Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My "Rite of Passage"

I started hearing about how difficult the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Examination was in my junior year of college. While I was pretty sure I would end up being a CPA, I started my University education with the idea that I would be an accountant, just an accountant. At that time I thought a CPA was an accountant with a label; I did not understand the significance of the letters. As I worked harder and harder to get through the four years of education that earned me the right to sit for the examination, I began to realize that it really is a significant professional defining factor; one worth the effort.

That effort is no small change either -- four years of specialized education -- each year built on the previous one and becoming successively more difficult. I selected a university that was known for its ability to train students to successfully complete the two and a half day, four part examination…on the first attempt. You may not understand the power of that statement. The statistics that had been maintained on first time successes indicated that only 10 to 15 percent who take all four parts pass it the first time. That is the sentence that made me realize how difficult my choice was becoming. This University actually used the current national Certified Public Accountant Examination as their final examination of those underlying classes in the senior year. That was and remains incredibly intimidating.

The national examination is offered twice a year: May and October; good for the January or May graduates. Things got so bad, that at the beginning of the second and last semester of my senior year, I seriously thought about dropping out. The work load was just breaking my spirit. Somehow, I managed to tough it out and completed all the requirements. My confidence was building when I passed three of the four parts of the final exam that year. I knew if I just kept studying through the summer, I had a good chance of passing all four parts in October. That’s how I spent every free waking moment until just weeks before the exam date.

The folks I worked with didn’t make it any easier either. The CPA certificate is issued to a person who has passed all four parts of the exam with a grade of 75% or better and has two years of experience working for a public accounting firm in selected activities. It was made very clear that if you were unable to pass the exam within the work experience period, chances were good that you would be let go. So I was working hard to get the written part out of the way as soon as possible.

It was the middle of September when I got the Jury summons; it required me to report to the county seat for two weeks. If during the two weeks, I was selected for a trial I would be free to go back to work, after completing that service. I looked at it like a gift. Two weeks that I could have uninterrupted review work to refresh my knowledge just before the exam which would take place the second week of October. So I notified my employer and got ready for final review.

The first couple of days were uneventful; I just sat in the huge room and studied. Some people had been called but not much. Then I noticed something big was going on. The juror pool was 300 strong and I noticed that groups of 50 people were being called methodically, every 30 to 45 minutes. I was not yet selected but the scuttlebutt indicated that there was a really big case about to start and the jurors would come from the pool I was in. I thought it would be really cool to be on an important case. I packed up my study materials and started to watch what was happening. Within the next hour another group was called. I was in it.

It was big all right, an organized crime guy that was finally up on charges that very well could stick. The importance of it didn’t register right away. Actually it registered when I found myself sitting in jury seat number 9 and all the attorney challenges had been made. It wasn’t final yet, but I was beginning to realize that I was sitting on the jury for the biggest trial in recent history. An organized crime trial; my mind was racing with incidents from the Godfather. I started to understand; I was sure I didn’t want to do this and my mind scrambled for an acceptable way out. The judge was talking to the attorneys, everything was in place it seemed only one more question before everyone on this jury was on and ready to be sequestered until the trial was done. Oh, Lord, I need a good excuse but what?

The question to the jury: Is there any reason why anyone on the jury cannot sit for this trial that is expected to run for ten to twelve weeks?

I almost jumped out of my seat; waving my hand I asked to be excused. I approached the bench to ask to be excused since the trial would still be going on when I had to take the CPA exam. The judge asked a little about it so I explained how the whole thing worked and how hard I had been studying. He responded almost instantly that I could be excused and I was greatly relieved; then the defending attorney commented that they offer it twice a year don’t they? You could sit for it in May next year isn’t that so? My mind was going crazy..oh, no….I’m ready now. Don’t make me sit through this and study for another year.

Yes, they offer it twice a year. What else could I say? The judge nodded and said very well, you are juror number 9. I could swear my life passed before my eyes but I accepted my fate. Juror number 9 it is. Just as I was ready to turn and return to my seat the prosecuting attorney asked that I be excused and the judge agreed. I guess he thought I was not able to give the case the attention it deserved. The emotional roller coaster was over. I was never so thankful in my life.

So on October 7 I began the three day exam; 21 hours of testing. The only thing allowed in the testing room is a pencil and eraser, no calculator, no phone, no book, nothing. It was grueling and while I thought I gave it a good shot, I was not entirely sure that I passed all parts. I wouldn’t know until late December or early January. There was nothing to do then but wait and see.

