Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Ode to Marilyn, Wayne and A Day's Karma

OK, here we go.  Some LBRs know the first part of the story.  It happened way back in a past life one day in 1982.  Wayne and I were returning to Flagstaff from Los Angeles via "the scenic route."  We were driving through downtown 29 Palms and saw the back of this pickup truck filled with .50 caliber ammo cans.  NEW ammo cans!  We did a fast U-turn and pulled up beside the truck.  There was no one in sight but the vision of all those ammo cans was overwhelming.  (NOTE:  .50 cal cans are a major part of river running.)  So, we decided to go looking for the owner of those cans.  We didn't know where to go so we just started walking around.  I spotted a pair of lower legs sticking from under some sort of a bush, maybe an oleander.  There were two boots on the end of the legs.  So I yelled at whoever was attached to the legs, "Are those yer ammo cans?"  And this voice came out of the bush, "Yeah, they're mine, you wanna buy some?"  Wayne was watching this process closely and he laughed hugely and turned to me and uttered the immortal phrase, "All in a day's karma." The 29 Palms ammo cans played a big part in our lives after that day, but that's another story.

Meanwhile, as our lives progressed, the phrase became a trademark of each of our own lives and also our lives as friends together.  Who knows how many times we've uttered those words to each other?  The "rules of the game" are such that we can only use the phrase at moments of true or real karma and not for mere happenstance or idle coincidence.  Students of Karma well know the difference.  So, we savor each of our opportunities to trot out that ancient phrase and use when appropriate.

So it was yesterday when a late afternoon email arrived from Wayne.  He and Helen are down (up to them) in Bryce Canyon National Park.  He's giving a lecture as a Geology Festival there. OK, so I talked with him a few days ago just before we departed for Bryce.  I told him to be on the lookout for Marilyn B. there at Bryce.  I gave him a real big sales pitch on Marilyn and told him all about her background and how we had come to get acquainted with Marilyn B. way back in yet another past life in 2001.

Let's take a minute to jump in the Way Back Time Machine and return to 2001.  Some LBRs will remember our much bally-hooed "Western Space Odyssey 2001."  We thought we were going to do a huge loop up through British Columbia.  HA!  Well, we had planned to spend one night in Kanab, Utah,  but wound up spending 6 weeks.  While there, Susun discovered the legendary Forest Service Region 4 Volunteer Guide.
One day while in nearby Escalante, I pestered a front desk person at the Forest Service Visitor Center about volunteer opportunities.  He told us the caretaker of a remote Guard Station had died and they needed someone to look after the place.  We then began hounding the officials to get the position.  We sat down with the District Ranger and he said bluntly, "OK, what can you do for us?"  We told him our background and, BAM--they had us signed up in seconds, gave us the key and told us we needed to be in Panguitch, Utah, two days later for a meeting about our new project--The Upper Sevier River Community Watershed Project.  We were signed on to do a website and printed newsletter for the USRCWP.  So, we dutifully moved into to Cowpuncher Guard Station one day and then immediately hot-footed it over to Panguitch the next day.   The meeting was a late afternoon event in the new Fire Station.  We didn't know a soul there and expected to be outsiders because the place is nearly 100% LDS.  We approached the meeting with great trepidation. The place was obviously packed with people so we knew it had to be an important meeting.  As we walked in the door, this bright beaming face caught our attention.  Marilyn B. came over and introduced herself and acted like we were long lost relatives.  She made us feel so special and so welcome we will never forget that moment as long as we live.

Marilyn played a very key role in the USRCWP and therefore we worked closely with her for 4.5 months.  We became very good friends.  Every time our paths crossed, Marilyn was always so delighted and happy to see us.  She said the nicest things imaginable to us ABOUT us!  She kept telling us how much she appreciated us and on and on and ON.  It was very humbling, of course, because Marilyn was an elementary school teacher with a magic knack of working well with children.  We visited her classroom several times and got to know that she was amazingly well respected in Garfield County.  Many of her former students were adults and whenever she needed any help, they jumped into action on her behalf.  She was building a very large Environmental Education Center alongside Panguitch Creek.  It was a hum-dinger project and yet she acted like it was a piece of cake.  She so totally impressed us in every way.

Besides all of her professional acumen, she was (is) an incredibly accomplished hunter of big game. In fact, she's one of the most accomplished hunters we've ever had the pleasure of meeting.  You would never guess that she can crawl on her belly through Arctic snow stalking a caribou or sneak around the woods to come face-to-face with moose, bear, elk, deer, you name it.  She's amazing and people say she's a sharpshooter with an incredibly accurate eye, aim and timing.

The next year, we thought for awhile we were going to return to Cowpuncher but NVUM and Sue K. intervened and the rest is history, as they say.  However, we did take a big pile of stuff up to the Powell Ranger District Office in March.  When we changed course, we had to get that stuff out of the Forest Service office.  There was Marilyn again--letting us store a mountain of stuff in her garage for five months!

We kept in touch with Marilyn as the years passed.  When I took the RSVP position, I made up a Certificate of Appreciation for Marilyn and mailed it to her with a real nice letter.  I recognized Marilyn (and two of her peers) for teaching us the value of Volunteer recognition.  Marilyn (and Allen and Kevin) really hammered home how much the words "we appreciate you" meant to volunteers.  The word "appreciate" became our most commonly used word forever after.  We count our association with those people and especially Marilyn as one of the great gifts of our lives.  They set us on the life path that took us to where we are today.  Without people like Marilyn and Sue K. we simply wouldn't be here today.  No way, no how.

Anyway, we were talking with Marilyn while trying to connect on our trip down to Arizona in 2008.  That's when we learned she had recently retired from the school and taken a position out at Bryce Canyon.  She was SOOO excited about working at Bryce.  You would have thought she was starting her life all over again.  The joy in her voice was akin to what you hear from someone who just received their bachelor's diploma.  She had all sort of ideas and to her it was a great big blank palette waiting for her to apply the colors of the rainbow.

That's why I somehow knew that Wayne's path was destined to cross Marilyn's path.  Well, obviously, it did and Wayne took Marilyn's photo with the Park's Chief of Interpretation.  Marilyn is in charge of Education for the Bryce Natural History Association.  Then Wayne emailed the photo to me and it sure caused a huge wave of emotion to wash across our souls.  Susun and I were so happy to see Marilyn's photo with such a beautiful backdrop.  We can only imagine what an enormous positive impact Marilyn is having on Bryce and its visitors.  We have no doubt whatsoever that she will leave the place better than she found it.

Wayne didn't say much in his email, just: "We did meet Marilyn and she is great - just as you said. She sends her greetings to you both."  Yeah, Wayne, all in a day's karma!

Thanks, Wayne!  Marilyn ROX!  And, yes, All In A Day's Karma LIVES!

Ah, the smell of bacon!

There's nothing quite like the smell of bacon wafting through the still morning air.  We'd prefer to cook bacon at a campsite someplace but we've been too harried recently to take time to smell the bacon.  So, we decided to celebrate the last day of July with a nice skillet full of thick cut pepper bacon.  I even sought out a new utensil in which to serve the bacon--a "heart healthy presentation," you might say!  Our "Rules of Bacon" decree that it MUST be cooked outside so that everyone can enjoy the aroma.  Also, it makes a real mess when cooked inside and the old aroma turns stale and stinks up the place.  If you cook it outside on a campstove, it's almost like you''re camping in your own backyard!  Cheap thrills, huh?  We love to cook bacon but, due to Old Age Health Concerns, we don't do it very often.  If I get bacon twice in a summer month, it's been a good month.  Once a month is about right.  We almost never have bacon in the winter--it's simply too cold outside to stand around cooking bacon.  Well, I guess we're now an official B&B: Bacon & Baking here at the bungalow.

