Whalechaser's Musings

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park is more than just sand. This was the driving force behind my Fall 2011 trip to the Southwest.  Of all the National Parks, this one has always held a seductive attraction for me; maybe it was the desolation or the danger, maybe it was the heat or the shear fearsomeness of it  I am not sure exactly what it was, but I knew deep down in my bones that this was the year...no, had to be the year, that I go and do...in this land of extremes.

It got off to a bad start right from the beginning.  I originally signed up for a Road Scholar program that was to take place in early October and counted the days until I got the OK that the program was a go.  It was an ambitious program which was to include a flat water float on the Colorado, tours of Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, a pontoon boat ride on  Lake Powell, a brief stay in Henderson, Nevada (so I could get my Vegas fix) and then four days in Death Valley, actually staying at the Flint Creek Ranch Inn.  It sure was plenty to look forward to! It was cancelled very near to the start date due to lack of interest.  What a bummer!  So, I had to reshuffle.  Check out other programs and make one work for me.  I did, I made my own fun for a week getting out to Death Valley and got a full week of hiking in Death Valley while staying in the nearby town of Beatty, Nevada.  So I managed to get almost everything in my original program (plus a little more) but under very different circumstances.  I went the first week of November, which meant the weather would be very different.  In retrospect, that was a good thing, it was brisk at night and delightful during the day, which allowed for pure enjoyment without worry of sunburn, dehydration or a host of other nasties one could encounter closer to summer.

Several years ago a film called "The Bucket List" was popular and I for one really enjoyed it.  The story line was a bit far-fetched, but the spirit was solid.  Two guys who were both diagnosed with terminal illnesses got together and used the rich guys money to do outlandish things, a pre-composed list of stuff to do before you die. While some of the activities were adventurous and fulfilling in a way,  it was the relationship that developed between the two men that seemed to be the most rewarding.  It became very popular to say, "well, that's another thing I can scratch off my bucket list." It always struck me as a little cavalier...if I can do everything on my list, then I will have, sort of, cheated death.  Presumably, there would be nothing worthwhile left to do, so dying might be the better alternative.  So the idea of a bucket list, played in my mind and I fought it.  Just the idea of a list, that might have an end and then of course, the end...well it just didn't sit well with me.  Nevertheless, I knew, IF I had a bucket list, Death Valley would be on it. Little did I know I may have been flirting with my last hurrah.  For two years I have been monitoring what my pulmonologist calls a black fuzzy mass in my chest, it has been dormant...no changes, until this year.  Now it is morphing.  Taking more drastic steps, I had a bronchoscope  (go inside the lung and get biopsies) done hoping to finally determine what it is.  But still no answer.  At the end of this trip, I am going to have most of my lung removed.  My last hurrah indeed.

The first day of hiking was spent at the Mesquite Flat Dunes section of the park.  This is what I had envisioned the entire park to be composed of before my arrival; desert as far as the eye could see, dry, desolate and forbidding.  Well, yes, there is that but there is a whole lot more than just sand.  Having already been to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, I already knew what it takes to get to the top of a dune and what it looks like from that vantage point.  I decided to stay on the lower dunes and get some shots of the weather-beaten sand and the starkness of the landscape.
I was not the only one to opt for the lower, less-traveled road in the group
Another day was spent getting up close and personal with the salt flats, located at Badwater which is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation point in North America.  It is actually the remnants of a prehistoric salt lake that has been drying up at a dizzying pace.  Here I am holding a chunk of the salt that makes up the flats.  It is very hard, sharp and salty!

