Monday, September 29, 2003

Baby alex

The newest Baby Alex pictures.

Sunday, September 28, 2003


The office move is going well.

We sucked it up and replaced the alarming red carpet with a more soothing blue.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


Four brothers. Four wives. Four motorhomes. One dog. One cat. Two days. Three nights. Goblin Valley State Park. We had four adjacent sites reserved. Side-by side. It didn’t take long before the circle-the-wagons inspiration struck, and by the time the jockying was through, we had them all in a circle, with a great view of the cliffs to the immediate west. It was a good setup.

Got to catch up on Tom and Kathy’s vacation adventures and new motorhome. It is a giant green beautiful craft. Hiked in a valley full of strangely shaped, eroded rock, goblin characters. Had a good slot canyon hike. Got the Jeep nice and dirty, but didn’t get any real four-wheeling done yet.

The brothers helped me figure out what some of the switches on the new Bounder do. Some of them are obvious. Lights. Fans. Heater. Air conditioning. Some are unique to motorhomes. Generator start/stop. Some are unique to diesels. Engine preheat. Jake brake. Air suspension. But clearance lights? What does the clearance light switch do? It only works while you’re holding it down. It automatically returns when you let go. Know how when you’re passing trucks they will flash their headlights when you’re clear and you have room to move back over? Then you flash your lights back to say thank you? Clearance lights. It lights all the lights except your headlights. If your lights are off, it flashes them on. If your lights are on, it flashes them off. Cool.

The utility light switch? This one was harder. The utility light is unique to motorhomes. It’s a big light on the outside of the motorhome that shines down to where the utilities are that you hook up to. There is a switch on the inside you have to remember to turn on before you go outside to hook up in the dark. The new Bounder has a utility light switch. But no utility light on the outside. You click the switch off and on, and nothing happens. Figured that one out too. When you open the utility hook-up cabinet, there is a bright light inside. This light is not controlled by the luggage light switch, like the lights in all the other outside compartments. It responds solely to the utility light switch inside. We couldn’t tell until we opened the cabinet to watch the light while we turned the switch on and off.

Drove home.

We didn’t get many chances to check the new Bounder for mileage. It has about an eight hundred mile fuel tank. We started out from Traverse City, Michigan with a mostly full tank. Drove through Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. Gassed up in Davenport Iowa. Gassed up in North Platte, Nebraska. Got eight miles per gallon, towing. Gassed up in Green River, Utah. Got nine miles per gallon, after towing the Jeep over the continental divide. And we get to gas up with $1.45 per gallon fuel. Not bad. Bet we could get ten miles per gallon if we weren’t towing.

Annie relaxed more on the way home. She quit clinging to Judy and actually got several feet away from her. Several times. Made it home in time for Monday night football, packing up for the office move, and Tuesday night racquetball.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


We decided on Friday.

Saturday: Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa.

Sunday: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Upper Peninsula.

Traverse City. Michigan. 1,300 miles from home. 2002 Bounder diesel 39R. Two slides. Mint condition. Only driven 14,000 miles in two years. Our new mobile branch office for the business. It’s perfect. It’s ours.

Did I mention the new business plan? We plan to extend our services outside the Denver Metro Area, to the entire state. A mobile branch office. Judy, Annie, Rags, and I will go anyplace that needs us.

Annie doesn’t like the new motorhome much. Hydraulic levelers that creak and crunch scary noises. Air suspension that huffs and spits suddenly. Air brakes that do the same. Way too many scary noises. She just clings to Judy and won’t leave her lap. On Tuesday, on the way home, she finally relaxed enough to jump up on my lap while I was driving. She looked out my side window for a while, then decided to turn around so she could see Judy better. Problem. Her butt hit the horn button. The new Bounder has a horn. An air horn. I think I got off easy. My lap stayed dry. But it’s a good bet Annie won’t be landing in my lap again anytime soon.

I have a problem with Nebraska. It’s too long. Not the letters in the name. There are eight. That’s OK. Colorado has eight too. It’s the miles. Four hundred fifty to get across it. That’s too many. I don’t think anybody should have more than three hundred fifty. You can start the day anywhere in Colorado and drive to another state in any direction. You could drive all day across Nebraska and still not get to the next state. I think we should break it up.

We drove the Jeep. We stayed in motels in Sterling Colorado and Davenport Iowa. We stayed in a motel in Traverse City. As we pulled the car up facing our room, the family in the room next to us had their door open. They seem to have just gotten back from the pool, as they were in high spirits, running around, in and out of the room, laughing and playing, while Dad was out in the car getting something. The girl had considerable trouble with her towel. We got flashed. More than once. We met them outside the next morning as we were all packing to leave. Dad. Mom. Two boys. Wait! Two boys? Where was the daughter with the loose towel? Mom, Dad, two boys, and an empty twelve pack by the door. Mom was the one with the slippery towel. Who knew?

We towed the Jeep home. A quick drive. A little business in Denver on Thursday, and straight on out to the great motorhome roundup in Utah…..

Sunday, September 7, 2003


A better perspective on the tow setup.

I think Shamu looks just fine.


Hey. Are we ready for some Bronco Football?

Saturday, September 6, 2003


The complete tow setup, in all its glory.


Spent the day at Camping World getting the Jeep rigged to tow.