Cheers, jp

Last day of July

Seems only yesterday I did a blog post called "Uno de Who-Lee-Oh," or something like that.  Now I'm hearing echoes of the ancient Monkees tune "Last Train to Clarksville" which peaked at #1 on July 25, 1966.  Yep, we're catching the last train out of July today and we will arrive at that August Station early tomorrow.  Summer's all downhill from here.

Susun and her friends will get a kick out of today's Pickle's cartoon above.  It needs no comment.

It's been a long time since we've been able to go to the Farmers Markets.  We're both looking forward to a good ol' dose of an Idaho Falls Saturday today.  The markets should be brimming with colorful produce at or near its peak plumpness.

We've been having a regular bakeapalooza this week.  Each day brings a new "something from the oven."  How did that jingle go?  "Nothing says lovin' like something from the oven?" Yep, it was the Pillsbury Doughboy's jingle.  Maybe he's my alter ego, who knows?  Anyway, baking stuff is a lot of fun and it's been providing seemingly endless entertainment for me this week.  It's probably just a foodie fad and the newness will wear off and life will return to normal again soon.  Yesterday's cornbread turned out great--a few tweaks and we're going to be good to go with cornbread.  Last night, we baked 10 turkey meatballs.  WOW, they sure were yum when served with green peas and pearl onions.  Who knows what it will be tonight?  Perhaps something we find at the Farmers Market(s).

We're pretty well done with preparations for the next trip to Salmon tomorrow.  We logged about 30 hours of volunteering on that project this week.  The BLM Staff really went "above & beyond" to help with their end of the deal.  The mapping specialist even made a custom mileage map starting at Stanley and going all the way down to Corn Creek.  I had been guessing it was a 200 mile stretch.  That was a pretty darned good guess as it turned out to be 190 miles.  That's basically half of the 400 mile river.  The other half is well documented.

We really have quite the little tricked out rig for making long one-day floats.  We've remedied every "issue" we found last week and added some new tricks, too.  We're going to be good for upward of at least 6 hours on the river--maybe even as much as 8, depending on the food and water we can carry.  Six will probably be our max of wanting to sit that long.  We shall see.

Guess what?  There's actually WIFI at the Cottonwood campground.  The camphost Duane W. put it in at his own expense just as a service to his loyal repeat customers.  Duane's been there 12 years and he's a legend in his own time.  People from far and wide return like swallows to Duane's Place.  Bill & Judy from Sierra Vista, Arizona, have been coming to Duane's Place for 10 years.  We know of others who are in the 5-7 year range.  For us, it's 7 years. and hopefully many more in the future.  The place wouldn't be the same without Duane.  Anyway, he just figured it would be a nice thing to do for "my friends," as he told us.  Duane's Sweet!

Anyway, we're taking two laptops up to Cottonwood this time.  The old XP machine will be used to get our waypoints out of the Magellan GPS.  The newer 4 gig Windows 7 machine will help us post photos, make maps, and, gee, maybe even do a blog post or two.  It's going to be interesting to see just how much stuff we can squeeze into each day up there.  The more we do, the faster the time flies.  Too bad we don't have a way to catch time in a bottle like we do the flies.

Stasea sent a nice article from Hawaii about SUP--Stand Up Paddling.  At first, I thought it was just kind of a fad of some sort.  WRONG!  Man, SUP is amazing and the health benefits appear to be off the charts.  It definitely has my attention and I'd actually like to get my hands on one of the boards and paddles to check it out.  Click here to check out the SUP Surf Mag.  The current page shows a woman doing an exercise on a SUP board.  We've already decided to adopt that exercise for this week's paddling regime.

We had lunch yesterday with Matt Q.  He was formerly our "bahs."  "Bahs" is pronounced softly like that sound that sheep make.  It's Georgia Southern Slang for the words "boss."   We enjoyed working with Matt for almost 2.5 years.  As Charter LBRs know, this blog was born the day after we learned of Matt's departure.  We started this blog to document the inevitable changes we expected to occur this year.  It's been a good ride so far and we hope to cover a lot more ground as the year unfolds.  Anyway, Susun and I really enjoyed visiting with Matt.  He's a lot of fun, especially when he's not our "bahs."

Looks like Ol' Airy Zonie has been bombarded with Monster Monsoons lately.  Great big water balloons sneak up out of Ol' Mexico and splat themselves down upon the land like fire retardant from a slurry bomber.  We've been getting various reports from our Arizona LBRs and it sounds pretty wild down there.  Sounds like it might be a good idea to drive around with a life jacket and a helmet, too!  We actually got a real good corker rainstorm twice last evening.  Luckily, I had moved the Turco underneath our big blue spruce tree so I could continue to bake in peace and almost dryness.  When you're this far north of normal monsoon country, the arrival of moisture from the south is purely "hit & miss."  However, today looks like a repeat of yesterday.  Here's a poignant piece of prose from our local Weather Wonks:


I've stopped doing the Bearanoid blog for awhile.  I really can't take the sadness of researching and writing about human fatalities at the hands of bears.  The latest case up near Cooke City is just so sad it really wrenches my heart.  Gosh, I guess I am not very detached on this subject.  Things like that are like lightning--it came strike anyone anywhere--and it could happen to any of us--at least if we were camped in Bear Country.  So, I'm taking a break on updating the bearanoid blog.  Maybe I will resume later and maybe not.

Well, that's about all we have for this morning.  Now it's time to do something different--I think I'll cook up a mess of bacon.  It's always fun to fill the neighborhood air with the aromatherapy of simmering bacon--I know it drives the neighbors into a fantasy food frenzy--I just KNOW it does! 

Cheers, jp

Friday, July 30, 2010

Voting ends tomorrow

Voting on the new boat's name ends tomorrow at midnight.  We will announce the new name on Sunday, August 1st.  If you haven't voted, go to this blog post and scroll down to vote.  We've received a total of 9 votes so far--that's pretty good for a little blog such as this one.  Thanks to those who have voted already!

We spent more time yesterday messing around with various stuff for the SRGP.   Jeff S. came over mid-morning to check out the Turco and related accessories.  He had a great fishing trip with his two sons this past weekend.  We swapped a few true stories and a few lies (as fishermen and campers are wont to do) and enjoyed a great visit.  Thanks, Jeff, and please remind me to tell you the Steel Wool Story soon, OK?)

We worked out an arrangement with Parks & Recreation to miss the upcoming Monday meeting.  The agenda is lackluster and the Director himself won't even be there.  It's a Dog Days of Summer agenda.  That means we will be heading up to Salmon River Country via the Pahsimeroi on Sunday so we can have four full days on the river. Hopefully, we will be able to average 20 miles a day during that time and cover a LOT of territory.

We continued shopping for the final pieces of our river gear puzzle and I think we pretty much have it figured out.  The last missing piece is learning how to upload digital MP3 audio files from the recorder and embed them in a Google Map.  That's this morning's project. (Well, it's 11 am and we got an MP3 file linked to a map post.  Go to and click on the point entitled "Pahsimeroi River confluence" and you can test it out.

We touched base with Bryan--he and Da Boyz had a great trip on the Main Salmon--no problems to report.
We also talked with Wayne--he's "good to go" and is now up in Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park to give a geology lecture.  Maggie sent along some great gardening stories.  We think her backyard agricultural experiences will make a nice book by the time her green thumb goes back into winter hibernation this fall. Joshua got off the river and hiked out of the Grand Canyon up the Bright Angel Trail yesterday--he's returning to Cornville today--welcome home, Josh and Congratulations!

