By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, May 02 2018 - 5:13 pm
July 31, 2018
Highlights of our July:
A wonderful visit with family in Pennsylvania, during which we saw an adorable fawn that seemed to be trying to coax us out of the car to play
Watching from our balcony a sparrow hawk fly into a maple tree, scaring a dozen sparrows out the other side. He caught one, although I didn't realize it until he landed on a telephone pole and started plucking feathers from between his feet. A few minutes into his meal, a mockingbird started divebombing the hawk. Sometimes he almost made contact, but the hawk did not quit eating. He must have made fifteen passes before he gave up.
And we complain about a pesky fly at a picnic!
One show we missed was a hailstorm with giant bigger-than-golf ball offerings that, according to our neighbors, damaged every vehicle in the lot.
Farewell, July! I would say it's been a pleasure, but, sadly, we lost one of our neighbors yesterday. She had lived in one or the other of these buildings for twenty-five years.
July 30, 2018
My partner and I were discussing the state of the Union this morning (ha, ha, I figured I better capitalize that) and he made an interesting observation. A lot of the same folks who are big on patriotism for our nation are also hugely for states' rights.
Aren't those usually contradictory sentiments?
July 19, 2018
We spent the afternoon in Nanticoke, an old coal-mining town which may have been the dwelling place of one of my partner's great-grandfathers.
There is a great historical society there, represented today by John Sherrick, a local actor who is a great raconteur. Not only did he guide us to a former Lithuanian church (now on sale as a home for a mere half million dollars) but he helped us with some data bases for searching mine deaths and other statistics.
Nanticoke is an old town with some positively tortuous roads and lots of points of interest, but when we asked for motels and hotels, our GPS steered us to Wilkes-Barre. There is a fine Indian restaurant, Lett's Eat a Taste of India, and we had a new idea for a basis for finding a place to spend the night.
Find a restaurant you want to try, then ask for accommodations from that location. It worked like a charm! No one wants to thrash around in a car after a day of driving.
We're looking forward to doing a little big city shopping tomorrow before meeting up with family for the weekend. It is supposed to be partly cloudy here, and not too hot.
To make up a little for lack is exercise today we have spurned the elevator a couple of times, going down down up six flights of steps. Oof!
July 17, 2018
I get tired of seeing Indiana get kicked around, even though I myself make a little fun of my home state. We aren't that bad, I think to myself indignantly.
Today I saw a map in the AARP Bulletin that shows Indiana has the lowest percentage of voter participation by eligible voters of any state of the Union.
Indiana also has one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the country, if I remember correctly.
Um, gee, here's a thought for you. Do you think there might be a connection between these two facts?
Maybe the same thought habits of fatalism or depression are responsible for the feelings of helplessness that lead to an inability to take positive action.
No wonder we had Pence for governor.
The good news is that Pence is no longer the governor of Indiana. The bad news is that even if we manage to rid ourselves of Trump, Pence is next in line for President.
Hoosiers, arise! Take your fate into your own hands!
July 15, 2018
The town is full of flowers, humidity and cats. The main time of day I go out is early in the a.m., and honestly one reason I haven't written much lately is that I don't have much to say.
The state of our times in this country seems to lend itself to rumination rather than solutions.
We have so much here. Life is so bountiful and the horn of plenty so abundant. Why is there so much suicide?
In many places in the world sheer survival is apparently much more difficult. Why do we not appreciate what we have?
Maybe we are challenge oriented; without a challenge to our existence we cannot rally ourselves. Survivors of war and victims of addictions have plenty of challenges, though, and their rate of suicide, intentional or not, is high.
No answers are forthcoming from this source on the problems of suicide, let alone the breakdown of our social ethics and political systems.
Maybe that is why I am having trouble writing these days.
It's kind of hard to speak when your jaw is hanging open and you have forgotten to breathe.
July 13, 2018
The state of civil discourse in the U.S. today. What a sad state of affairs, when we can talk of nothing when politics is involved!
We were on the bridge to watch the fireworks and an old vet (he said, along with some intimation of horrible things he and his mates had done) started preaching at us about the meaning of the fireworks, as if we had no clue.
Ironic - I thought we had escaped the speech making by watching from a relative distance. Finally the drunken patriot said, "This is MY country, and whoever doesn't like it can" - looking intensely and directly at me - kiss my butt!"
I felt like observing mildly that it was all of our country, but was afraid we might come to blows - on a bridge yet! Terrifying! Luckily he stalked (or staggered or swaggered) off, presumably to find some new victims of his rants.