December started with a lot of activity since it is year end for a lot of companies and that means lots of work for auditors. I was quite busy and thankful that I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about the results of the exam. Two weeks before Christmas I went shopping with my mother. It was a good way to take my mind off the job pressures and ready myself for the upcoming holiday. We were happy that we took care of most of our gift list and wouldn’t have to fight the crowds again this year. I dropped her off at the house and watched her walk up the front steps to the door, backed out of the driveway and went home. I wouldn’t know until several hours later that an electrical fire in the house destroyed everything in the house, killed her pets and even the gifts we just bought were gone.

She stayed at our place until the house was rebuilt. It took a long time for her to feel comfortable there again. It was probably good that I was sent on several out of town assignments and not there to add any more pressure to the situation. During the third week of January I was in a suburb of Boston on assignment; that’s when I got the news.
I had called home to see if everything was alright and I could hear my mother in the background saying: did you tell her? I thought she was talking about her house problems but no...it was just one piece of paper with four lines on it; theory, practice, law and auditing and four numbers…all higher than 75 printed by a computer and hand-written on the diagonal across the face of the document, was the word SUCCESSFUL. Could anything be sweeter?
All rights reserved
Ellen Thompson

Friday, August 29, 2008

Potash Road Drive

For our final bike outing for this month we rode 21 miles on Potash Road also known as State Route 279. It is known for its Dinosaur tracks, American Indian rock-art sites and an arch (Jug Handle. Watch for the signs. The scenery from the terraces and benches high above the Colorado River is outstanding. The road is relatively flat and if you leave early enough in the morning, you can have shade for a good portion of the ride...by 11:00 AM the road is pretty much all sun and warm...95 or so in August.
Here are some of the shots I got of the Jug Handle Arch and petroglyphs: (you may want to double click the photos to get a better view)

At the end of the maintained road was a potash mine facility, along side was a railroad track. Below is a picture of a regular pick-up truck, fitted so it can ride the rails. It is inspecting the track for anomalies.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Arches National Park, revisited

We toured the park again today specifically to see the Devils Garden section and related arches, since we could not do all the arches when we were here the other day. This particular section has longer and more strenuous hikes so we knew we had to give it more time than was available to us then.
We got an early and cool start and saw Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Landscape Arch and Wall Arch. THEN the trail got nasty and steep, so much so, that I opted out and waited for Chuck to go up, out and back.

I waited by the recently collapsed Wall Arch for as long as the section was in the shade; then headed back to the start point.

But notice how steep the trail is just next to the collapsed arch, that was only the beginning of steepness, Chuck said it got much worse once past that section and on to Double O Arch (so I guess my decision to pass was probably the best one...I really have trouble with heights)

I went on back to the starting point and sat at a picnic table and wouldn't you know that I would have a visitor!?

This was a pretty long but innocuous snake that almost went right over my shoe while I was at the table.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Colorado River Rafting

We took a one day rafting trip down the Colorado with the Moab Adventure Center. We met at 8 and took a bus to the put in point which was just above Hittle Bottom. The river felt pretty cold when we started, but before too long ( maybe 1.5 hours) I tested it again and found it to be just right. so int o the water I went (with my personal floatation device) and proceeded to have a great time frolicking in the water and swimming around the raft. It turned out to be a perfect day, and the water never felt cold.

At one or so we stopped at Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge for a wonderful bar-b-que lunch buffet that was the best rafting lunch I have ever had. This alone would make me want to use this company again, since they were the only one to offer this kind of lunch.

We proceeded down the river after lunch and got a few small white water waves, but for me it was the swimming in the river that made it so perfect...I would highly recommend this outfitter and this particular tour, it is well worth it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Biking Mishaps and more

Today we biked from the hotel to Arches National Park, which is about 7 miles distance, we continued on a little beyond the park entrance and then turned around to complete our outing for the day. I thought it a bit odd that for the return portion, which suddenly had the breeze in my face, I was having difficulty getting over 9 mph on a downhill stretch...then there was that incessant squeaking. All the signs added up to what I suspected; I had a flat. So Chuck went back to the hotel to get the van so he could pick me up.

I found a postage stamp sized piece of shade at the end of the Arches NP sign, so sat there and waited. Here's the pictorial story

Do you believe that the cause was just a little sticker barb?!