Another day was spent hiking through and around an area called Artists Pallette, the interplay of the sun on the multicolored surfaces can keep your imagination busy for hours.
Never let it be said that girls don't know how to have fun!  The three banditos were getting ready for their next heist while riding in the group van...
We took a walk on the boardwalk leading along Salt Creek Springs, then beyond and into the hills above the meandering salty creek that winds its way through the park.  Lots of water, but all salty.
Up in the hills the the Salt Creek seems tiny and the views were pretty remarkable
Another day we spent hiking in Mosaic Canyon, the beauty and awesomeness is really hard to describe.
On one particular hike we had to scale a wall to be able to continue the hike, it was called the Horse because it had foot stirrups and one had to straddle it, like a horse, to get over...
Ok, here I am, Death Valley.  It was all I thought it was and more.
Just a little curiosity for me...a fire plug, in the middle of the desert?  I just thought it was odd.
Another day was spent hiking Ubehebe Crater, some went down and up and around.  I went up and around, that was enough for me.
They don't put up any barriers to prevent you from taking the big dip into the crater, they put warning signs in universal language that even non-English speaking folks can understand!
This is an aerial view of the infamous Scotty's Castle.  There are so many stories about this place that it seems to take on a life of its own.  It was established during the gold rush and several people were taking advantage of each other during this opportune time.  I won't spoil the story but I will tell you, the tour is well worth your time, should you find yourself in Death Valley.  Fascinating!
In a ghost town outside of Death Valley, bicycle ghost riders in the sky...

Strolling the grounds of the Furnace Creek Ranch Inn, this is the only lush green you are likely to find in Death Valley.  The Inn was established by the old 20Mule Team Borax Company during the turn of the century, here is a delightful woman who also took the program.
Another canyon and another hike...it seems endless here.

Fitting, I think, to end the program with a shot of a beautiful full moon.  As the group was disbanding for the last time, several of the program leaders asked if I would like to come back next year and participate as a leader in any of the programs.  Would I?  You bet!  But answer had to be, we will have to wait and see what they find in my chest next week...this may be my last hurrah.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

Anyone who knows me, knows I couldn't come all this way and not spend some time in Las Vegas.  I actually tried to get a hotel on the strip but the prices were just crazy, I don't know what was going on in town that week but I was not about to pay those crazy prices.  They forced me to go elsewhere and I am really glad they did, because I never would have tried the Suncoast Hotel and Casino if I wasn't pushed into it!

I am a little surprised that I spent three days there and did not get any food pictures, nor casino pictures, I barely got a decent shot of my room. I may have to go back and make amends for my shortcomings!

I did eat at almost all the restaurants there and was very pleasantly surprised with the excellent quality and reasonable pricing; the Mexican restaurant, in particular, served Carne Asade that was exceptionally good and less than $10.00, pretty amazing.

This is looking out of my room, right to the golf course and beyond to  the mountains.  The view is much better than anything on the strip in my opinion!

It was a suite with a King bed, a huge TV and a separate living room area...way more than was needed for little ol' me.
I took one of the beautiful days to see the Red Rock Canyon,  and discovered that you really need more than a day or two here.  So many beautiful trails...some pretty strenuous, others not too much.  Definitely on my to do list next time...
So here is the REAL reason I stayed at the Suncoast, it was only a few miles from Trader Joes!  So I went in and got my fix of coffee, two buck chuck (which is now three bucks!) dunkers and a few other essentials

All in all, I have to say my visit to Vegas was very enjoyable!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona

I would have to say that this stop was one of the highlights of my trip.  It was actually one of the main reasons that I decided to go West this year.  I had seen so many photos of the canyon and I decided that it was something that I had to experience...in the flesh.  So I went and I have to say I was not disappointed.

Going during the first week of November had the positive that there was virtually no one there.  It was easy to get a picture without 15 other tourists in it!  The downside that I kept hearing about was that one could not get a photo with the sunlight streaming down just so...because the earth had already tilted so that the sunlight did not shine through the canyon wall the way it does in the summer.  A small trade off in my opinion; I am not the worlds greatest photographer anyway!

My tour guide Nate was nice enough to take this shot for me, and it looks like he got a little of that sunlight that everyone talks about! This is the Upper Antelope Canyon which one enters by walking in at ground level.  The distance has been compared to the length of a football field, of winding gorgeous canyon walls interrupted by openings to the sky occasionally.  Every bend offers a new wow vision...

this shot, without people, would likely be impossible in the summer!