He was one of the holiday's fireworks, I guess, and I don't know what set him off.
July 12, 2018
July 11, 2018
July 10, 2018
June 28, 2018
The most memorable food experience we had during our sojourn was at the Longhorn Restaurant in Sundance, Wyoming, where for my birthday I ordered a big green salad with beef tips. This was more tender than any beef I have ever had in my life except for a tragic filet mignon episode, in which our work camp Lutheran minister ordered all our portions well done and I didn't know any better than to object.
This beef was just as melt-in-your-mouth and not ruined by overcooking. Next time we are in Sundance I know where we are heading!
A chocolate lava cake was an appropriate dessert for Devils Tower day also.
June 27, 2018
We have been having so much trouble with our internet lately we might as well be camping. Hopefully with the rain clearing the problems will go away, but I am not sure they are even weather-related.
After all, there is no communication from the most sophisticated communication technology that has ever been invented.
I was able to pick up my Kindle just now and log onto my site and my partner was able to think he could get a channel (for the first time in over 24 hours, maybe) but how long will this last, I wonder? When I tried to get into Facebook I couldn't.
There are so many things I could write about, like what a drug walking outside in nature on a beautiful morning is, but instead I find myself talking about the noncommunicativeness of our modern culture. It favors introverts, after all, who love "communicating" with people they can neither see, hear, nor feel but don't really want to talk to the people downstairs.
June 25, 2018
Ha, ha, ha, so for future elite helicopter visitors, there are at least two downtown places you can get breakfast at 10:00 on a Sunday morning: the GH and the Red Roaster coffee shops. Maybe their GPS had guided our pilots to a restaurant no longer in existence.
Our middle class problem with our not recently updated GPS was four failures to find a promised coffee shop in two rainy days on the road. At least the fourth location yielded a good coffee place near the promised location, although with a different name. Now what town was The Joshua Cup in? Well, Google or Yelp it and you may find it. It does serve good coffee and pastries, even though there are hanging yellow light bulbs in the display windows, which didn't evoke coffee in my mind.
Shortly before the helicopter to landed here yesterday morning, my partner was vacuuming our car at the downtown car wash when a woman visiting in the neighborhood came out in her pajama bottoms and tried to bum a cigarette. When she found out my partner had none, she asked where she could buy some. Halfway across town, he shouted over the roar of his vacuum. 7-11 or the Dollar Store to be precise, actually. She ended up getting a small cigar from someone else.
A friend reports that you can get a carton of cigarettes across the river in Kentucky for thirty dollars. (She also claims that in Minnesota a carton would cost $90.00. This fact we did not discover on our drive across the Southern part of the state on I90.)
This morning I ground and brewed a thermos of mocha java from the Red Roaster - the best cup of coffee I have had for weeks! Much better, I must say, than smoking a cigar or even piloting a helicopter while hungry.
June 24, 2018
Went on a walk along the Ohio River this morning for the first time since we got home.
I was talking to a friend when a helicopter, flying lower and lower and turning towards us, landed on the lawn of the riverbank!
We wondered if they were out of gas or lost.
Once the propeller stopped my friend - more proactive than I - went up the the air raft to find out if the occupants needed help. They asked if there was a place downtown they could have breakfast!
She could not help them, but before I decided to go down and talk to them, the male of the duo closed his door and I figured it was too late. They were getting ready to take off again.
Strange. Was that landing even legal?
June 21, 2018
This longest day is not as long as the days farther north we experienced just a couple of days ago.
It's ironic. The late spring days actually kept us from seeing stars at night even in isolated places, because we were ensconced in our sleeping bags for the entire duration of the short nights. It was so cold we couldn't drag ourselves out even to see the beautiful night sky.
At the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we bought a bag extolling the stars as one of the greatest National Park experiences. Ironic in a place where (in the northern campground) it was still light at 10:30 p.m.!
No stars for us this camping trip! Oh, well, there was an excess of cloud cover anyway. In fact, we have given up on the idea of camping anymore this time around. We have been driving for two days in the rain now, and more is expected tomorrow.
June 20, 2018
Whew, did we drive today! I should say, my partner did - in a sometimes blinding rain.
Yesterday morning, though, we left the grasslands of North Dakota, which were almost idyllic. The North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a disadvantage (probably shared by the South Unit) in that RVs are allowed run their generators.