And look...I had company
We saw some really nice deadwood in Canyonlands too!
Here is one of the more dramatic overlooks at Canyonlands; those curvy lines are switchback red gravel roadbeds winding their way to the bottom

Nobel Peace Prize runner up Irene Sendler

Just a story of another unsung hero...

May 12 marked the death of a 98-year-old lady named Irena.

During WWII, Irena received permission from the Nazis to work in the Warsaw ghetto as a plumbing/sewer specialist.

She had an ulterior motive...

Being German, she knew the Nazis' plans for the Jews and smuggled infants out in the bottom of the large tool box she carried. Larger children were placed in a burlap sack in the back of her truck. Also in the back was a dog that she had trained to bark each time the Nazi guards allowed her out of the ghetto and back in.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog, and its barking covered any
noise made by the infants and small children. Irena managed to smuggle out approximately 2,500 children before she was finally caught. When she was captured, the Nazis beat her severely, breaking both her arms and her legs.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the children she smuggled out of that Warsaw ghetto and kept them in a glass jar buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents who may have survived so she might reunite the child with its family. Most, of course, did not survive the Holocaust, and the vast majority of the surviving children were placed in foster homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but she lost to Al Gore, who won the award for presenting a slide show on Global Warming.

True story. Check it out at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Negro Bill Canyon

Negro Bill Canyon was named after William Granstaff, a black prospector and rancher who grazed his cattle here during the late 1800s. It is a lovely canyon, cut into the Navajo Sandstone by a small, perennial stream that begins about six miles from the southern shore of the Colorado River. The trail winds along the stream through an oasis of cottonwood and willow trees, cut off from the desert above by towering sandstone cliffs; there is also an abundance of poison ivy growing in several healthy clumps along the trail, be careful!

Like all good hikes, this one also has a reward at the end. Morning Glory Natural Bridge spans the head of one of Negro Bill’s side canyons at the end of the trail. According to Bureau of Land Management statistics, Morning Glory is the sixth largest natural bridge in the United States. It’s span is 243 feet.

The trail is 4.5 miles round trip and we crossed the stream 8 times; so water accommodating shoes should be worn to do this hike.
In 1979 Negro Bill Canyon gained a great deal of notoriety over an action of the so called “Sagebrush Rebellion”. The Bureau of Land Management, wanting to study the canyon as a possible wilderness area, placed a barrier at its entrance to keep out recreational vehicles. This infuriated a group of local anti-wilderness activists who, with the help of the Grand County commissioners, bulldozed down the barrier. The county commissioners then publicly declared that the county, not the federal government, owned the canyon, and when another barrier was erected it was again bulldozed down. The conflict was resolved only after a lawsuit was filed against Grand County in the U.S. district court.
Here are our takeaways...
Me at the start of the trail
One of the 8 stream crossings

Chuck hiking over a large rock formation
A lovely desert flower along the trail
Morning Glory Arch...243 feet long, with Chuck in the foreground
A repeler coming down from Morning Glory Arch and landing close to a natural spring under the arch...you just never know what you will find when you go hiking

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Arches, National Park

We visited Arches National Park today. It seems all of the visitors centers are being remodeled. This one was finished a few years ago and it is quite nice. The film that was presented was put together by the Discovery Channel and was (as usual) very informative. We saw the film AFTER taking our hike at Delicate Arch. The weather here has been quite warm so it is best to get your strenuous activities done by 11AM if possible.
Besides doing the driving tour through the park we hiked to Delicate Arch, Skyline arch and Balanced Rock. The most stunning in my opinion was Delicate Arch, but be warned, the hike out and back totals 3 strenuous miles and is not for the faint of heart! (Particularly in 98 degree heat)
Here are some shots of the day
This is delicate arch

Here I am in the arch...I finally made it! click to enlarge and see me!

