In Memory of Everett

We lost Kat’s younger brother, Everett Bear, on July 3rd to mesothelioma.  He was the French-i-est of her family, bald before 60, dark and stocky, and when he allowed himself to unleash it, the owner of a mega-watt smile.   Everett followed an inverted career path.  He worked little until middle age, but then he […]

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Wild Kingdom

If you are of a certain age you may remember a television program brought to you by Mutual of Omaha.  Its star and executive producer was a gray-haired fellow, slight of build, and ostensibly a naturalist.  His name was Marlon Perkins.  Marlon left the action scenes to a park ranger of sorts, a strapping lad […]

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The Old Man and the Stream

On Saturday, September 22, 1989, I bought a hardcover copy of Ernest Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream at the estate sale of Leslie Schulbach, Princeton ’27.  I also purchased his mint condition six-record set of Mozart’s Violin Concertos as recorded by Deutsche Gramophone, probably performed by the Berlin Philharmonic.  I passed on a paperback copy […]

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Wildflowers After the Storm

Around 9:30 last night a baby thunderstorm flashed, boomed, and rolled over Camp Dick.  It was enough to thoroughly moisten the ground, and it washed the pollen off the Red Sled and Kat’s Cradle.  She was already asleep, but I stayed up a while to watch the lightning.  You know by now: I sure love […]

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Waterfront Property

We moved up the road from Buena Vista to USFS Camp Dick, 25 miles south of Estes Park.  It is a jewel of a campground built by the CCC in a glacial valley alongside the Middle St. Vrain Creek.  We lucked onto Site 13 about 50’ from the vault toilets and 60’ from the icy […]

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Buena Vista and Kudos to The Kat

Despite our best efforts to go where the weather suits our clothes, an unexpected heat wave drove us out of Salida. We rolled north 40 miles to Buena Vista, population 2,617. Kat found a VFW Post offering water and 30 amps for $10 a night, open to the public. The juice would let us run our A/C when needed, and while camped in a white water Mecca we hoped to raft the Arkansas River.

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What Do the Poor People Do?

We settled in for Chardonnay and people watching. Kat had just poured the wine when a big shirtless guy stumbled out of his old trailer and collapsed into a lawn chair. An unwashed-looking fellow pedaled past on an old bicycle, and no-shirt yelled at him “Hey, pig-face! You owe me money! I’m talking to you!” Pig-face paid him no mind. Kat thought she saw an old skinny guy tying off a vein, then with his other hand; did he give himself an injection?

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The 200 Mile Rule

Fear kept us from re-visiting the Switzerland of Colorado, Ouray. The Million Dollar Highway must have been something back in the day when a cool mill was a lot of dinero. Back in my day we developed land with entrance roads costing more than that. Cars were much smaller in the 1930’s, and nobody drove 40’ RV’s or pulled 30’ Airstreams. From what we heard, the road from Silverton to Ouray is little changed aside from resurfacing. Guard rails are rare, long and steep drop-offs down the mountainside are common, and the road is so curvy and up-and-down, nobody gets to enjoy the spectacular views. Instead we pulled a supposedly much safer route from Dolores to Montrose and almost to Gunnison with our goal being safe arrival at Elk Creek Campground west of Gunnison.

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McPhee Reservoir

Roughly four miles northwest of Dolores, CO lies a lovely little Federal campground known as McPhee Reservoir. You want to book your reservation on the Pinon Loop because it’s the one with water spigots and at some sites, voltage. The dump station has not worked for a year or so (insufficient funding), but there are a few full hook-up sites you can drain tanks into when they’re unoccupied for only $5. You will have mountain views over 180 degrees, and birds and wildlife do well here.

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Madden Peak

Thank you for so generously inviting us to camp a few days in your backyard! You didn’t notice us? That’s because you own more land than you could possibly see in your lifetime, even were you only 16. “You”, of course, is plural; and a grammar Nazi would prefer that I write “we”. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have custody of over 600 million acres of Federal land. It has always been fashionable to bash government employees, but from our experience those guys and gals do a pretty good job.

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Springtime in Durango

One of the more underrated joys of full-time RV-ing is our long look at early spring. We all choose to go far south in January to preserve our plumbing, not to mention the RV’s. Then we see the redbuds and dogwoods bloom before anyone to our north. After a couple of weeks something clicks in our heads or hearts, and we know it’s time! Like old bears coming out of hibernation, we wake up hungry and eager to get out, see things and enliven our souls with the spirit of the Travel Season.