That unfortunate noise pollution aside (oh, and the high fluoride content of the water - don't drink it for long) this park is quite wonderful. Over a two-night stay we saw more bird life than we had seen in years. Camping site #38 looks over the Little Missouri River and we saw kingfishers, swallows, big pelicans, turkeys, wrens, warblers, Towhees and other bird species.
In the road to the camp near the Visitors Center we saw three badgers! Only my second sighting of badgers in my life.
We did one four-mile hike (two each way) along a trail that is ninety-six miles long. We saw no one, and it was peaceful -except when we heard a loud crash and thrashing sound. My partner is sure it was a large animal banging into something in the brush, but we saw nothing. Perhaps happily.
In the heat of the summer hikers should be wary of rattlesnakes and running out of water among other dangers of the "badlands" like sinkholes and sliding mud and bison.
We saw no bison except three impressive specimens near the fence before we turned into the park: the viewing of a second or two in life, but indelible in the brain.
Spring time green grasses with bluffs and cliffs with decorative striations and wildflowers like prickly pear cactus and bright orange-red true lilies that look like survivors from some old homestead are just some of the attractions of the National Grasslands of North Dakota. We only stayed two nights. Imagine how much more there is to see there!
We definitely plan to return some day.
June 19, 2018
Today we went to the devil. Devils Tower, that is. It's an amazing natural phenomenon millions of years in the making well worth the drive. The dozens of people who were there this afternoon proved it! When you walk the loop path, alternately gazing up at the striated rocks, the tiger swallowtail butterflies on the big purple thistles, the knockout landscape and the big columnar boulders scattered about, it's a little sobering to think that one of those could come crashing down anytime.
More likely during a thunderstorm, probably.
We have had many other wonderful sights in the last week or so, but I'll have to reminisce during the slow, hot days of summer. On this trip we are either out of range or I am too dog-tired to write anything.
It has been a tour of different ecosystems, as it turns out, although that is not what we had originally intended. The tour is not over yet, but we are homeward bound. Lackadaisically.
June 14, 2018
We drove from the East through godawful (my electronic editor tried to change godawful to graceful but I would have none of it!) traffic and bought gas in Shelton, thus throwing ourselves off the path. Or maybe it was the little bit of Mexico we encountered in the same building with the 76 gas station that disoriented me. When you walk in you step into Mexico! The counters filled with pale pink, yellow and white lightly sweet criss-crossed rolls and empanadas and twisty flaky pastries and jellied buns and countless other varieties of sabroso with a mother creating yet more goodies with her son at her side and the father graciously dealing with the public - dang! I was right back there! In time, too - I was there forty-odd years ago. These folks were from Michoacan, and I bet you can meet them by just walking in. (By the way, they were charging 50 cents per pastry!! I don't know how they make it.)
Driving into Hamma Hamma Campground was my rainforest dream come true. Big trees covered with masses of green hanging mosses is just what you imagine walking into a jungle of the North. The Pacific Northwest is the only place in the States that you can see this in an intense emerald green, I do believe. I took pictures, but for some reason they look more brownish than the actual trees do in real life. Possibly I am seeing what I want to see - you'll have to go check out Hamma Hamma yourself.
The rainforests on the western side of the peninsula might be even better, but in this case better means wetter and, disappointingly, we just didn't get that far.
We did get to the Pacific Ocean, however, a sight for sore eyes for those of us who hadn't seen it for close to a decade and more! The First Beach at La Push is protected by a dramatic graveyard of tree skeletons scoured pale and dry by winds and sun. The very large smooth stones that dot the sand testify to the power of the tides that wash up there. Massive stack islands provide visual excitement offshore, while the rhythm of the waves and long horizon implant peace in your soul. A magical combination!
Two nights of camping in the primitive Hamma Hamma Campground was enough, though. The primitive part would have been okay, but the neighboring campground at Lena Creek didn't have potable water, either! You might say, "Well, if you had done your research you would have known..." but guess what? The young women at the visitor's center up the road were surprised to hear it. Comically enough, we found ourselves in the dilemma of those at sea - plenty of water but not for drinking. Not unexpectedly, our third day there found us packing up the tent in a rain that barely penetrated the canopy but promised more H2O in undrinkable form.
Our exit from the Olympic Peninsula was much more pleasant than our entrance. We left via Highway 20 and the Port Townsend ferry, fortified by wonderful coffee and banana bread purchased from a place ornamented on the outside with fluttering banners of loving messages and hearts. You can't miss it.