This is the entry to the Lower Antelope Canyon, one enters from the top and gradually steps down some 70 to 80 feet, to walk through equally beautiful canyons.  The big difference here is that you
get to walk up a series of metal stairs in order to exit the canyon. It is difficult to say which is more beautiful the Upper or the Lower.  I like to say they are both beautiful and each offers a uniqueness worth seeing

After completing my walk throughs of the canyons, I took a short hike called Horseshoe Trail just outside of the city limits of Page.  The hike is not very strenuous and when you reach the lookout you must be extra careful since there are no barriers in place to prevent you from taking the big plunge.  If you have fear of falling or of heights, I caution you not to get to close to the edge.

I took this photo standing back a pretty good distance from the edge and held the camera way above my head and hoped for the best.  Not too bad, considering I could not see what I was doing!

On the hike out of Horseshoe overlook I came across this most interesting little Indian boy hopping from rock to rock.  He was having such a good time; I asked if I could take his picture and he posed for me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

No drive through the southwest is complete without a cruise through the Petrified Forest.  This is an ancient fossilized tropical forest that existed 225 million years ago in a shallow tropical ocean.  If you are silly enough to stay in your car and just drive the entire park, you will have missed everything.  There are many paved hiking loops that will allow you to easily get up close and personal with the many artifacts and petrified wood objects...which are still in their original positions after all these years.

At my first stop I thought it was interesting that they had a resident raven to enforce the "don't take anything "rule

in the background one can see the chunks of petrified wood scattered about the landscape as though someone tossed a handful of pebbles on the ground

Each piece of wood hardens and is colorized in a unique way.  Some of the surfaces have been polished smooth over the many years and are as reflective as a mirror would be.  I found the whole experience mesmerizing.

Below are somber beds of mudstone that were formed many years ago during the Chinle formation
here it appears that an entire tree had fallen and broken into a series of chunks, each hardened and beautiful.

Another unique advantage of this park is that there is a visitor center at each end, you can see the very informative film in either location; so if you miss the first one, you can catch the second!  I only allotted a few hours here, but I saw enough to make a mental note to stop again on my next southwest sojourn...there are so many places to hike here and all are unique.  If you are here in the summer bring tons of water and sunscreen!  Another advantage of traveling off-season!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

This is the beginning of my long awaited southwestern trip that should take me through a minimum of six states and quite a variety of landscapes and vistas.  I deliberately selected Amarillo to be my first stop because I recently discovered Palo Duro State Park which is located just 25 miles south.

I got up early on day two to be one of the first at the entrance gate.  I wanted to see as much as possible in the few hours that were allotted before I had to continue my journey.  The ranger spotted my bike and asked if I was planning on doing some mountain biking, yes I said and quickly added a request for the least challenging trail in the park.  I was told that would be Lighthouse trail and how to get there.  Jazzed for a good ride on a glorious day I hurried along to find the parking lot.  Along the way I was mesmerized by the canyons, red rocks and abundance of trees and other greenery.  This is a pretty well-kept secret...a beautiful canyon on par with the the Grand Canyon but on a much smaller scale and I had to do quite a bit of research before stumbling upon it.  I think I will be back in the not too distant future it is just too beautiful to see only once.
 I rode just a short distance and had to stop and get a couple of pictures.  The place is just so beautiful.  The trail started off nice and easy and shortly thereafter offered steep climbs, sharp turns and challenging drops.
I guess my lack of riding this year was very apparent when I approached a two foot drop and quickly looked for a way around.  Fortunately, there was a channel alongside for the chicken-hearted.  To my dismay, I somehow jammed my brakes mid-channel and went right over the handle-bars landing on my feet in a forward motion...if I had only kept running I would not have taken a front dive as if reaching for second base in a tight baseball play! So after only a few miles I decided that this was way too "risky behavior" for this early in the trip and decided to turn around and do a little walking instead.  It seemed the safest activity.  There is so much to see and do here that I will have to come back and spend four days or so to really be able to enjoy all it has to offer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

To Know or Not to Know

Suppose there was something big, really big...life-changing in fact, about to happen --- but the outcome could go several ways.

Would you want to know?

If you thought you were powerless to affect it in any way; would you still want to know?

Would you run to a psychic to see what they might offer you in the way of comfort?

Would you poke your head in the sand and plug along, waiting for the inevitable?

How about running away and pretending it just can't happen to you?

Would you busy yourself shoveling sand from one pile to another?

Would you let your imagination run wild with anticipated ecstasy or pain?

