Tag Archives: General Nonsense

Minds Over Mayhem

Moonrise the night before the official full moon, October 2020. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Like many people, I am astonished and embarrassed by the behavior of my fellow humans, especially over the last 24 hours but indeed over the last what? 24-48-60+ months?  The extent to which people can be deceived, incited and provoked to extremes is frightening.

It’s very popular right now to talk of impeachment, imprisonment and removal from office those who have corrupted and vandalized our democracy.  Whether it happens or not remains to be seen, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that approach.  In fact, in many ways I welcome it as a lesson to those responsible and as a deterrence against continuing such behavior.  What I ultimately hope, however, is that once all the angry words settle down and people go back to their lives, cooler heads can take a look at the problems in our country today and try to come up with meaningful solutions.

The question I keep coming back to is this:  How desperate are the people who are attracted to false hope, lies, deceit and corruption that they so fervently believe in it to the extent that they can be moved to such atrocious actions?  This is more than racial, religious, ideological or political difference.  This more than an undercurrent.  It is a raging river.

Whether by chance or by choice we as a society tend to be attracted to turmoil like moths to a flame.  Thankfully, I spend most of my time doing things that I find calming and rewarding, and don’t get myself too riled up over all of the negativity that has swirled around us for far too long.  I don’t ignore the media, in my opinion that would be irresponsible.  But I have managed to insulate myself and – for the most part my opinions and attitudes – from most of the mayhem so that I’m not living with the anger and angst that many people feel and that I might otherwise be dealing with.  Not everyone is able to do that and I feel fortunate that I can.

I don’t have the answers.  I can only hope that the changes coming over the next few weeks, the next few months and the next few years, can head us in a more positive direction.  One where we can disagree peacefully, work together for the common good to find equitable solutions to problems and to live in peace within our own country and in our world.  Let’s hope for that, and where we personally are able, live that.

After The Demolition Derby That Was 2020, We’re “Still Running!”

St John, USVI

When I was growing up, my family would regularly attend stock car races at a couple of local race tracks.  A few times a year the tracks would have events called Demolition Derbies, where a bunch of stripped-down cars would start out running around the track and purposely wreck each other, with the last car running declared the winner.  I’m recalling this through 50+ years of possibly (likely!) faulty memory, but as I recall, somewhere near the end when there were only 2 or 3 cars running, the announcer providing the blow-by-blow commentary would say something like “CAR 83 IS SMOKING BADLY, HAS A COUPLE OF FLAT TIRES BUT IT’S STIIIIIILLLLL RUNNING.”  I have to say that after the demolition derby that was 2020, we’re badly damaged but STILL RUNNING.  And hopefully running well enough to hang on through 2021.

Tom and Katy at the beach!

Somewhat counter to the rest of society (contrarians? us?) and despite the various impacts of the virus, Kathy & I look back on 2020 as overall a very good year.  We made some important changes that we possibly would/should have made anyway, but the arrival of Covid made them imperative.  It worked out, and WE”RE STILL RUNNING!  Believe me though, I am quite sensitive to the fact that not everyone can say the same about 2020.  For way too many folks, 2020 was a very ugly year.  A disastrous year.  A demolition derby with not everyone escaping unscathed.  From where I sit, however, life has been pretty darned good and I am thankful for that.

Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

But we traveled.  We traveled a bit differently than in past years, with a little more attention paid to places and conditions, avoiding the famous places with big crowds, carrying more of our food and water than we might have taken otherwise, but the country was open and we went.  In fact, we traveled more in 2020 than we ever have.  We spent 90+ days away from home, crossed off 5 new states and visited friends and family in locations far & wide.  Despite only driving 426 miles in March, April & May, we’ve put over 18,000 miles on the Subie since 12/31/19, mostly in the second half of the year and including our 8,000-mile road trip to the Oregon coast and back in September.  And we did it safely, staying away from popular places like National Parks and sticking mostly to sparsely-visited National Monuments, National Historic Parks, State Parks and Wildlife Refuges.  A number of places were not open so we made do by seeing just the outside.  Yes, we traveled!

“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington

With exceptional (in hindsight) timing we took three cruises in January-February before the virus hit but have stuck to car travel since then.  Staying off airplanes and cruise ships has saved us a bunch of money and allowed us to see parts of the country we might have put off if we had continued to fly places.  It looks like that trend will continue in 2021, since the question of when we might expect to receive a vaccine remains a bit of a mystery.  That assumes that the vaccines are actually effective, that we can eventually actually get one and that the virus begins to subside.  Cruises and air travel will likely need to wait until 2022 for us, but there is still a lot of this country to see and we’re ready to go.