After a soul-satisfying almost four-hour visit with one of my college roommates over lunch at La Graniche (or something similar that means the grainery, I think) we headed, again on Highway 20, into the spectacular northern Cascades. It's been a long time since we had enjoyed so much beauty and grandeur with so few metallic monsters breathing at our heels. This drive, opened to traffic for the season only two weeks ago, I'm told, was a delight at every turn. Someday this area may be our camping destination.
June 11, 2018
Cle Elum, Washington
How did this happen? We meant to be a good deal closer to the Olympic Peninsula by the time we got up this morning, but bumper-to-bumper traffic on I90 chased us off the freeway into the arms of Roslyn for an early dinner at the Roadhouse - which had the first blatantly wooden menus in our experience! This area didn't feel very mountainous to me after the Tetonous (heh) heights but a friend of mine reports it is where a t.v. show was filmed that was supposedly happening in Alaska. Sounds like Northern Exposure and/or Twin Peaks to me, but I haven't fact-checked that yet. It felt very hippy - took me back in time, partly because of the music playing in the bar and the long-haired young men playing frisbee in the yard sponsored by the book store.
Passing up a chance to sleep in a Roslyn home owned by an amiable resident named Milly (or Millie) - herself another hippie reference - partly due to an unwillingness to let go of cash and undergo WiFi deprivation, we drove a couple of miles and lighted upon the Stewart Lodge, where for 50 cents more we had the most luxurious accommodations of our trip and probably missed out on some good stories.
Instead I entered into the peculiar world of the Internet, and that contemporary adventure is a story in itself which will have to await a later date. It is 4:30 in the morning and I hope to grab a little more sleep before we leave.
(Ominously, I can already hear a steady whoosh of traffic from the highway. Isn't there another way out of here???)
June 9, 2018
We did check into the tents-only campground at Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park on Thursday. We arrived at 9:00 in the morning and there were only seven of the 51 campsites left!
We found a good one with a fabulous view of Grand Teton Mountain, set up camp, and spent the rest of the day eating, hiking and lounging around.
The next day (yesterday) we planned a serious hike - a supposedly easy 6.6 mile hike around the lake, named for an Indian woman who helped settlers to the area. That hike seemed challenging enough for us.
We set out in a clockwise direction at a quarter 'til nine, passing the Visitor's Center. The trail soon began to get very rocky and hilly, up-down, up-down. This was not an easy trail! Moderate, at best. We were admiring of people we met who had physical infirmities, all the while we were standing aside to let swift young'uns speed by.
It was a beautiful setting with very clear lake and wildflowers, the most spectacular being cascades of lovely wild clematis with hanging blue-lavender bell-shaped blooms along one part of the trail.
A short uphill detour took us to Hidden Falls, which was well worth the climb. The water was rambunctious and spectacular, and the river below was whitewater froth with chunky smooth blue green waves beneath. Crystal snowmelt!
The rest of the path was easier. We suffered through a burned section where we saw an osprey and its nest atop a dead pine tree. There was good birdlife diversity -or maybe it was just more visible. That helped make up for the lack of shade. The hike back to camp was made a couple miles longer by the necessity of hiking upstream along moving water to a bridge to get back to the part of the lake we started from.
One young couple (she from a small city in China - a mere million!) we met were studying horse manure suspiciously, obviously thinking it might be bear scat. (We know this because the male of the pair started clapping and talking loudly just in case.) A very horsey-smelling patch or two of pee confirmed our identification of the turds. Horses are allowed to use parts of the trail.
That was no 6.6 mile easy hike! Add to the actual 7.3 length of the Jenny Loop itself, the detours to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point (only inspiring to those inspired by a couple dozen milling people) I think we walked eight. Add to that trips to the bear-proof garbage bins and the bathroom more than the equivalent of a block away and I am quite sure I walked at least nine.
Spectacular views followed us almost the whole circuit, like the moon.
We were exhausted and slept well. I hope we are more in the mood to watch stars at another campground, because we were too comfy in our cocoons to go out into the two cold nights we were at Jenny Lake.
A couple of hours after our return to camp some young men walked by. A little further up from Inspiration Point they had hiked into Bryce Canyon and seen a grizzly bear! They were inspired to discontinue their projected trip for the day.
June 7, 2018
Got a VERY reasonably priced room here at the Wind River Motel that has a deck with a picnic table overlooking the still-rushing Windy River. We are on the fly but I could be tempted to stay longer to explore the path I spy on the other side of the river and the downtown.