Would knowledge help?  Could you learn as much as you can about suspected change and how it could affect your life?

Would you change everything in your current world in anticipation of it?


Would you just enjoy life as it is and enjoy what you have up until it changes?

Just curious...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Digging for Diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

So, if I had a bucket list, which I don't, I suppose spending a day a Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas would be somewhere on it.  I know when I was planning to move to Arkansas, more than a few years ago, I was intrigued with this place.  Imagine it, open plowed fields from a defunct privately held diamond mining operation where one can search for and keep any diamonds found.  Many sizable ones have been found too!  The largest on record is the Uncle Sam diamond which was found in 1924 and weighed in at 40.23 carats. This year, so far, the largest recorded find is the Illusion Diamond which was 8.66 carats.  See, you get my drift...or sift...you can find really big stuff here!  But don't get too taken by the history...mostly what is found is pretty small, about the size of a match head

I arrived mid-afternoon Monday and registered at the visitors center...if you wait until 4:00PM you can buy a ticket for access to the field for today and tomorrow.  They give you your first hour free if you do it this way.  After pitching my tent, getting my stuff organized and having some lunch,

(never let it be said that camping has to be Spartan or unappetizing!)

I made my way back to the visitors center to be first in line for the the four o'clock rush.  Turned out it was a line of one...me.  Am I the only one that excited about this place?  Anyway, I went out and walked the fields and discovered it was pretty hot and the sun was quite strong.

I also noticed that there are three distinct ways of searching for diamonds.  The first, which is what I was doing is just walking around the field, poking here and there with a stick and picking up what you find.  The second way is dry sifting.  You bring or rent a sifting contraption, hand shovel and a bench of some sort, pick your spot and begin methodically sifting and looking for your treasure.  I quickly discovered that you get your dirt from one place and sift it into another place.  Don't mix them up or you will be working with the same dirt over and over again.  So I found a spot and started sifting first thing Tuesday morning

Here is the sifter that I rented.  I had not really sifted it enough to say there was nothing in that batch but I think you get the idea... try to get in down to pretty much all the small stuff, if a diamond is not waving at you, try again with another batch!

The third method is wet sifting.  That requires a 5 gallon bucket and a strong back.  You fill the bucket and bring it to the wet sifting stations located throughout the park. and begin a rather arduous task of dipping, turning, jiggling and continuing that for a bit.  Then when the stuff is arranged just so in your sifter, you bring it up and flip it over on a flat surface and see what has accumulated in the center of the batch.  It seems this is the most difficult and strenuous method.  Since the field was very dry I stuck with the dry sifting method.

Actually, before I headed down the the field to search for diamonds on Tuesday, I took a nice little hike on the Little Missouri River trail which is about 1.2 miles long and is half paved and half single track. It was quite enjoyable and I had the entire place to myself!

There were a couple of these bridges over what was supposed to be a small stream, but with the very dry summer that we have had it was just over a dry gully.

When I got to the Little Missouri I frightened a Blue Heron and noticed a gaggle of ducks on the other side of the river out for a morning swim.  Very nice.

I did not find any diamonds.  I did find quite a bit of Jaspar, which is a brownish, smooth almost creamy stone.  Anyway, I was there for the fun of it and I sure did have plenty of that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Great Whale Story

I saw this at Dawg Run and had to copy it here.  It is after all, "right up my alley"  thanks Dawg Run for informing me about this incredible story!  You will feel fabulous after seeing this, I promise.

An Amazing Story Worth 8 Minutes of Your Time

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garden Snakes can be Dangerous

Stolen from Melissa Bratton

Snakes also known as Garter Snakes (Thamnophissirtalis) can be dangerous. Yes, grass snakes, not rattlesnakes. Here's why.

A couple in Sweetwater , Texas , had a lot of potted plants. During a recent cold spell, the wife was bringing a lot of them indoors to protect them from a possible freeze. It turned out that a little green garden grass snake was hidden in one of the plants. When it had warmed up, it slithered out and the wife saw it go under the sofa.

She let out a very loud scream. The husband (who was taking a shower) ran out into the living room naked to see what was the problem. She told him there was a snake under the sofa.

