Meetings. This one was truly fun and memorable and people said nice things about me and welcomed me back. I really appreciated it a lot.

Had a lunch date to discuss the Bluegrass thing. Walked over in the snow and sheet ice--wore the Yaktrax and used a tungsten-tipped stick. I think The Falls are more beautiful now than anytime I can ever remember--the ice is exquisite.

Not sure if my presence @ the lunch was worthwhile. I had a good time and learned that Mike V. is doing OK. That's big news. Anyway, the upshot of the meeting is that we three attending somehow realized the Rotary would be the best potential savior of the bluegrass thing. Wonder why we didn't think of that sooner?

The rest of the day ripped right on by like a fast freight on the Santa Fe tracks past The Jackrabbit on Arizona's Old Route 66. Most of my errands were food-related but I did manage to squeeze in a Water Heater Caper visit to Home Depot. Chapter 3 is just about finished "in the wild," so to speak. That means I will have to write it up this weekend to stay current. We have BIG plans to tackle the water heater this weekend.

We're getting close to the middle of Season Two of Northern Exposure. Yep, the episodes are getting weirder by degrees. Not too weird, mind you, but pretty danged weird enough. I now doubt that we will be watching all 110 episodes--I think they will get too weird for us by the end of Season 3. I'm pretty certain already that we won't be watching Seasons 4 & 5. They were stretching the envelope pretty thin with the dead guy last night. Some guy expired while waiting in Joel's Office. The people of Cicely wound up burning him on a pyre set up in a vacant lot next to Joel's office. Um....well, OK. The other subplot was Holling's circumcision. Um..well, Oooh, kay! What the heck, it's Northern Exposure--what can you say?

We're coming up on a 3-day weekend here--MLK Day is paid holiday at my outfit. We were thinking about taking a trip on Sunday but inertia is setting in. (Inertia is a lot like rigor mortis, only different.) Something tells me that we are going to kick back and do battle with a Big Round Thing. (AKA: A Water Heater.)

Made a pot of Old Style chili tonight. We once made this type of chili all the time. It was a dietary staple for us for years--maybe decades. In the last couple of years, the Old Style chili kinda faded away. I had a yearning for it tonight. It takes a pound of really high quality ground beef--at least 93% lean.
It's called Two, Two & Two Chili or "Two-fer chili" for short. After you brown the beef, you slice up two medium onions and brown them, too. Meanwhile, you drain two cans of kidney beans and rinse then well. Meanwhile, you add 2 cans of diced tomatoes with green chile and jalapenos. Add a couple tablespoons of mild pure Hatch ground chile pepper powder, a teaspoon of Hot Taco Mix and two tablespoons of Herdez chipotle salsa. Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably 45. Serve with your choice of various condiments, etc. Tonight we had it with sour cream.

The heat level of the chili was right on our edge. Any hotter and it would not have been fun. It was perfectly hot enough without being overwhelming. As I told Susun, if we would have had that type of chili up in Clayton last July, it would have been a hands down winner.

Speaking of which, we're booked back as judges this coming July 24 in Clayton. That's a nice compliment and we are looking forward to it. We're going to hotfoot it back to River City that day, though. The Blue Angles are performing over the city that weekend and we have to see them!!!! Heck, you can see mountains and rivers and that sort of stuff all the time around here. But the Blue Angles? Not so much.

This is the time of year to book stuff. We're already booked into Old Faithful Inn on May 8th--the weekend of Mother's Day. And we're waiting on the six month advance booking window to open up for late July and early August dates for Riverside Campground and Squirrel Meadows Guard Station. Right now, you can book only up to July 14. Give us a week and we will begin booking our summer camping.
In this day and age it's the only way to fly.

Tomorrow morning, we have to rally up real early and go get a blood draw at 7 am. It's the annual $15 chance to get the HDL/LDL readouts once again. Cain't have no food or milk tonight--just water. Dang, no coffee in the morning, just water. Not much else on tap for tomorrow. Susun will be pretty busy but not me.

Thanks for reading and CHEERS! jp