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Abiquiu Lake

Then came a walk through the ruins of a Pueblo village abandoned for reasons unknown sometime in the 1500’s. Our guide, Ranger Myron, is as long-winded as I am long-worded, but twice as interesting. He shared his culture’s view of man’s place on earth (caretaker of the planet whose primary duty is to preserve it for future generations). He told oral histories passed down over hundreds of years from the Ancient Ones, and lent insights into the Pueblo religion.

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The O’Keeffe Museum and Gastronomy

It’s a light-year from necessary to love art to enjoy The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  But if you don’t love art, you will crave more when you emerge into the daylight of a brilliant Santa Fe afternoon.  You can see it all in 90 minutes, and it is worth a trip.  If you find yourself in […]

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Where to Stay Near Santa Fe

We saw a dead diamondback on the road, but no eagles or other big raptors. That is good news for the convention of bunnies dancing around us. Kat’s hummingbird feeder sells out faster than a coastal Wal-Mart when a bad hurricane’s moving in.

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Crossing Oklahoma and Texas

We enjoyed our stay in Natural Falls State Park, but the spring thaw has come to Colorado and only a few more snowfalls are forecast: now is the time to travel on.

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Airborne!

Two summers ago we enjoyed several weeks in Arizona, the land of blue skies, no rain, and few clouds. While pulling near Tucson we witnessed a dozen or more tandem parachute jumps. Kat became inflamed with the idea of trying this. It is immoral to encourage lunacy, yet that crazy streak is one of the things I love about her. We agreed that she should do a tandem jump when the time is right. Now in northwest Arkansas, waiting for warmer weather in Santa Fe and Colorado, the time feels right.

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Crystal Bridges

Ms. Walton has spent lavishly gathering a representative library of works of America’s best painters. Although it is not a deep collection (not a lot of any one artist’s work), it is broad, offering something by just about every big name in American art. She needs to add a Pollock, a Rothko, maybe someone from the Ashcan School, but I hear Wal-Mart pays a decent dividend. Those paintings will come, possibly when next the art market recedes. Meanwhile, enjoy Theodore Robinson, Georgia O’Keeffe, the Peales, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Frederic Church, Frank Stella, Thomas Moran, and a hundred others. No doubt about it: good art nourishes the soul.

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Ed Walker’s Drive In

After a week of basking in the luxury of near full hookups the time came to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Our target was Van Buren, AR, the mid-point of a pull from Cossatot Reefs to Natural Falls State Park in West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Why go to Siloam Springs? I got two reasons: it’s still snowing in northern New Mexico and Colorado, and Kat’s gonna jump out of a plane in Siloam Springs.

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Me Marzan, You Pain

Once more, unto the breach, dear friends!  Let us leave our pleasant surroundings to follow spring north.   After Bryan we pulled into a Corps of Engineers campground called Cossatot Reefs.  It is part of their Gillham Lake project and offers 50 amps, water at select sites, and a community dump station.  The sites are […]

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A Fine RV Campground Outside College Station

We paid $100 for a week, which is quite reasonable given its 15 mile commute westward on Hwy 30 to Bryan/College Station and the bustling metropolis that former burg has become. Have your GPS look for a diner called Yankee’s Tavern in Anderson, TX, then follow the signs to the lake. Go back to the Tavern and order a cold Bud and a Chicken Fried Steak.

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Stuck in Lodi Again

Our GPS found no Dodge dealer; Rand McNally’s population figure dashed our hopes of finding even a brake shop. I saw no choice but to pull our ‘Stream the last 100 miles at 55, the slowest semi-safe daylight speed on an 80 mph highway. In a couple of hours we arrived and set up camp at a Passport park. The host had several ideas about who could repair the truck. After half a dozen calls we had one option left: a local guy whose staff all conversed in Español.

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In Memory of a Friend

Pink

Wednesday we said our good-byes and Pink passed while we stroked her and told her the stories of her youth. Then she was gone to a kindly veterinarian’s euthanasia.