He got down on the floor on his hands and knees to look for it. About that time the family dog came and cold-nosed him on the behind. He thought the snake had bitten him, so he screamed and fell over on the floor.

His wife thought he had had a heart attack, so she covered him up, told him to lie still and called an ambulance. The attendants rushed in, would not listen to his protests, loaded him on the stretcher, and started carrying him out.

About that time, the snake came out from under the sofa and the Emergency Medical Technician saw it and dropped his end of the stretcher. That's when the man broke his leg and why he is went to the hospital.

The wife still had the problem of the snake in the house, so she called on a neighbor who volunteered to capture the snake. He armed himself with a rolled-up newspaper and began poking under the couch. Soon he decided it was gone and told the woman, who sat down on the sofa in relief. But while relaxing, her hand dangled in between the cushions, where she felt the snake wriggling around. She screamed and fainted, the snake rushed back under the sofa.

The neighbor man, seeing her lying there passed out, tried to use CPR to revive her. The neighbor's wife, who had just returned from shopping at the grocery store, saw her husband's mouth on the woman's mouth and slammed her husband in the back of the head with a bag of canned goods, knocking him out and cutting his scalp to a point where it needed stitches.

The noise woke the woman from her dead faint and she saw her neighbor lying on the floor with his wife bending over him, so she assumed that the snake had bitten him. She went to the kitchen and got a small bottle of whiskey, and began pouring it down the man's throat. By now, the police had arrived.

Breathe here...

They saw the unconscious man, smelled the whiskey, and assumed that a drunken fight had occurred. They were about to arrest them all, when the women tried to explain how it all happened over a little garden snake! The police called an ambulance, which took away the neighbor and his sobbing wife.

Now, the little snake again crawled out from under the sofa and one of the policemen drew his gun and fired at it. He missed the snake and hit the leg of the end table. The table fell over, the lamp on it shattered and, as the bulb broke, it started a fire in the drapes. The other policeman tried to beat out the flames, and fell through the window into the yard on top of the family dog who, startled, jumped out and raced into the street, where an oncoming car swerved to avoid it and smashed into the parked police car.

Meanwhile, neighbors saw the burning drapes and called in the fire department. The firemen had started raising the fire ladder when they were halfway down the street. The rising ladder tore out the overhead wires, put out the power, and disconnected the telephones in a ten-square city block area (but they did get the house fire out).

Time passed! Both men were discharged from the hospital, the house was repaired, the dog came home, the police acquired a new car and all was right with their world. A while later they were watching TV and the weatherman announced a cold snap for that night. The wife asked her husband if he thought they should bring in their plants for the night.

And that's when he shot her.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It Just Looks So Wrong

It was one of those "suped" up motorcycles...the front wheel was stretched out about 12 feet from the seat. He actually managed to get a piece of two spots and the area with the yellow diagonal lines.  I did not hang around to see the disabled person retrieve it, I doubt he was...at least physically.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Caught in the Act...

It all started out innocently enough; I thought I would go and get gas for the lawn mower, since I would be needing it soon and also get some onions for the chicken and dumplings I planned on making.  That was it, just a quick loop with two stops I should have been back in a jiffy.

I got to the new Walmart Market and got my onions, and some nice romaine lettuce for a salad.  A quick turn around and I was at the gas station, but the place was packed.  Sometimes that happens, but certainly not at the more expensive place in town.  OK, two pumps are down and the rest (8) seem to be occupied.  Two loops around looking for anyone leaving soon and I found my spot.  Red can in hand I make friends with the pump, at least I tried to.

But that pump wasn't having any of it!  It licked my credit card, winked at me, offered me several types of gas, but when I squeezed the pump so gently...nothing happened.  That continued for several minutes.  A new guy pulled in on the other side of the pump and I wished him luck getting any gas for HIS red can.  He said the pumps had been slow several days ago; it took five minutes or so.  With that he took his can and walked to other pumps hoping for better luck!  I told him this wasn't the only game in town, and took off for another station.

So three minutes later I had my red can full and saved a big 3 cents a gallon in the process.  Got in the car and decided to take the back roads home instead of the busier main road.  That is when it happened.  Turtle.