Naturally, I roamed the thrift stores yet again--this time looking for a specific small sized baking sheet to put under the six-hamburger grate.  That's how I would up sprinting.  Sprinting?  I'm not kidding.  A sprint for an old, short, fat guy means anything faster than a slow walk, actually. Here's how it unfolded.  I wound up in the Bonneville Humane Society thrift store at 4:48 pm.  I quickly realized it was "half-off day" and I decided to finally buy the two shish kabob thingies.  I've been looking at them for a month but didn't want to pay $1.50 each for them.  75 cents?  Sure, I'd pay that.  Bonneville only accepts cash so I took them to the counter and said I would go to the bank and "be back soon."  The woman who runs the place said wryly, "Well, you better hurry because we're closing in 11 minutes."  Oops.

I looked out the front door and a Union Pacific locomotive was blocking the pedestrian access across the downtown rails.  Somehow I decided that it would all work out and I headed toward the tracks.  As if by magic the locomotive backed up just enough for me to dart in front of it and then the sprint was on.  As I jogged toward the city's busiest street (Yellowstone), I could see a green light ticking down--there were 7 seconds left to sprint across the street and avoid traffic stretching in both directions.  I made it with one second to spare--then I jogged two block to Wells Fargo and, luckily, no one was in there outdoor ATM.  I grabbed a quick 20 dollars and then started the spring back.  Somehow I caught a seam on Yellowstone and didn't have to break stride to cross again.  Meanwhile, the train had once again just clears the only pedestrian crossing.  As I ran toward the thrift store, they were beginning to close the parking lot gates and someone was standing by to lock the front door.  I slipped in just under the wire and grabbed my purchases, paid and left as they locked up the place behind me.  It's pretty amazing what a potential savings of a buck fifty will do to a veteran thrift store shopper!

Afterward taking a few deep breaths, I headed off to WINCO to pick up some veggies to grill in the new toys.  Portbello mushrooms, green and red peppers, white and red comes dinner.
I flash grilled up some turkey sausage in the electric George Foreman grill and then Susun assembled all the veggies and sausage pieces in the new little Kabob Cages.  We put them in the Turco and hickory smoked them to al dente perfection.  The pre-cooked sausage pieces picked up the right amount of smoked flavor and it made the perfect Happy Hour snacking hors devours.  Meanwhile, we cut all the skin and fat off of 8 chicken thighs and then smoked them for about 90 minutes.  Oh, man, they were so good!  This Turco really rox--it really does.

So what's the Turco going to do next?  Cornbread this morning.  Our cornbreads so far this summer have been La-Z-Boy breads--the kind that come out of a premix package--the ones that have a lot of chemicals we can't pronounce much less spell.  Well, not any more--this morning, we making "from scratch" cornbread.  That's one thing that the Turco excels at--cornbread.  Cornbread loves a HOT oven and, trust me, the Turco is HOT.  It goes right up to 400 degrees in a wink of an eye.

Not much else on tap today--mow the lawn, begin the pre-rig process, all the normal routine.

Have a great day & Cheers!  jp

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Data Man

We have spent a LOT of time this week getting feng shui with all of the data devices we need to carry on the Salmon River.  You can see 3 of them here.  The little waterproof Pelican box that's tucked into the lifejacket's strap carries a Sony digital voice recorder.  It's connected to a lapel mic that you can see on the top left of my life jacket (your right as viewing the photo).  The new waterproof Fuji XP camera hangs on a lanyard next to the Magellan Triton 400 GPS unit.  Inside the lifejacket pocket is a new stylus for the BLM's Trimble Juno.  The Juno device costs $1500 (not a typo) and it scares the heck out of me to carry it on the river.  It is not waterproof and its onboard stylus is just about the easiest thing to drop and lose I've ever seen.  So, I made a new stylus out of a chopstick and it's carabinered onto the lifejacket.  Meanwhile, we've worked with the BLM's GIS cartographer and we now have a way to "Stay Safe" with the Juno.  We're finally comfortable with having all of these data devices readily available and functional. (NOTE: If all else fails, we have a gubmint issue ink pen and an original "Write In The Rain" waterproof field ntoebook.)

Yesterday, we completed a Google Map of the Cottonwood-Colston stretch of river.  You can click here to see it.  Each of the push pins on the map have at least some narrative.  Some points have photos and links.  Check it out.  Gotta run--already behind again today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My, how short these days seem to be

 It sure seems like these days have very short legs and they are over practically before they get started.  It doesn't matter how early I get up--the day is gone before I know it.  Take today--I started at 6 am and here it is 8:30 already and I feel like I am a mile or two behind the curve already.  Yesterday, I worked six hours on the river guide project and didn't even get out of the house until NOON!!  Then it was a blur or errands and shopping--a total of ten stores visited!  There's a lot more on today's agenda that there was on yesterday's.  Even though we aren't scheduled to leave until Sunday afternoon, I already feel like I am running behind and getting FARTHER behind as today progresses.  What gives with that, anyway? 

Well, anyway, we are making some progress on resolving our data issues with the BLM on the river project.  We think we have a pretty balanced approach to our future sessions up on the river.We talked at length yesterday with one of the BLM's GIS specialists and we think we now know how to use the Trimble Juno in a manner that will acquire usable data for them without endangering our own safety while floating the river.  Meanwhile, after a few hours of frustration, we were able to pull our own waypoints out of the Magellan Triton 400 and get them converted to KML files and uploaded onto Google Earth and Google Maps.  We then began annotating them and we think we will have a PGP (Pretty Good Product).  We used one of our older digital voice recorders to make notes on two of the trips.  Today, we're going to buy a much better digital voice recorder for future use.  We popped for a waterproof digital camera yesterday and have spent this morning (so far) learning about how it functions.  (Luckily, we happened to notice that it's waterproof but it does NOT float.  That's a good thing to know.)  Click here to learn about the camera.

We have quite a pile on our plate right now so there's not much time to blog this morning.  We did find a lot of fun stuff in the thrift stores yesterday--REALLY fun stuff! Last night we actually successfully smoked four ears of corn on the cob.  We smoked them for one full hour and they turned out great. Susun ate every kernel from her cobs so she obviously liked them a lot.  She's dog-sitting for a couple of days this week. 

Well, we have to run along now.  Have a great day and many cheers, jp

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Here and There

Tuesday morning here on 12th Street is one of those glorious summer mornings.  Not a breath of air moving--city stillness so still that a passing car sounds really loud and then stillness resumes.  Green grass growing every which was--leafy trees standing stately and serene--early morning walkers striding off their calories--and rays of low angle sunlight illuminating our profuse holllyhocks and Susun's gorgeous flower gardens.  Ah, summer delights!

Susun loves to say "Here or There, two of our favorite places."  Yea, verily, we've just returned from our favorite campsite--#9 at the Cottonwood Campground near good ol' Ellis.  The Salmon River has a noisy little riffle lapping right to within 30 feet of our tent door.  You look out at this enchanting river flowing downward toward its destiny and it's just such a powerful, fabulous place.  Then we come home and feel as happy as if we were perched beside the river.  It doesn't seem to matter much whether we are "here" or "there."  They are both good--each in their own way and we love them both dearly.  When we are here, we are very happy to be here and don't want to be anyplace else.  Ditto, when we are there, wherever that may be, we are delighted and thrilled to be there and wouldn't trade it for any place else.  It's a delightful dichotomy no matter how you dice it--here or there really ARE our two favorite places!

We got a really late start out of Idaho Falls last Thursday and, get this, I-15 was CLOSED!  Yep, closed Big Time.  We had to drive backroads over 20 miles north of the city to find an onramp that was open.  Why?  Well, they closed the interstate because of the Blue Angels airshow.  Amazing but true.  That unexpected delay really set us back but we were nonetheless able to arrive at Ellis precisely by 3 pm for our meeting.  Luckily, our new boss was late so it all worked out.  We met until 4:45 and signed formal volunteer agreements and we were "good to go" on the new project.  We enjoyed a magical evening there in Site #9 and set up a nice camp.