Actually I did walk down the highway toward the last bridge we had crossed but ended up walking parallel behind businesses and the fire department, crossing the river again so I didn't know which side of the river I was on.
Windy River is a twisty little thing. Maybe it is a Moebius strip! But really not so little. I wouldn't be trying to cross it without a bridge.
Actually, as it is a little early to go exploring in a strange town without a shirt on (clean clothes in car - bad planning as usual with those of us who don't know what we plan to do from one moment to the next) I checked my spelling of Moebius strip and began to wonder about searches from a foreign country. Many Americans would write "Mobius" because we don't have an umlaut on our keyboard, but my search for the "proper" spelling made it clear that many people probably do.
Oh, well. Today we plan to camp in the Grand Teton Mountains.
That is, if the weather be good.
June 3, 2018
What does silence mean?
Does it mean withdrawal into fantasy?
Does it mean illness?
Does it mean preoccupation with problem-solving personal, financial or family issues?
Or does it mean climbing into a metal beetle, hurtling at ridiculous speeds from Madison, Indiana to Topeka Kansas, without incident, staying overnight on the eighth floor of a Ramada Inn? (Day one) They have a restaurant that serves a mean club sandwich. (Don't have so much fun chatting with the free breakfast staff that you forget the last quarter of that sandwich in the refrigerator and remember it when you are a hundred miles away (dang!) Write yourself notes to keep from forgetting next time. Keep lunging through green fields and hills and rest stops that without warning are closed and blank blue signs offering services that no longer exist (don't let that gas get too low!) And some wildlife - oops, don't hit that indecisive roadrunner! we didn't) to arrive safely to family in Thornton. (Day two - whew.)
Or does it mean more family (visiting and playing in the back yard and sightseeing at the Museum of Natural History and eating sandwiches (I'll have to ask our hosts for the name) and more playing in the backyard with a new watermelon kiddie pool) and losing patience at bedtime? (Day three.)
Maybe it means a trip to the zoo which has flowers galore and penguins and cheetahs and a rhinoceros not to mention more exotic animals whose names I don't remember doing weird contortionist things with their bodies to occupy themselves with gathering food or avoiding the crowds and strolling amongst geese and peacocks in the company of other lucky people in glorious perfect weather. And having abundant and yummy lunch at the Torchy Taco (my, the restaurants have rock'em knock'em names these days!) And you didn't bother to get the password to the Internet until today (day four) anyway. Oh, mustn't forget a lovely evening walk through a leafy neighborhood.
Maybe that is what blahg silence means. Not much blahging but a lot of something or other.
May 30, 2018
I woke up at 1:41 A.M., got a drink, wandered into the front room and saw a mess of white paper under the window.
But no, it wasn't paper, it was light littering the floor.
I crouched before the window, peering upward.
Aha! Just as I'd suspected!
May 26, 2018
Ironic: scientists developed scientific names for life forms (we were taught) because the plethora of common names made identification difficult. The use of Latin was supposed to make s scientific names more universally understandable.
Ha, ha, ha! Now one organism often has several scientific names (due to lack of communication, increase in knowledge about the true relations between species, and plain old disagreement, scientists being who they are!)
In addition to these factors, ironically now fewer humans learn Latin than ever before, rendering scientific names more universally meaningless.
May 24, 2018
Ha, ha, ha, all my Christian acquaintances must be praying for me to shut up.
I have no other explanations/excuses for my silence.
I had a very negative fifteen minutes a few days ago. I was turning a corner and a big dog lunged at me, barking furiously. Luckily he was behind a fence. I yelped aloud because I was startled. I didn't even know he was rhere. His owner was sitting a few feet away on the porch. I'm glad for his sake and mine that I didn't have a stroke. A few blocks closer to home I was crossing on a walk signal when a red car occupied by two very young good-looking tanned men turned a corner, forcing me to stop suddenly. The driver stopped. Then I started and so did they. I stopped again and they went ahead. Luckily it was a long light and I still had time to get across.
But oh, gee, I guess I shouldn't write about that because it isn't positive. A woman got hit in the intersection a block away a week or two ago. She is probably saying nothing about the incident.
Here's something positive for you. On my walks I've seen what look like new hybrids of tradescantia. They are big and ruffled.
Just don't watch out for exotic new hybrid flowers when you should be on the lookout for aggressive dogs and crosswalk-jumping automobiles.
May 18, 2018
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