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The Bonfire Memorial

Kat felt a call to revisit Texas A&M’s Bonfire Memorial, and so we did. The Memorial begins with a landscaped garden of central Texas trees, shrubs, and flowers leading to a massive granite wall inscribed with a quote from “The Spirit of Aggieland” penned in 1926. Next comes Traditions Plaza with a shaded seating area facing an even larger five verse poem written in 1950, “The Last Corp Trip”. The walkway to the Spirit Ring is marked with 89 polished grey granite blocks and one black one, each honoring the 90 years Bonfire was stacked, and the 89 years it was lit. The black block represents 1963 when the stack was dismantled after JFK’s assassination. “It’s all we have, and the least we can do.” Finally you come to a circle 170 feet in diameter made of grey granite blocks marking the perimeter fence put up after the stack fell.

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The IRS and Me

“I am John Palmsley of the IRS Audit Department. You must call me today to explain certain criminal allegations. If you do not call now, I do not think I can stop local authorities from arresting you. “

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The Storm Before Spring

Tuesday’s coffee was interrupted by a television report that schools all over south Louisiana were closed today in fear of the coming rain, hail, high winds, and probable tornadoes. I checked the Google to see how far we would have to pull to insure safety, assuming we could leave soon enough to outrun the weather. The nearest location outside the extreme weather map was my home town, Mooringsport. That’s 320 miles northwest of Madisonville. That’s when the park ranger came knocking on doors with news that the park would close in an hour; evacuation was optional, but not mandatory. This is not a drill.

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Chargrilled Oysters

Brave is the man who first ate an oyster, and were he alive today, he’d regret advertising their flavor. Once common and cheap, they’re now getting a bit pricey. Oysters can be fried, put in all kinds of soups, baked with a creamy mushroom or crab sauces, or prepared a hundred other ways. But none are better than a just-opened salty oyster with a little horseradish and lemon red sauce.

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A Loon Among Geese

Two cops rousted our car camper, lecturing him on carbon monoxide while shining big flashlights in his face, gun hands on their holsters. Ten minutes later they left, and once out of sight, our neighbor cut loose with choreography worthy of a Super Bowl touchdown celebration.

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Maria and Cap’n Joe

From Tennessee we set a course for Florida to better survive the two coldest weeks of The Typical Year.   We camped for a few days at Top of Georgia, the all-Airstream RV park near the Bavarian hamlet of Helen, GA.  TOGA had had a lot of rain, and we got stuck twice.   A fellow with […]

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Christmas Boxing

We celebrated a big country Christmas in east Tennessee. Of course, the country Christmases I remember lacked cases of champagne. In any event it was a rare treat to break bread and pop corks ….

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An Addendum to Purple Hearts and Guns

In 2013, 33,000 Americans died in vehicle accidents. That same year 34,000 were killed by firearms. We know a lot about car wrecks, and so little about shootings. Why have we let the NRA legislate ignorance?

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Singin’ in Wal*Mart

Today, while at Wally World prospecting for dinner (I found a deal on spinach and ricotta ravioli!) the muzak broke into the Christmas mode. They played The Beachboys doing “Little Saint Nick”, as cheerful a carol as one can imagine. I’ve always enjoyed that song and I know the lyrics. So I began to sing along. This is one of Mike Love’s leads, and although in younger days I could also cover Brian Wilson’s high falsetto, today I’m a middle and lower register singer. And unlike my Kat, I feel no compunction about making as ass of myself in public, especially where nobody knows me. So I sang out, mezzo-forte, and in my ear, right on key:

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Papa Burgers

The burgers at A&W Root Beer were more affordable, more filling, and nearly as tasty. We fleshed out the other meals with canned spaghetti and meatballs heated in a sink by an hour of running hot water, or marked down pastries from the big groceries. Freedom is precious but it has its price.

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Planning a Reveillon

I’m thinking about what we’ll do for year’s Christmas in Tennessee. Last year was marinated brisket with gravy and latkes. The year before was a rib roast and a turkey, if memory serves. I love to observe our peculiar Christmas tradition: cook something new every year! Over the years we’ve done goose, turducken, pork crown roast, smoked turkey, fried turkey, hickory smoked ham, country ham, oysters Bienville, and once when caught on the road and no place else was open, Pizza Hut. I can’t think of what’s left, so I asked The Google, and she told me.

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See Ya in the Funny Papers

Doonesbury had gone on an extended hiatus, but was re-running classic scenes from 43’s administration (you can read the timeline by checking out the plumes in W’s Marc Anthony helmet … that hat had been seriously beaten up by ’07. The best of all time, Calvin and Hobbes, appeared to be gone for good, but I still had a couple of paperbacks full of his better work.