Haystack Rock at sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Cannon Beach, Oregon

Staying out of restaurants has been very good for our waistlines and for our budget.  Kathy & I have never been and will never be skinny, but there is a lot less of each of us to haul around these days.  We’ve been making regular donations of too-large clothes to our local Goodwill.  Even now when restaurants have mostly re-opened, we’re finding that we like our own cooking just fine and we continue to lose weight at a reasonable and sustainable pace without “dieting.”  Interestingly, our reaction to a lot of restaurant food now is that it is over-seasoned, over-portioned, overly meat-centric and over-priced.  We’ve got a great source for fresh fish, a nice selection of our own wine, and find that we can dine in for a fraction of the cost of a fancy meal out.  We love our restaurant people and have many friends in the business, but it is an estranged relationship these days.  We weaned ourselves off of junk food years ago and didn’t succumb to the temptation of “comfort food” during the pandemic.

Lunch stop during our tour of Roatan, Honduras during our February 2020 cruise aboard Norwegian Dawn

I took nearly 17,000 photos this year.  Not as many as 2019 when I took over 21,000, but still a lot!  Why so many?  I take a lot of our grandson Edison, and he moves so fast most of them are blurry!  The number of photos that are actually worth keeping will be far less but remains to be seen as I’m still working on them.  I did get a new camera this year, which was fun, and I have enjoyed working with it and the constantly updated software to process the files.

Perrine Memorial Bridge over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho

We have a lot to be thankful for from 2020 despite all of the negative happenings, and we have plenty of reason to look forward to 2021.  I don’t know how it will all shake out, but the best we can hope for is to get to 12/31/21 in at least as good a shape as we got to the finish line of 12/31/20.  My primary goal is to keep a positive outlook, to find the silver lining in every situation and seek out the positive wherever I need to go to find it!

Shoshone Falls on the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho

The photos here are just a selection from the friends and family we were able to visit with this past year and who we look forward to seeing again this coming year!

Boat cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with Jeff and Mary Pat
Jeff Curto and Mary Pat Larue during our cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Jim & Lisa at Seneca Point in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania
Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bill & Cathy aboard Carnival Breeze
Bill & Cathy, Tom & Kathy in the dining room aboard Carnival Breeze
Jim & Tom atop the Historic Fire Tower #9 in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania
Breakfast with Monte at The Chicken Coop Restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado
Edison loves Grandma!
Pine cone inspection
World’s Largest Barber Pole in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
Grandma & Edison reading Cars & Trucks & Things That Go
Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in eastern Nevada near Elko
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Roatan Rum Shop in Roatan, Honduras
Roatan Rum Shop in Roatan, Honduras during our February 2020 cruise aboard Norwegian Dawn
Scott and Edison on Mother’s Day 2020
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Monte taking Kathy’s picture sitting on “his” rock along the Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado
North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina
Fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Licklog Ridge Overlook MP 349
Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida
Wine tasting at Ken Wright Cellars tasting room in Carlton, Oregon


Practicing My Scales

Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

Kirk Tuck recently posted about how  (paraphrasing) walking around town with a camera taking random pictures of interesting things is “almost like playing scales on the piano.”  As a reformed musician that’s a reference I understand.  Practicing technique is what allows us to nail the performance.

Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

One of my recurring dreams involves being invited – and accepting – to perform some kind of solo concert.  I haven’t touched my trombones – although I still have them – in nearly 30 years but when the day comes for me to play the dream ends.  There’s probably some important symbolism there but I won’t try to analyze.

Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

“Winter” or what we know as winter took this past weekend off, so Kathy & I took advantage of the 70 degree temperatures to enjoy the day at Latta Nature Preserve.  I took my camera, of course, and took a few photos.  To make it a little harder I took only my widest prime lens – the 14mm f2.8 (21mm full-frame equivalent).  I don’t shoot a lot with wide angle lenses and it tends to show.  While I didn’t come back with anything truly exceptional the idea of practice was my intention.  Kathy helps me by seeing things she sees and giving me an “assignment” like the photos of purple leaves and the fallen branches with pine cones below.  Now I have a name for the concept – practicing my scales.

Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
Late fall afternoon at Latta Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Sign Of The Times

I was originally planning to title this post “There Is No Vaccine.”  But I decided that would be uncharacteristically (and unnecessarily) pessimistic.  Why was I thinking that way?

Remember when we used to be able to go to concerts?  We would get in line at 6am or earlier for tickets to see Elvis, Springsteen or Taylor Swift (not me!) that went on sale at 10am, only to find out at 10:01 that they sold out online?  I’m afraid the vaccine is going to be something like that.  Oh, we’ll probably be able to get it eventually, but in the meantime, we can listen to our favorite music on Spotify.  In other words, it’s going to be a long wait.

The New York Times has a tool on their website that allows us to estimate when we might have a chance to get the vaccine.  Based on my age, location and lack of underlying conditions, my estimated place in line is 268.7 million out of 331 million in the country, 8.5 million out of 10.5 million in the state, and 885,900 out of 1,127,080 in the county.

There are plenty of people out there that need it more than me, and I’m happy for them to have priority.  Truthfully, I don’t like to be an “early adopter” on anything for pretty obvious reasons.  It’s just frustrating that it is going to be such a slow process for everyone.

I don’t have a lot of faith in our ability to distribute a vaccine efficiently anyway, and since the Powers That Be apparently forfeited a chance to order enough for everyone in the first installment, it sounds like it’s gonna be a while.  Since each person has to get 2 doses the initial 100 million doses will only vaccinate 50 million people.  Out of 330 million!  At this point the Pfizer vaccine is the only hope, and while the Moderna vaccine is evidently in the approval pipeline, no one seems to be saying when that will be approved.  The downside of having a surplus of vaccine is what?  We get to give it to countries that need it?

While we’re all waiting anxiously to be “saved” by a vaccine, for now I’m just telling myself that there isn’t one.  That way, when we finally do get one we can be pleasantly surprised.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve near Arco, Idaho

Too Much Like Work

Evening on the beach, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I thought we retired….

In the last few weeks, we’ve taken advantage of a “break in the action” to meet up with a few of our key professional people – medical, legal and financial stuff that we need to address on occasion.  On top of that we’ve been working on a few home improvement projects.  As a result, the calendar has been “full” of stuff.  An appointment on Monday, an in-person meeting yesterday, conference call today, more stuff next week.  Aye-yi-yi…feels like we’ve gone back to work! 😉  I realize that it’s nothing compared to the schedules we kept when we were actually working for a living, but it feels….busy! 😉

Sunset colors looking toward Tybee Island, Georgia from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

But once we get through next week we’re hopefully pretty much clear sailing through the holidays.  Should be more time for important stuff like processing photographs and making blog posts. 🙂

Fall in the “Pixie Forest” on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Licklog Ridge Overlook MP 349

A Really Big Deal

October 18, 1980

Kathy and I often refer to important events as “BFDs.”. But since this is a family-friendly blog we’ll use the term RBD instead.

We’re in Asheville, NC this weekend celebrating our 40th anniversary.  That’s a BFD.  And all 40 years to the same person! 😉  And as much in love now as we were then, just with a few added aches and pains. 🙁

This photo is from the archives.  Photos (and stories) from Asheville once we get back home in a few days.

Bugs, Dirt, Soot and…Salt?

Near Deer Lodge, Montana

One of the challenges of a long road trip is all of the varying road conditions and how it trashes the car.  I’m not one of those guys who obsesses over every water spot, but I do get to a point where I need to find a car wash!

Southern Montana near Fort Smith
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
Transcontinental Railroad National Back Country Byway at Golden Spike National Historical Park near Corinne, Utah

For some reason, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri seem to have way more bugs than anywhere else we’ve been.  After 2 or 3 days of highway speeds, the front of the car looks like the site of an insect massacre.

Along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Soot on our car from the smoke around Cannon Beach, Oregon

We spent a lot more time on gravel and dirt roads on this trip, especially in eastern Washington but also in Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.  In the Palouse region of Washington, a few of the roads had dirt so fine that was like powder, and it got everywhere.  Not to mention the smoke and soot in Oregon!  It took its toll on the car, for sure.

I should have waited until after we visited Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Fortunately or unfortunately the drive home from Tennessee was almost all in the rain, so it did help a bit with the dust.  But a couple of hours in the driveway to clean out the inside plus a trip to the car wash was an absolute necessity.  It’s all good now, at least until the next trip down a dirt road!

The Subie gets a well-deserved bath after hundreds of smoky, dusty and sooty miles