Right there in the road a turtle not going very far or fast.  Argh...I hate that.  I took a chance and stopped the car right there in the middle of the road, got out and picked up the little guy and placed him on the other side (the direction he was heading) and quickly got back in the car...no traffic yet! 

As I was getting in, I spotted a couple walking toward me in the street.  He said "I'm glad you did that", yes I said, I hate when I see turtles in the street.  His friend said what?  he explained and by then they were next to Mr. Turtle, he said "poor guy".

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Briar Rose Cafe, Farmington, Arkansas

Never let it be said that God doesn't hear and answer your prayers.   In case you are not from here...(OMG I am starting to sound like the natives!!!) I should tell you first that it has been hot. REALLY HOT!!!! FOR A LONG TIME!!!!

That of course means that I cannot make my own bread 'cause you'd have to be nuts to turn on the oven in this heat! But I really do like my own baked bread and I haven't been able to find a place that makes something close to mine. That is, until now. A friend just happened to mention this new bakery/deli in the town next to me.

A couple of weeks ago I went to check it out. My friend said that their Sourdough bread is very close to being in San Francisco. I had my doubts. But I went and looked and felt like a kid in a candy store! They have so much good stuff that I have to ration my visits; that, or seriously consider a new wardrobe!

They have so many kinds of bread, that I haven't yet gotten to the sourdough, since I have been trying all my other favorites. So I have purchased several kinds of bread and they were all fabulous

Like right here, I had a BLTA on a Cibiatta roll (bacon lettuce tomato and avocado) and as you can see a spare cibiatta loaf and a french loaf just in case I get hungry on the way home. Oh, this is bad...very, very, bad.

Oh, the name again is
Briar Rose Cafe
right there on main street in
Farmington, Arkansas

479 300 6027

Oh, they have fabulous desserts, sandwiches and chicken pot pies...did I mention I started a gym membership just to be able to go here often?  I did.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Doing Without

Last Thursday the morning seemed to slip away from me before I realized how late it was getting.  What drove that fact home was the fact that my morning shower was not as warm as usual...I waited too long and wound up taking my shower outside of the pre-selected "on times" for my water heater.  I learned soon after I moved here to put a timer on my water heater or pay dearly every month for hot water that I wasn't using.  So, I have learned to take care of certain things early in the day.

 I was out for the day so it wasn't until I started to clean my dinner dishes that I noticed, again, that the water wasn't very warm.  I went to check the water heater and the pilot light seemed to be out.  Finished up the dishes after heating some water and then I proceeded to read the manual on how to start the water heater.  Of course, I read the instructions right there in front of the water heater in the garage; it was only 98 degrees at the time.  Sweat was dripping down my face when, with my newly acquired water heater knowledge, I went through the process of turning off and then turning on, step by step, my water heater.  Nothing.

I tried it again...still nothing.  So now I have to find a ...well at that point I wasn't sure what I needed.  Did I need a heating and a/c guy or did I need a plumber, jeez this home ownership is not the fun it is cracked up to be!  OK, I decided I needed a plumber, at least in the telephone book plumbers advertise that they repair water heaters, so I went with that.  I wasn't getting any warm fuzzies from any of the ads though, so I decided to search for a plumber online.  I found a couple pretty quickly and then looked a little further for recommendations.  It didn't take long to zero in on what seemed to be a good one.   I  made the call and left a message and hoped I would hear back soon. 

I did and the plan was for him to stop by the next morning; he said he would have to rearrange his schedule though, so he would call me as he started the trip to my place.  I was feeling pretty good that I was able to put things together so quickly.  I got up early and quickly took a cold shower and waited for that call.  It came at 7:50 AM, I was pretty happy with the way things were coming together.

Tommy took the cover off the opening to the heater and doodled with the pilot light.  it didn't work for him either.  I was feeling a little satisfaction, at least I got that part right!  So he doodled some more and disassembled the auto pilot mechanism and said he would have to drive some 30 miles to a supplier to get the part. 

He assured me he could be back in time to fix it before I had to leave at 11:30. He said he had to get it done before I left because he was going away with his wife this weekend. So I was still feeling pretty good about the way things were going.