Friday, we met with Jeff in his Challis office during the late morning.  We finally managed to get on the water about 1 pm and floated 13 miles.  After running the shuttles and so forth, we were back in camp by 6 pm.

Saturday, we flew out of camp by 8:45 am and arrived in Clayton precisely at 10 am.  Judging the chile thing was a real hoot.  Mike slipped me a hundred dollar bill and that was nice, too!  He invited us back again for 2011 and the entrants and spectators really seemed to love our schtick--we wore matching red, white and blue aprons and used our digital laser thermometer to really ham it up.  They had prize money this year and so I got to pass out ribbons and money and that livened up the scene considerably.  We got to perform in the replica livery stable and it was really a memorable moment.  Much to my abject surprise, some guy dressed up like a mountain man came over and asked me to participate in the black powder shoot.  I told him I didn't have a rifle and hadn't shot black powder in maybe 40 years or more.  He said, "No problem, you can use my .54 caliber Hawken."  I about fainted dead away.  Sure enough he had this awesome Hawken and refreshed my memory on how to charge it and I got to get off 8 shots and hit the target on four of them.  It was a true hoot!

We finally got out of Clayton about 2 pm and were on the water again by 3 pm and got off about 5 pm.  Once again were back in camp about 6 pm and enjoyed a real nice evening Happy Hour there on the banks of the Salmon.  There was a huge wedding going on in the day use area and Susun danced her booties off for a few hours.  She really got to exercise her Social Muscles to the Max Saturday night.

Sunday was a real slow moving morning. and we didn't get back on the water until 1 pm.  We had a great run through Royal Gorge--lots of fluffy whitewater and some rocks to dodge, too.  We were off a little after 3 pm and this time got back to camp about 5:30 pm.  In total, we ran about 27 miles of river in 3 days.  Our volunteer agreement targets a 15 mile per day average so we need to play catchup on our next trip. The boat is now nicely rigged and performs very well.  We can rig and derig very quickly and we have everything we need for the short day trips we are taking.

The Turco oven was the star of the show on this trip.  Normally, we wouldn't bother to mess with charcoal dutch oven cooking on hot July evenings.  The Turco made baking a piece of cake (pun intended).  We baked chicken leg quarters, cornbread and foil-wrapped Idaho potatoes in three separate sessions.  That oven is a "legacy" item.  It's one of those camping things that is a real game-changer.  Man, it's totally awesome!  Tonight, we're going to smoke some corn on the cob. What a treat it is to use the oven.

Our other two camping tricks this trip were new-to-us.  We brought along a fly trap and caught at least 1,000 flies. (Susun says 2,000.)  It sure made camping a lot more fun without all those dastardly flies buzzing about in our food and faces.  The other gig was cooler management.  It was HOT during the day--well into the 90's.
The coolers were going to sit out in the direct sunlight.  So, we used our fire chimney--the galvanized silver roofing as an Okie-style reflective cover for the two coolers.  We covered the coolers with foam sleeping pads and then made a little enclosure of the reflective metal and then staked them into place with the 3-foot concrete form pins.  The plan worked to perfection and we had zero food spoilage and our ice lasted quite well and we were Happy Campers.

We toyed with the idea of staying Monday but we've encountered a slight problem in data collecting on the river.  So, we came home yesterday and will work here to resolve the GPS compatibility issue with the BLM's GIS systems.  Due to some recent luck, we maybe be able to actually acquire the necessary equipment on our own rather than waiting for the BLM to resolve the issue.

It was a nice cool day to drive the desert yesterday--a rarity in July.

We got home at 2:30 and were completely derigged before 4:30.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening and celebrated a great stroke of good luck.  It's a long story best told by email.

Well, it's going to be a great day once again, being here instead of there.  Many Cheers!  J&S

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On The Road Again

It's been a nice break here since Sunday but it sure seems short.  We're off and away again today--on the road once again to Salmon River Country.  This time we get to drive one of our favorite routes--Sage Junction to Mud Lake to Howe and then up the Little Lost Valley to the top of the Pahsimeroi watershed and then through Patterson and May to Ellis.  Once you turn north at Howe, you're heading straight into certified MOAN Country.  The route is so obscure, Mapquest refuses to map it! Each time we've driven this spectacular, lonely road, the golden eagles perched on power poles have easily outnumbered the vehicles.  People?  Fuggetaboutit.  It's so rare to see an actual human begin (not in a vehicle) that it's actually remarkable.  We say to each other--look, there's somebody over there!  It's just wide open desert space stretching for a ba-zillion miles between two really wild looking mountain ranges.  It's the kind of place that makes us say, "WOW, let's go over there someday."   Who knows when "someday" will come?  Even if we never "go over there someday," it's just a fun thrill to drive this route.  Just seeing the eagles that up close and personal is awesome--it's the closest we've ever been to golden eagles.  They look so huge when they are that close.

Ellis is a flyspeck of a community--there's only one building in Ellis and it's the Post Office.  No one actually lives in Ellis, they only get their mail there.  When you ask them where they live, they always just say, "up the Pahsimeroi."  That's descriptive and all that's really needed to know where they are from and how they see their world.  The Pahsimeroi is probably the last, greatest undiscovered backcountry nook left in this part of Idaho.  We once even thought of buying land out there to live in MOAN Country.  Luckily, we came to our senses and chose Idaho Falls instead.  Whatever.  We are looking forward to today's drive into the Land of The Pahsimeroi.  We obviously love the place.

We will be camped at the BLM Cottonwood Campground about 3 miles "up river" from Ellis.  It's one of our Top Five Fave campgrounds.  We first found that site in June 2003 and it was love at first site (sic).  We've been back many a time and look forward to camping there for as many years as we will still be able to camp.  We will be meeting Jeff C., the BLM Recreation Planner, at 3 pm today to (hopefully) finalize an agreement to produce a recreational guide for the Salmon River.  We really don't know how long that stretch is.  We've been saying 200 miles.  Heck, it might only be 150 miles.  We know it's at least that long.  It will be interesting to see how long it actually turns out to be. (Click here for our Salmon River Guide Project Blog.)

We will return on Tuesday.  What with the Clayton Chile gig on Saturday, it promises to be a real busy trip.  Hopefully, we will get in three days of paddling on the Salmon.  I doubt that it will be more than 3 and I'm certain it won't be less than 2--but we are hoping for 3.  My cell phone won't work up there.  Susun's might work when we are in Challis.  We probably won't bother going to the Challis Library to check email so we won't be posting anything or Tweeting or whatever until Tuesday.  I always enjoy techno-free time.  No computer?  No phone?  No Problem!  It's great.

Yesterday went according to schedule and the formal part of the day didn't end for me until after 6 pm.  We then spent 3 hours rigging the big truck so we are ahead of the game this morning.  Hopefully, we will be out of here by 9-10 am today.

That's about it for now.  Maybe we will post up before we leave--maybe not.  Who knows?  Many Cheers!  jp

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Busy-ness continues

The official logo for the State of Utah is a stylized beehive.  LDS Pioneers adopted that logo long ago to remind each other that being as busy as bees was a "good thing."  Sometimes I wish Utah made Beehive Hats.  I would buy one and wear it right now.  Life's been a beehive buzzing with activity this week and there's no let up in sight.

Monday afternoon and evening was a great time with Bryan, Nathan and Sam.  We lost count of the games of croquet played, enjoyed a Great Dinner by Susun and soaked up some fine camaraderie and friendship.  The trio left at 9:30 am yesterday to travel up to Corn Creek to begin their Main Salmon wilderness river trip today. We both then began a high speed day that didn't end until well into Happy Hour.  Everything we'd normally do in two days to leave for our trip Thursday had to be compressed into one day.  Why?