I just love this one...looks like a guy from Easter island and a martian getting together
This is Skyline Arch, just a few hundred yard from the road
And, of course, dinner at Fiesta Mexicana Restaurant, Moab, Utah. 435-259-4366. Here you make your own combination dinner platters, priced by having one, two or three items. What I liked best is, if you choose beef, you can have it ground (Chuck had it this way) or shredded (I had it this way) and it was delicious. My meat was marinated and in tender chunks, I ordered only two items a chimichanga and a chalupa; even though I was really hungry, I had trouble finishing the entire meal
Chuck ordered a three item platter and he managed (with difficulty) to finish it all!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway

We took the scenic route to Moab from Cedaredge; instead of route 70 we took route 50 and meandered along route 141 to 90 and on up to Moab, Utah. The route 141 is a section of a better known scenic route known as the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway which is a 133-mile-long open loop drive traverses western Colorado’s lonely plateau country, threading through Unaweep Canyon and following deep canyons along the Dolores and San Miguel rivers.

Along the way we found the newly developed Gateway Canyons just outside of the town of Gateway. Here you will find everything you could possibly need in a seemingly desolated area: General Store, motel, restaurant, spa, automobile museum, horseback riding, kayaking, biking and a lot more.
Here is a photo I took from the property looking out on a beautiful red rock formation.
Later on, we discovered many beautiful canyons and red rocks and of course the Dolores River, here is Chuck standing atop the edge of one of the canyons
Here is the canyon, it was just beautiful.

Pioneer Village and Museum, Cedaredge, Colorado

We visited the
Pioneer Village and Museum
located here in Cedaredge, Colorado on Friday. It is very nicely done. The buildings and wooden walkways were constructed by volunteers and continue to be run by volunteers of the community at large.

They not only have items that are in excellent condition; they also have lots of signs and handouts showing how they were used and what was being produced. For example they had three rebuilt silos, which 'back in the day' held food for farm animals. But the restored structures today held other items. In the first one was a series of mechanical washing machines; each one seemed to be a bit more 'advanced' than the previous. See for yourself...

Here is one of the three silos...
Various washing machines of the day

Don't forget to iron!

We saw a bunch of other stuff; here is the doctors office. He was also the optometrist.
There was an arrowhead artifact building as well and I saw some interesting stones used to grind corn and other grains
What village would be complete without one of these?
Here is an old piece of farm equipment

Friday, August 22, 2008

Glenwood Springs Rafting

We rafted the Colorado River through the Roaring Fork tributary and over the newly build kayak park on the Colorado. We had viewed the river many times from the bike path and the road as we traversed the area over the last two visits. We thought it might be nice to see it from the water. it was a good trip with enough white water to keep us wet and happy. Our guide, Betty, of Glenwood Canyon Rafting was superb and very experienced. Alas, I could take no pictures since I don't have a waterproof camera, but I am sure Chuck will have plenty at his site.

After the rafting, we bid adieu to Glenwood Springs and headed for Cedaredge, Colorado, to visit with Wilma and Mark before heading out to Canyonlands and Arches national Parks.

Along the way we went to Grand Junction for a quick ride on the bike trail there; it was 93 degrees and beastly hot, but we managed a 10 mile trip before calling it quits. I spotted 3 blue heron along the path, aptly named Blue Heron Trail.

We met Wilma and Mark and had a quick burger at the Grille before going to a great performance by Lucille Kelly on both the Dulcimer and the Autoharp.

She has so much talent; playing classical, country, Irish Jigs and Reels. She also sang a saw to the tune Home on the Range, which had me in stitches. If this lady is ever performing in your area, I strongly suggest attending. She is fabulous!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tatry Polish Food and Hot Springs Pool Glenwood Sprinngs

We went to the Glenwood Springs famous Hot Springs Pool today. There is a mineral thermal pool which is maintained at 104 degrees for therapeutic purposes, which we started our day with. Only for ten minutes or so though; more than that would have the effect of lowering my blood pressure too much. We moved on down the property to the deep end of the mineral pool. This one is kept at 90 degrees or so...all year long. It must be so cool to be here in the winter with deep snow all around and a nice warm pool to play in.

We also played on the water slides, just sat in the sun and swam a bit in the deep end.

Here is a picture I got from yesterday bike ride along the Colorado River. It's a group rafting through the white water along the path. We will do our own version tomorrow.

For dinner today we went to a new Polish restaurant called Tatry/Uncle Pizza and is located next to the Caravan Inn. They had lots of pizza and sandwich items on the menu to keep the American appetites satisfied. They also had quite a number of Polish dishes including Pork Cordon Bleu (snitel) This is a tenderized pork cutlet wrapped around ham, cheese and mushrooms which is deep fried, Chuck had this for dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and it was very tasty.
I had the Golumbke, which was also very tasty.