But about an hour later Tommy called and said "You sure aren't going to like what I am about to tell you"...he said the supply house did not have the part and would not have it till Monday.  Now under normal circumstances I would have said something to show my anger or dissatisfaction but surprisingly I responded "Well, there is only one thing I can say."  "Have a good weekend."  He chuckled a little and I could hear the sound of surprise in his voice when he said he would see me on Monday.

Saturday while I was making coffee and gazing out the kitchen window, it occurred to me that the garden hose had been sitting in the sun for several hours and the first couple of gallons of water would likely be hot or very warm.  I grabbed a couple of big bowls and filled them up with very nice warm water.  Took them into the shower and proceeded to take a makeshift shower that wasn't bad at all.  I was amazed that I could shower this way and use about a gallon of water.  This was decidedly better than using the cold water straight from the shower head.  Actually, my hot water needs are not so great and my work arounds  were more than adequate for what I needed to do.  Laundry was not on my schedule for a couple of more days.  I had the chance to reflect on  some ideas  that I read about in a book titled "A guide to the Good Life" by William Irvine.  This is a book about stoicism and among the principles that are discussed is deliberately doing without something, that we might normally take for granted.  For example, deliberately taking a cold shower, or walking to the store instead of driving or doing without some modern convenience by choice. The idea being, if one does this by choice and in enough instances, should a difficult time come to pass where our comforts are no longer available for us, it will have  less of an impact on our tranquility.

I think I actually experienced that this weekend.  The water heater was not fixed until Tuesday; it was five days without hot water, but using the idea of a makeshift shower and heating the water for washing dishes was really simple and easy to do.  It was not a big deal and now that it is fixed I feel a certain confidence in knowing that I am not as dependent  as I thought I was.  My tranquility was pretty much undisturbed for the whole five days.  I suppose when one can go through life facing the trials and tribulations without having tranquility disturbed, that would be called success.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


With these really hot summer days coming so early in the season, I decided I needed something to do while hugging my air conditioner...I thought I would buy myself a jigsaw puzzle.  It's been years since I've worked on one and they were always a borderline addiction for me.  I have made the process a lot easier than it was in the old days.  Now, I have good lighting...that in itself takes about 40% of the challenge away.  I have a coffee table with a surface that is 'liftable' so the entire puzzle comes closer to the arms and eyeballs.  Another 20% reduction in the original challenge.  I put my meditation cushion on the sofa and I no longer experience back strain.  So it is almost a snap now.  Almost.

I set the thing up about a week and a half ago, first putting a large folded cardboard box on the table surface, making it large enough to hold all the pieces.  Then, with some difficulty, I started looking for the edge pieces; the trouble started when I discovered that the cardboard box was not quite big enough.  I still had half a bag of pieces and the surface was pretty full.  So I tumbled the pieces in the bag and looked for the straight sides...and found a few.  I started putting it together; that is when the real challenge started.

My bird flew over for a visit and discovered that he landed in bird heaven.  There he stood among the pieces, and while his face is made up mostly of beak, feathers and eyeballs, I swear I saw a smile grow on his face.  In a flash he had a piece in his mouth, he gave me look as though to say "ha!  Catch me if you can I'm outta here!"

So my quiet puzzle time became an exercise routine, chasing the bird and puzzle piece through the house.  He finally dropped it when he had enough play, then returned to his cage to look in the mirror as though absolutely nothing had happened.  Since that day, I have religiously covered the puzzle with a blanket to avoid further incidents like that.  I have worked on the puzzle little bits at a time and yesterday almost finished the frame.  It seems as though I am missing about three or so errant pieces.

Time will tell, of course, if I missed a few when I was gathering the edges or if Mr. Birdie has made off with them!  So now the question is:  Why did I spend so much time finding a picture that I thought was worthy of actually gluing and mounting in a picture frame?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Interesting History Lesson...

Thanks to Mellisa Bratton for allowing me to steal this from her!

We older people need to learn something new every day..
Just to keep the grey matter tuned up.