I'm going to Pocatello today.  All of Wednesday is basically consumed with "volunteer stuff."  The State's
SERVE Idaho Commission is conducting a "listening session" from 10-11:30 am this morning in downtown Pocatello.  I actually NEED to be there to present testimony about the current status of Eastern Idaho volunteerism.  At noon, I scheduled a hearing exam at Costco.  Later, Debby and I will be meeting with the State Director for CNCS (Corporation for National & Community Service).  Kent's great and I miss him a lot.  That meeting won't even start until 4:30 so you can see it's going to be a long day with no chance for anything other than what's already on Wednesday's plate.

I copped a break this morning--that's why I have time to write this blog post.  LBRs know we will be judging the Clayton Heritage Days Chile Cookoff again this year.  We've been booked to do that for maybe 9 months.  Last year we made up some real spiffy forms and when I left the job, I lost them.  It's been nagging me for months.  So this morning, procrastination had to come to an end as I simply HAD to find them.  The sands of time had all dropped out of the top of the hour glass.  I set aside an hour to look for them this morning.  Lo and behold, I found them in the FIRST MINUTE!  WHA--WHOOO!  Talk about luck and good fortune.  Anyway, that gave me time to talk about it here.

Susun went early to the periodontist to have her stitches removed.  She might even be able to carefully sample some of the chile Saturday.  This is another "good thing," as a maven named Martha would say.

Stasea enjoyed reading the blog post below about SUP.  She even said she LOL'd.  The only trouble I can see with SUP is the availability and cost of the actual boards.  John's Hole would seemingly be a perfect place for SUP.  There's no way we're gonna spend over a thousand dollars for a board, though.  Nope, no way.  But it sure sounds like a great exercise.  Maybe they could convert it to a Wii fitness video thingie.  I'd vote for that.

Have a great day & Cheers, jp

PS--I think I will move the Tweet feed back to the top so I will have something to do if I am terminally bored during this meeting.  C-YA.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Who Knew? Stasea Knew! She ROX! She sent this photo you see here entitled SUP. And we are Old Fuddy Duddies and we said, "HUH? SUP, WHA...?"

So, Susun actually called her daughter and said WTF is SUP and Stasea only gave Susun the minimal skinny on the matter.

Well, it turns out that SUP ROX just like Stasea.

Imagine my surprise today when I stumbled upon an article in no less than the WALL STREET JOURNAL about SUP!!!! Whoa, what a surprise!

OK, click here for the article.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yellow Submarine, BB or The Lynx?

Oh, what to name our new boat?  Debby sez Yellow Submarine.  I've been calling it The Lynx because it "links" us to rivers.  Susun likes "BB (Banana Boat)"  Maybe we will have an LBR poll.

We sure love our boat and look forward to all the places it's going to take us. On Friday, we tinkered with the boat in camp for about 3 hours getting all the rigging "just so" while Susun napped in the shade of the pine forest.  We finally actually got on the water about 3:30 pm at the Osborne Bridge river access point (RAP) in Harriman State Park.  It's a nice maybe 5 mile stretch of mostly flat water with maybe a mile of fast water.  It was a perfect place to figure out how to make the boat behave.  Luckily, we had a stout headwind so we really had to paddle and couldn't lollygag amid the beautiful scenery.  Being forced to keep the boat aligned properly in the headwind was a perfect baptism for learning about our boat.  In the rocky stretch, we tried to hit as many eddies as possible to learn how the boat would spin and turn on the eddy lines.  It's a graceful boat, that's for sure.  This was also a perfect initial float because we could boat right up to our campground.  The one-way shuttle distance from camp is a mere 10 minutes so we had everything derigged and both vehicles back in camp by 5:30 pm.  Piece of cake casual run!

On Saturday, we left at 10 am to do The Last Chance run.  The put-in is below Island Park Dam.  Mid-July sees the highest annual flows.  We were running on 1140 cfs.  It's a short stretch of only a few miles but the current is fast and it takes only 45 minutes.  There's a lot of fast water and some Class One obstacles.  Luckily, mid-morning, the river is practically deserted.  All the kids show up in the heat of the afternoon.  We had the whole river to our lonesome selves.  Our practice the previous day really paid off and it was a very casual float.  We learned on Friday that Susun would be using the shorty canoe paddle in front while I used the kayak paddle in the back.  This arrangement works great and it's much easier on her wrists, too.  She really likes the sawed off canoe paddle.  The whole excursion, running our own shuttle and everything took less than 3 hours.

Our next float with the boat will be no later than Friday up on the Salmon River.  Hopefully, we will run Friday, Sunday and maybe Monday, too.  Then it's going to be a long break before we get the boat wet again--probably won't be until mid-August.  Here are some photos.

Monday Ahead

Wouldn't it be interesting as we are cruising down Life's Road if we came upon a yellow diamond warning sign that simply said, "Caution, Monday Ahead?"  Ah, but we know better--we've all learned to be wary of Mondays.  Whether we are at work, home or play, Monday's seem to hold a special ability to brings tweaks and turns to Life's twisting path.  We wonder what this Monday holds in store for us?  It's already scheduled to be quite an interesting and fun day.  So, let's call today a "Merry Monday" and hope that the moniker holds from start to finish.

Hey, we're blogging early.  Whazzup?  Well, our intuition struck again and told us to "GO HOME" yesterday and we arrived here in sunny, hot Idaho Falls about 1 pm after a splendid BBB camping trip. We had a great remainder of the day here at home--summer here is truly wonderful.  We dearly love camping but we sure love the summer comforts of home, too.

But why cut a splendid camping trip short?  Simple, Dear LBRs--Bryan and Da Boyz are coming to visit today.  Originally, we thought we could merrily return home in time to greet their arrival.  But then we remembered that their visit will take place on a Monday.  And we all know what havoc Mondays can cause for the unprepared and the unsuspecting.  So, we wisely decided to return Sunday and be all rested up for today's visit from Bryan, Nathan and Sam.  They should be here between 2-3 pm.  Hopefully, we will be able to all go down and paddle around in John's Hole on the Snake River right smack dab here in the middle of the city.  We're certain to play some great croquet, too.  And, yep, we're certain to enjoy some fine food as well.
All of the above certainly bodes well for Monday's forecast.  We shall see how it all shakes out. 

Afterall, this IS a Monday!  Luckily for us, Monday started out on a Super Positive note.  How so?  Well, as you know, Kirsty S. provides a great deal of inspiration for this blog.  She celebrates the wonder and beauty of every day (whether it's a Monday or not).  She is relentlessly positive and her spirit and enthusiasm for the joys of life are contagious.  Well, imagine how humbled I was to open up the Blogger Dashboard this Monday morning and find a comment from Kirsty herself.

Here is what she had to say, "I am so, so honoured John. You and Susan are one of the greatest inspirations in my life. I think finding you (my guardian angels) has to be one of greatest benefits I have found in blogging. xoxoxoxo Thank you."  WOW, Thank You, Kirsty! Getting your comment got this particular Monday off on the Super Positive right foot and gave us a great reason to call this a Merry Monday!  You can click here to read Kirsty's awesome blog.

Well, what about the camping trip?  Gee, where to start?  Well, let's just say it was wonderful--best trip yet this summer.  We rediscovered why we love Riverside Campground and Site B8.  We rediscovered why we love the Island Park Caldera, The Henry's Fork, Box Canyon Trail and Mesa Falls.  We baptized our boat with two trips.  It's a great boat and everything we hoped it would be. We will post up various descriptions of "this and that" in the days ahead.