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Purple Hearts and Guns

The USA leads the world in mass shootings. To which the NRA replies “Guns don’t kill people: people kill people.”

That’s technically true, but guns make it too easy to kill people.

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Butterflies and Violence

We’re in the early stages of the monarch butterfly migration here in central Kentucky. A few weeks ago they began leaving Canada and northern USA on their long fall flight to Mexico. I saw one yesterday looking confused. She crossed an open field to our huge parking lot, then began circling as if she’d lost all sense of direction.

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Happy Birthday, Mitch

Long before the Housing Collapse of ’07 I toiled in the Land & Development section of Beazer Homes, Raleigh. Our team was built around Sara, a world-class admin, who among other things excelled at covering for whichever of the boys were out-of-pocket, as in shooting pool or watching March Madness in some smoky bar. Mitch, our captain, did most of the land acquisition and zoning work.

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Microsoft, Mead, and Trump

I have struggled to understand Trump’s appeal. I see no evidence on his campaign website of any real plan to govern, nor even one new idea. This morning a rationale for his poll ratings came to me in a flashback to the climactic scene of Network. Howard Beale, an aging night-time network anchor about to lose his job concluded his show with a spluttering rant.

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The Haircut

My last trim was over two months ago at a franchise shop in Elkins. That purple-tressed barbess (barberian?) cleaned up everything but the sideburns, which I noticed only much later. Maybe they were just too scary?

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Green River Lake

I’m looking forward to being still for a while, to finding new creations in our little galley, and getting a haircut. Haircut? Not just anybody can cut my hair. At the C’ville barber college haircut quality ranges from pretty good to misdemeanor.

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Retired, Once Again

Work fills up most of our waking hours leaving us less time to focus on our trials and tribulations. Sometimes it is unpleasant, but if it were always fun, they wouldn’t call it work.

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A Rock-Climber’s Rescue

… , early one summer evening a fellow climbing alone broke his leg on a highly technical (a serious mistake can be fatal) descent. Word went out and the climbing community marshaled their resources. Nearly a hundred sturdy fellows with ropes, rock anchors, carabiners, and years of experience on the Rock appeared in less than an hour. They formed a human ant line at solid footholds along the way to the injured climber. Their plan was to pass up a stretcher, strap the broken man to it, and pass him down from one secure station to another.

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Seneca Rocks

Perhaps 35 miles east of Elkins stands an unusual rock formation bearing our title’s name.   It’s thought to be 440 million years old and survives today due to its composition, mostly quartzite, a super-hard form of sandstone that in a former life was the beach of an ancient ocean. Tectonic shift pushed the young quartz […]

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Springtime in West Virginia

It’s felt like spring in north Louisiana here in The Mountain State for the past seven weeks. Sure, everyone east of Dallas has dogwoods and redbuds but around Elkins both defer blooming into early May. By late May the mountain laurel gears up to peak the first week of June. The end of June and first half of July feature huge pink or white mountain rhododendron blossoms bunched by the hundreds on each bush

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Cass Scenic Railroad

We had to cross highways twice each way, both giving the engineer an opportunity to play his blues music on the steam whistle. Every engineer tries to invent a signature riff, as whistles are capable of varied tones, attacks, and slurs.

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We Are Tested

  This past weekend we faced a fully-booked Saturday and a near-full Sunday. Saturday came with three unprecedented challenges. The large pavilion was hosting a wedding on a day when the rain forecast called for an inch within an hour of “I do.” The smallest pavilion was rented by an old bat who, despite 20 […]

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The Church Group and a Two-Handed Dunk

Our first church group function was held in the Big Pavilion at Stuart this Sunday. We get advance notice of reservations, and you should have heard me and Kat wailing and gnashing teeth upon receipt of those tidings. Even Pink was making funny noises, but she’s an incredibly intelligent dog – her vocalizations may have been glossolalia.

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A Good Meal, a Bad Dog, and a Mountain Wedding

It’s easy to make good food from a recipe, but hard to invent good recipes. In downtown Elkins we stumbled across something new to us on the menu in the Venezuelan restaurant El Gran Sabor. In Castilian Spanish that translates to Great Flavor. That they deliver.   We ordered cold ones with salsa and chips, both […]

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