Where did "Piss Poor" come from?
Interesting History.
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot
And then once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery...
.if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor".
But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot...
They "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature
Isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some facts about the 1500s

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May,
And they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell,
Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.
The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water,
Then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children.
Last of all the babies.
By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.
Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath.
It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals
(mice, bugs) lived in the roof.
When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.
Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.
This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings
Could mess up your nice clean bed.
Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection.
That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.
Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery
In the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing.
As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door,
It would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way.
Hence: a thresh hold.

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.
Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables
And did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers
In the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.
Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.
Hence the rhyme:
“Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old”.
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.
When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off.
It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon."
They would cut off a little to share with guests
And would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter.
Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food,
causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes,
so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status.
Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle,
and guests got the top, or the upper crust.
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky.
The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days.
Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around
and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.
Hence the custom; “of holding a wake”.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people.
So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.
When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks
on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.
So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin
and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.)
to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be,
“saved by the bell” or was “considered a dead ringer”.

And that's the truth.
Now, whoever said History was boring!!!
So get out there and educate someone! ~~~
Share these facts with a friend.
Inside every older person is a younger person wondering,
'What the heck happened?'

We'll be friends until we are old and senile.
Then we'll be new friends.
it gives your face something to do!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ponca to Kyles Landing, Buffalo River -- Arkansas

The trip was planned for some time and as it got closer and closer I was sure that we would have to cancel it because of all the rain we've been having, but the rain Gods and Goddesses smiled on us. They gave us the only non rainy day in a string of ten or so to enjoy our outing on the Buffalo River. This particular section was new to me. Last year I paddled from Steel Creek to Buffalo City for a total of about 122 miles, but we missed this section due to low water last year, so I can now say I have paddled the full 131 miles of the Buffalo River.

We used the Lost Valley Canoe Outfitter in Ponca. The approach was a little different than usual. We drove to the put in point and they took the car and left it at Kyles Landing for us at the take out point. That makes it really easy when you are finished you can just get in the car and go. There is no waiting for a shuttle bus to bring you back to your car, pretty neat I thought.

We all opted for kayaks and I for one was surprised that Otters were as short as 6 feet; it made for a slightly more unstable float than I expected, but they are so easy to maneuver we didn't give it any more thought. The current in many places was stronger than I was used to and I found myself swamped once in deep and rushing water. I wasn't the only one to take a dunk, we all did at least once but there was no real danger. We were able to get to shore pretty quickly in most cases and we all appreciated the temperature of the water on a warm day!

Here is the group Cat, Tom and Jill enjoying the first pretty rock formation after starting our float trip

You never know where along the way you will find a pretty waterfall, this one went way back in the woods and was very pretty to look at from the river

Here is my friend Cat floating down a ripply rapid, it didn't take long for all of us to scope out the rapids and if all was well the paddle went up in a horizontal position for the others to see and enjoy their turn!

Here is Jill, she has found yet another waterfall.  The sounds were delightful!

We found our way to Kyles Landing a little later than I anticipated, but still plenty of daylight and were very happy to switch into dry clothes.  We all got in the car and headed out and that is when our perfect day began to unravel.  The road to Kyles Landing is very steep, dirt and because of all the recent rains was graded and graveled that day.   My little car was unable to negotiate the hill.  I got about halfway up and the car just stopped.  It was like driving in snow, that was absolutely no traction.  I tried backing down the hill, got a good head start and tried speeding up the hill, but still could not do it.

Stuck out there I really did not know what to do.  I had no cell signal so I could not call AAA. Others with 4 wheel drive could barely make it so it was not likely that anyone was going to give us a tow.  After about 45 minutes, the outfitter had returned after bringing the canoes and kayaks back to the office.  He had a friend with him that does mountain-climbing.  What a fortunate turn of events, he had plenty of rope (that does not stretch when tension is applied) so he threaded it three times through the two tow loops on the front of my car, and shaped it into a triangle, so the chain with a hook could be attached.  Then they and I drove up the hills.  It was pretty scary since I was only a couple of feet from the pickup truck

But it worked and in practically no time at all we were on our way for a well deserved dinner.
The very next day I read in the paper that this very road was going to be posted that 4 wheel drive vehicles only were to be allowed on it since the grading had made it so treacherous !
Those fellows from Lost Valley Canoe, sure saved my skin that day and I appreciate that they were able to help me out of that nasty predicament!