For now, we just wanted to say "HI, We're back," and we're Very Happy Campers.

More soon.  May You Enjoy Many Monday Cheers!  jp

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How bearanoid works

As we've said, Bearanoia is a Good Thing.  We have a raving, raging case of Bearanoia.  Anyway, this is how it works.  We're going into Bear Country.  There's a formal "bear order" in place in that National Forest.  You can click here to read it.  OK, first things first--we clean all of our stuff to remove as much traces of food odors as we can.  That includes giving the stove a thorough cleaning.  Next, we make a lot of phone calls: Forest Service local ranger station, Harriman State Park, Campground Manager, local newspaper, local chamber of commerce.  The questions are all the same:  1) Have there been any physical bear-human contacts? 2) Has anyone reported using bear spray? 3) Are bear sightings up or down from normal 4) What's the farther south a bear has been reported? 5) Have there been any bear sightings in Riverside Campground?

Next, we will go pick up our new prototype quick draw holster at Rachel's Place.  One canister of spray stays either on the backpack or on the bicycle frame--the other will be within reach at all times 24/7 while we are in Bear Country.  We will sleep with it, walk with it, sit a the picnic table with it, drive with it.  You name it, the bear spray is grafted to our right hand.

That's how Bearanoia works.  Hey, we're Bearanoid and danged proud of it!

Mid-July Already

How's that tune go?  "Time keeps on...."  Yesterday was a nice day--no wind.  Very pleasant temperatures--felt like spring more than The Heart of Summer.  All of the Big Box chain stores are already stocking Back To School supplies on their shelves.  That's an omen of changing seasons or as Jeff Foxworthy says, "There's yer sign."

We're leaving late this afternoon to go to Riverside campground so naturally we spent most of yesterday messing with camp stuff.  Actually, our energies were focused on our new cooking gig.  We're making the new Turco a focal point of our revamped camp kitchen.  After running around in circles yesterday, we can now fire up BOTH the 1952 Coleman stove and the antique Turco from the same propane tank.  The Turco is now a full-fledged camp oven--something we've wanted ever since we started camping together back in the 1980's.  Last night I baked 10 chicken thighs in the Turco.  Not only that I actually bought a stainless steel smoker box and hickory smoked  the chicken thighs as they baked.  Ah, they were so delicious--easily the best chicken thighs I've ever baked or grilled.  So, what this means is now very simple--we can bake anything now with hassling with the dutch oven and the charcoal briquettes. We also found a replacement bacon fryer so we're good to go.  Everything fits neatly in a large tub.  We are very pleased with the new set up.

LBR Kris C. was talking with Susun on the phone yesterday and observed that we have so much camping stuff we could probably set up camp for a dozen people.  That's true, Kris, (and thanks for the comment) but we're prefer to serve meals to only about 8--12 gets problematic because of the size of our coolers.  Hum....maybe we need larger coolers.  We will definitely put this outdoor kitchen rig to the full test this winter in Arizona when we will probably attempt to feed upwards of a dozen people at a time.

So what are we doing at Riverside?  First, some history.  We "discovered" Riverside last summer through a process of trial and error while attempting to find our niche in the Island Park vicinity.  Riverside is the perfect fit for us.  Site B8 is our "spot."  We could actually camp right alongside the river in the "A" Loop but there are a lot of drawbacks to the "A" Loop.  Sitting far back from the river in a nook on the "B" loop is much better for our needs.  Anyway, the site has everything we need for our style of camping and fits two vehicles comfortably.  We need two vehicles to run our own river shuttles.

This is a Triple B trip (BBB): Bikes, boats and boots.  The AIRE Lynx II will finally get in the water--hopefully more than once.  We will ride our bikes and hike in nearby Harriman State Park and we will do some exploring on roads we've not yet traveled.  It's Bear Country, of course, and there definitely are grizzly bears nearby. So, we will carry our new prototype leather from Rachel's Place. We canhardly wait to see her first draft design late this morning. We'll return here Monday morning. (I was previously thinking is was Sunday but our reservations say it's Monday.)  That's gives us 3 full and complete days for the BBB trip.  Since it's only a 70 minute drive from our house to the campground, we won't leave here until perhaps 3 pm today.  It's a real leisure cruise up to Riverside.

There are a LOT of really great bloggers out there.  The one blogger I look to for inspiration is Kirsty S. who lives in Ohio.  She writes a blog called "Momedy."  It's a word morphed from "Mom" and "Comedy."  I feel certain she is a reincarnated Erma Bombeck.  Whenever I need some fresh perspectives and insights into the wonderment of each and every day, I go to Kirsty's blog.  It's always an uplifting and rejuvenating experience for me.  We've actually emailed back and forth several times and Kirsty sent us some cool tea called "rooibos."  Kirsty puts her total heart and spirit into her blog.  You've heard that expression about somebody "wearing their heart on their sleeve."  Well, Kirsty wears her heart on her blog.  She doesn't hold anything back but yet she let's it all out in such a charming, endearing manner that her blog is (at least for me) totally captivating.  I wish I could write as well as she does and I wish I had Kirsty's flair to take a very small daily detail and make it meaningful.  Click here to go to her blog.

Well, that's about all we have to report today.

Many Cheers!  jp

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fire update

The INL fire has now officially burned 170 square miles in just 24 hours. Assuming a constant burn rate for the past 24 hours, that's 5000 square feet a minute!  Officials are now calling the "Jefferson Fire" the largest single fire in Idaho's recent history.  (The 1910 fires were much larger, of course.)  At a news conference yesterday, INL officials shared this amazing factoid--the fire burned THIRTY NINE lineal miles in a mere five hours! That's nearly 8 miles an hour which is one lineal mile every 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  That's basically 12 lineal feet a second for five straight hours. That's truly amazing and nearly unbelievable except that these guys have "the black" to prove it.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and is under investigation.  Approximately 300 firefighters from INL and BLM are on scene.  The Bureau of Land Management has dispatched 21 fire engines, a helicopter, five bulldozers, five air tankers and an air attack plane to fight the fire.  INL has four bulldozers and seven fire engines on the scene.

The scene above was captured by The Rexburg Standard-Journal yesterday.  I got to tour that Temple in January 2008 before it was Dedicated.  Cool Temple and Cool Spot! Click here to read Thomas Monson's Dedication prayer on 10FEB08.  Great prayer!


The blog post below describes the Big Fire out at The Site.  This blog post tie-toes through Tuesday's other "doings."  Most of the morning was spent online swapping emails, researching various topics, etc.  We spent a lot of time studying the prospects of the passage of the financial reform bill in Congress.  If it becomes law, that bill could have an almost immediate, direct positive financial windfall benefit for us personally.  It's a long story best told by email to anyone who's interested.

We also spent way too much time trying to figure out how to get from the Long Beach Airport to Oceanside, California via public transit.  Why?  Well, Allegiant Airlines will on October 8th initiate direct, nonstop flights from Idaho Falls to Long Beach for a mere $70 each way (plus fees, of course).  The Long Beach Airport is fairly close to Sarah's new home in Vista, CA.  The Oceanside Metrolink Terminal is a mere 9 miles from Sarah's home.  Unfortunately, taking a city bus from the Long Beach Airport to a Metrolink Terminal in either Anaheim, Buena Park or Fullerton is a convoluted nightmare and would take FAR longer than the actual flight itself!  Go figure.  But at least we learned a heck of a lot about SOCAL public transit!

We got a call from The Red Lion Hotel for more Greenbelt brochures and hot footed it out of here immediately to deliver them.  We love the Happy Faces when we deliver those brochures.  Since the wind was howling unmercifully yesterday, we tried to conduct most of our activities inside a building protected from the wind.   It was the kind of wind that seemed to peel your eyelids back into your head.

We checked our fave thrift stores once again and captured a great photo of one of the Deseret Industries Staff taking his dog for a walk!  We found a real nice, high quality, decorative wind sock for 75 cents.  We thought it fitting to have erected it on our windsock post the on a day of peak summer winds.  It sure is nice to see that colorful windsock outside this morning.

We then headed out to Idaho's largest Army Surplus Store on the outskirts of town.  Believe it or not, it's the very first time we've ever been there!  Click here for their website. Basically, it's a giant junk shop with a weird smell inside.  The building is maybe half the size of a Wal-Mart and it's filled helter-skelter with military castoffs of all types and descriptions.  Believe it or not, I couldn't find a single thing to buy and walked out empty handed.  Not even the $100 Ghilly Suits shown here appealed to me, although they did elicit a laugh from Susun.

A bonus of driving to the outskirts of the city was seeing the full smoke plume from the fire.  Geeze, it was so gi-normous!  Also, I happened upon a big shipment of wind turbine blades in a truck stop parking lot.  BP (I'm sure you've heard of them recently) is putting up a giant wind turbine farm on the ridgeline due east of the city.  The towers are giant and, as you can see, the blades themselves are pretty good sized, too.  It was fun to look at them up close and personal.  We'll talk more about wind farms later--we're running out of idle time this AM--Susun wants to go walking on the Greenbelt.

Finally, I messed with the Turco again last night.  This time, I figgered how to put a water filled pan full of hickory chips into the grill and I baked & smoked up some hot turkey sausages for dinner.  This little grill ROX!

Have a great day and Many Cheers!  jp

Wind-Fueled Desert Wildfire

There was a huge wildfire yesterday in the desert west of the city.  It was visibly enormous with truly epic towering smoke clouds and a plume that stretched at least 60 miles--probably perhaps even 100 miles at it's peak.  The smoke plume was easily visible on NWS Doppler radar--that's how we know its length.  Even though the smoke gave the illusion of towering over the city, the fire was located at least 40 miles away out at "The Site," as locals call INL--The Idaho National Laboratory.  The fire started out at The Site about 2:30 pm and in a mere 7 hours it consumed FORTY SEVEN SQUARE MILES of desert vegetation.  Why so much?  One word: W-I-N-D.

The wind has been ferocious for the past two days and yesterday's wind reached its 55 mph crescendo  precisely during the time of the fire.  Today there's no wind to speak of so we assume the fire will be fully contained.  That's what happens with fires sweeping through the desert sagebrush.  If a howling wind is chasing the flames, the flames will run far, fast and furious for as long as the wind blows.  When the wind lays down, so does the fire.  It was both an awesome and fearsome sight to see yesterday as the dense smoke loomed seemingly on the fringes of the city. (The view above is from our west porch looking due northwest at Jana & Matt's house across the street.)

The smoke was so dense and thick that authorities actually closed a 32-mile stretch of I-15 and a 26 mile reach of Idaho State Highway 33!

One of the many reasons we picked Idaho Falls as a place to settle is because of fire, both structural and wildland fire types.  Idaho Falls is totally and completely surrounded by bright green, irrigated agricultural fields.  Miles and miles of some of America's best ag lands covered with barley, alfalfa and potatoes.  It's one huge, gigantic "defensible space" fire break.  There's absolutely no way for a wildland fire to threaten this city.  Can't be done.  Meanwhile, the City has been very generous with fire hydrants and they dot practically every corner in this community.  Water supply is unlimited and water pressure is about as high as it can get without popping the pipes. Fire stations are everywhere and the response time is hardly ever more than 2 minutes to anyplace in the city.  It's a very comforting reality that many communities simply can't enjoy.

We've lived for quite a bit of our lives in places where fire protection was merely a theoretical concept.  We've lived were wildland fire was an ever present and genuine danger.  It would have been entirely possible to have been trapped by fire on the Upper East Fork.  That thought really spooked us in 2007 when we were looking over our shoulders practically 24/7 because the forest was so incredibly tinder dry and the fire danger weighed heavily and constantly on our psyches.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


LBRs know of our penchant for acronyms.  We will create an acronym at the drop of a hat. (DOH)!
Yesterday's blog post made have use of one reigning favorite acronyms--CAT MOAN Country.  We love that one.  Well, imagine our delight this morning to wake up and read today's Pickles cartoon strip.  Opal actually uses a complex acronym.  YES!  You Go, Opal!

Pickles is a real interesting cultural reflection.  We have actually met numerous elders over the years who refuse to read Pickles because "it hits too close to home," as they generally say.  One Old Codger once said, "I don't read it because it reminds me of myself."  Younger people generally don't read it because they have no interest in old people and can't really relate to the daily tête à tête between Opal and Earl or any number of various interpersonal permutations portrayed in the strip.  We're pretty certain the artist who creates Pickles is LDS.  Not that this factoid matters but it probably does underlie the bombproof "G" rated content of the cartoon strip.  The artist was born in Twin Falls and has some Idaho Falls ties, too.  Click here for some info on the strip. Well, we've digressed pretty far afield so we shall return to The Daily News now.

Yesterday took more twists and turns than a hairpin highway perched on the flanks of precipitous mountain cliffs.  Wow, what a roller coaster ride.  The day was full of fruition and failure and the flair of dramatic denouement.  We're all OK but our schedule is quite likely in a state of flux now.  Frankly, we're not quite sure how to assess the near-term future.

The most dramatic vignette of the day took place about 3 pm.  Susun went off to the dentist for what she termed a routine procedure.  The next time I saw her was when they were wheeling her out of the dental office in a wheel chair.  She had a lump the size of a golf ball high on her right cheek and was woozy from the heavy sedation they laid on her.  Meanwhile, the young girl who ran the front desk walked me through all the meds and precautions for things that might go wrong as Susun begins her multi-week recovery from this totally unexpected turn of events.  Yes, I am sure you are wondering how this could be unexpected.  Well, it just happened that way, and somehow clear communications fell through the cracks.  She's feeling well this morning and thankfully not in acute pain.  The swelling has gone down and she's getting back to Her Shining Self.  It sure was a shock to both of us yesterday.

While she slept after the dental visit I did what I always do to relax and unstress--I go shopping.  The best places to go shopping when impulse buying is a clear and present danger are at our three local thrift stores, Deseret Industries, Idaho Youth Ranch and the Bonneville Humane Society.  I wound up buying items at all three places.  The biggest score of the day was a item I never dreamed I would pay $15 for.  Paying $15 for a single item at a thrift store is against the rules, especially for a dirty old tabletop grill the likes of which one can buy new usually for a mere $20.

Well, this wasn't no ordinary grill and it was clearly worth the time and trouble to clean it up last night.  It's an antique Turco cast aluminum grill.  By antique, we are guessing it's probably 20 or 30 years old.  It's SOLID, thick aluminum.  After taking everything out of the grill for cleaning, I weighed this puppy at 9.5 pounds.  I'm guessing there almost 9 pounds of solid cast aluminum in the body of this grill.  It's heavy and it's built to last 1,000 years!  They simply don't make tabletop grills like this any more.  Nope, the tabletops of today are pretty much disposables.  Most people use them a few times and throw them away.  They are junk.  No so with this one.  A regular size cast iron skillet actually fits inside the grill!  I fried up some pork shops in the grill last night.  It's an awesome grill and well worth paying the Big Bucks for it.  I don't think I've ever paid as much for a thrift store item in my entire life!
(Yes, I know this babble ought to be on the camptips page--I just couldn't help myself this morning.  Sorry 'bout that.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bryan's Place

Above is (l-r) Sam, Bryan and Nathan--The Brown Family!  Below are some other photos of our trip.  I've made some of the pictures small.  You can click on the small ones to see a larger version.  Here are some descriptions (l-r)  Up on the Salt River Pass the flowers were coming out in full force.  Here is the Famous Susun Flower amid some balsam root---the word "loft" conjures up small space--not so with this loft---Road? What Road?  There's no road coming to Bryan's Place.  It's more of a mystery route---That's Bryan Himself surveying his property---and finally, an overview of Bryan's Place. We titled the one below that "Mallet Heads."  It's Nathan, John and Sam celebrating some righteous Extreme Croquet!  (A narrative about the trip is in the post below this one.)

Monthly Meeting

Today might seem like a long way into July to say it is "the first Monday."  Our Parks & Recreation Commission meetings are always scheduled on the first Monday of each month.  If the first Monday is a holiday, then the meeting rolls onto the following Monday.  So, here we are 12 days into July and we're only at the first Monday as far as Parks is concerned.  It's a very busy agenda, as you can see from the document above.  Believe it or not, everything on that agenda will be covered in precisely one hour.  It's uncanny.  The meetings always start at noon sharp and always end at or before 1 pm.  As one who generally abhors meetings of any kind, this is really unusual and delightful.  Also, how many meetings have you ever heard of that take place during a lunch hour?  That's the primary reason I applied for the position way back in late 2008.  A Monday lunch hour once a month?  What's not to like?

I really enjoy being a part of the city's Parks & Recreation Commission.  I look forward to each month's meeting.  However, now that we are retired, it does take some juggling to be here on the appointed day.  That's why we spent only two nights at Bryan's Place this weekend.  We would have probably stayed one more night if today wasn't the first Monday of the month.

It was a great little whirlwind weekend trip.  We left Idaho Falls about 1:30 pm or thereabouts and arrived at Bryan's Place about 5:30 pm.  We spent some real quality time with Bryan, Chris, Nathan and Sam.  We left yesterday about 10 am and arrived home shortly before 2 pm.  We were totally unpacked and had everything organized and put away well before 4 pm. The total round trip mileage was 290.  That's shorter than a round trip to either Salmon (330) or Challis (314).  We took "the scenic route" to Bryan's Place.

The scenic route travels out through the potato and barley fields and then hugs the Snake River's lower canyon along a stretch called The South Fork.  Then the road bisects Swan Valley before curving back and forth around Palisades Reservoir.  You enter Wyoming at Alpine and then head up the Salt River through what's called Star Valley. You now drive on Historic US 89 and pass through all kinds of little dinky towns: Etna, Thayne, Grover, Afton and Smoot, to name a few.  For awhile, you're actually on the famous Lander Cutoff Trail (See description above) before you climb up and over Salt River Pass and drop down into the progressively dryer sides of the hills and mountains.  Salt Creek drains south off this pass and the Bridger National Forest people have put some big bucks into restoring the creek's sinuosity. (Look that one up in your Funk & Wagnall's!)

Finally, US 89 makes a 90 degree turn west just outside of Geneva, Idaho, and within minutes you're staring at a really obscure seemingly locked gate that clearly leads into MOAN Country.  At first, we thought the gate really WAS locked but it turned out to be a fake lock to deter people like us.  Luckily we had printed step-by-step directions on how to proceed.  The next almost 2 miles was really not on a real road.  Heck, it wasn't even what most people would call a "two track."  After a few minutes driving through overgrown cattle pastures and tucking under some dense aspen stands, we realized we had suddenly been transported deep into Official CAT MOAN Country.  We reached one spot where we were absolutely certain there was no road or even a trace of a road as we know it by today's definitions of a "road."  Finally, I discerned a faint trace of wheels which had recently pushed down some of the tall grass.  We gingerly followed the faint track.  The grass got thicker, taller and trickier to navigate.  Imagine grass a foot taller than the big truck's hood!  Imagine grass clumps dense enough to have high-centered the Nissan!  Imagine grass so thick I had to use granny gear to push through it!  Now, you are beginning to understand what we are talking about by thick, tall, tricky grass.  At this point, we were certain we were totally lost in CAT MOAN Country when suddenly we spied Bryan's cabins off yonder tucked into a canyon on the side of a sage-covered shale hill.  WHEW!  As we arrived, we yelled out excitedly, "Ze plane, Ze Plane," and Bryan and his Boyz came out to exchange high fives and hugs.  When you finally make it to Bryan's Place, hugs and high fives seem really appropriate.  His place makes a lot of other MOAN Country seem like it's on an interstate highway!

Bryan's Place was really Rancho Deluxe.  He has it ALL out there and it's amazing that he was somehow able to build such an outstanding facility in CAT MOAN Country.  We marveled all weekend at how the place somehow came into existence in such a remote, inaccessible spot.

There are five buildings.  One is a traditional one room cabin.  The other is a garage with a huge loft on top.  The outbuildings are: generator shed, wood shed and deluxe outhouse.  Bryan built the finest outhouse we've ever seen.  Great design and craftsmanship.  Bryan's water source comes from a well drawn by an old fashioned hand pump.  This time of year there was no need to fire up the generator because it stays light until 10 pm.  We slept in the giant pine loft and set up all the rest of our stuff on the garage floor.  We put together a kitchen outside by the truck's tailgate.

We visited and socialized and even set up our fire chimney.  We cooked meals for everyone, creating two brand new camp recipes in the process.  We played some spirited rounds of truly extreme croquet, enjoyed a nice Saturday hike and two wonderful Happy Hours, too.  Saturday evening, the skies opened up and it poured like crazy on us.  All that water turned the clay-based shale into gooey, sticky gumbo mud.  Our shoes are still outside and weigh at least 5 pounds each.  We will probably need a jackhammer to free the mud from those shoes.  Maybe we will just throw them away.

It's a beautiful spot there at Bryan's Place.  His hospitality and friendship were very much appreciated and enjoyed this weekend.  THANKS, BRYAN!

So, now we're back home already prepping for Thursday's departure to the Island Park caldera and our favorite spot B8 in Riverside Campground along The Henry's Fork.

And today?  It's back to the future and another month's Parks & Recreation Commission meeting.

Have a great day and Many Cheers!  jp

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Mallet for Nathan

Bryan and his "Boyz" came to visit us at Bowery twice--once in 2006 and again in 2007.  The second time they came to visit was right after Marti B. had visited for the Famous 7&7 Party on 07-07-07.  Marti brought up a $100 croquet set from Boise and Bryan's Boyz were raqtured by croquet in the Bowery lawn.

Bryan and the Boyz came to visit Idaho Falls in July 2008 and Nathan was all excited to play croquet in our backyard.  He even said he would BUY the croquet set for us to play.  I told him the backyard wasn't suitable for croquet. I honestly didn't think it was, because it's all rolling and undulating and so forth.  Well, poor Nathan went into a funk and was really depressed for the rest of his visit.  I felt so bad.

Anyway, this spring, we discovered "Extreme Croquet" and, as you know, we have been having a lot of fun with it.  In fact, we're really no longer interested in playing the game on a flat, manicured lawn.  Well, the first thing I did when I learned of extreme croquet was to leave a voicemail for Bryan to apologize to Nathan for my ignorance back in 2008.

Since we are not on a fast track this morning, I thought I would make a special gift for Nathan to present on this trip--his own custom Extreme Croquet mallet.  You can see it in the photos.  It turned out to be a lot more work that I thought but it's done and it's righteous.  We can hardly wait to give it to him and apologize in person and then proceed to whip his anatomy in extreme croquet!

Note added  at about 1 pm--Been a real leisure rig today.  It's kind of a "dry run" for this coming Thursday, July 15 when we leave after lunch sometime.  Real casual--I like it!  We are turning off the computer now and will switch to Twitter.  Have a great weekend & Cheers!  J&S