We took the bicycles, dropped off the motorhome and the Jeep, then rode to a motorhome dealer to sit in a Bounder and talk about it for awhile.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003


Christie and Ken left. Judy and I stayed and fished some more. Pebble Creek was still running about the color of coffee. A different afternoon storm blew out Slough for a few days, so that was out. We fished Soda Butte upstream of the confluence with Pebble. Soda Butte is getting pretty small at that point, so we didn't expect much in the way of fish size. We were very wrong. Back to fifteen inch fish and more. From up on the bank, I hooked one cutthroat from the tail of the opaque fast water rushing into a small pool. I set the hook. He dropped back into the pool below me to consider the situation. I could see him clearly as he hung there and shook his head a couple times. I wasn't applying any real pressure, I was just keeping the line tight until we each decided what to do next. When I saw this fish, I knew there was no way I would land him. I was looking down at an underwater locomotive. The head shakes convinced him this was a situation he needed to resolve, so he bolted back into the current, blew back up the stream, and snapped the line like it was nothing. I understand those little tiny hooks dissolve and fall out within just a few days, so we shouldn't have done him any damage. But watch out next year. I know right where I'm going to fish. I'll tie on tougher gear too. This would be a great fish to catch.

Judy and I moved to Indian Creek. We fished. More brookies. We were fishing at the pool at the confluence of the Gardiner and Obsidian when the noisy family from Wisconsin showed up. Judy moved on right away, fishing her way up the Gardiner. I was catching fish. I stayed a little longer. The Dad was annoying. He was doing lots of instructing. Mom was quiet. The two little kids were stuck with Dad. The teenager was different. He kept apart from the rest of them, and was quietly going about his business, trying to figure out how to catch a fish. They didn't know where to fish or what to fish with, so they were catching nothing. I got to chatting with the teenager. He had never seen anything like the place we were standing in. He was awestruck. But he wasn't catching any fish. He let me tie on a local fly for him, coach him a little, and give him my spot. I waited until he landed his first fish before I moved on upstream with Judy.

We left Indian Creek, bound for West Yellowstone, back to Grizzly. Judy, Annie, and I floated the Madison with Rick on Friday. We did well.

I now have electric stabilizing jacks. I was disappointed, when we first got Shamu, to find out that the leveling system consisted of manual stabilizing jacks. You have to go around to each one and raise or lower it with a hand crank. It is a slow proposition with a lot of cranking. It's tough on my back. Well I fixed that. I bought a very strong cordless electric drill, with a ten inch extension and a three quarter inch socket. I still have to go around to each stabilizer to raise and lower it, but it takes only a few moments at each one. No back strain. The drill is strong enough, that I can do a significant amount of leveling as well. A great solution.

Judy and I had one of those magic moments fishing. We had been focused on fish and water for hours, when we looked up to see the two thousand pound bull bison grazing peacefully, tail quietly flicking, a few yards from us on the other side of the stream. This is a stream that is all of eight feet wide at that point. We continued on our fishing way. He continued on his grazing way. I kept a close eye on that quietly flicking tail for any indication he was anything other than completely contented.

Except for that guy in Carbondale, I thought I was "solar man". Not so. The camp host at Pebble has us bested. We have two fifty-watt panels on our roof. We're good for water and electricity for about a week. By then we're getting pretty low. Ray, the camp host has two seventy-five watt panels on his roof. He has fifty percent more power than we do. He stays out for four months. If you're doing it, you may as well go big. I checked at Camping World later, and now they offer one hundred fifty watt panels. I haven't joined the big leagues yet.

We drove back and forth through the Park. We got caught in a big moose jam as traffic stopped to see him. We didn't get any bear jams. We got bison jams, elk jams, coyote jams, pronghorn jams, deer jams, and believe it or not, a great blue heron jam. A guy had a tripod set up on the side of the road with a long lens to capture a good shot of a heron standing in the water on the other side of a small lake. Six cars locked it up to stop to see what he was looking at.

We saw bald eagles and osprey flying by with fish. We saw a mixed herd of bison and pronghorn. We got to hear immature horned owls with raspy squeaking calls at night at Pebble. We saw Christie's trumpeter swans on the Madison inside the Park.

I have a favorite trail to run outside the Pebble Creek campground. It is a little too steep, but it is a great lonely trail that runs north into the Beartooth wilderness area. I run as much as I can, alternating between running and walking as I have to, until I start to get tired. About a mile and a half is all the farther in I get. Then I do the easy cruise back downhill to the campground. One day Judy and I were sitting on the bridge over Pebble creek and got to visiting with two kids who were just coming down off the trail. They had encountered an adult grizzly bear while they were hiking out, right on the trail, within two miles of the campground. The grizzly bear left the trail and they got to hike the rest of the way out, unmolested. I thought of myself running alone along that trail, nothing but shorts and shoes. Not even a can of pepper spray. I decided I'd rather run on the road the next day.

On the way home, we stopped at another desert lake park. We camped with the pelicans and pronghorns.

For two weeks, I got to fish every day. Some days we caught a lot of fish. Some days we barely caught any. But, again, thanks to Brian that one day, we never got skunked. Judy fished great. She started her flyfishing career later than I did, so she hasn't had nearly as much practice as I have. The whole time Judy was there, she fished even with me. She caught as many fish, and as big fish as I did. The big brook trout of the trip was nine inches. The big rainbow was seventeen. The big cutthroat was nineteen. The big brown trout was probably six inches. And one mountain whitefish. It was a good trip.

Except I didn't get enough fishing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003


Bill and I stayed at Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone and went on a float trip with Rick the guide on the Madison River. Bill, the trout hoover, sucked up all the good fish before they even got to me. I caught some, but nothing like all those beautiful rainbows he caught.

Next day, we moved on to Indian Creek campground in the middle of the northern part of Yellowstone, about an hour from West Yellowstone. This is brook trout territory. We fished the Gardiner, Obsidian, and Indian creek. We caught and released hundreds of little fish. Nothing bigger than about eight inches. We had so much fun there, we stayed and fished all the next day too. After that, we moved on to Pebble Creek campground and fished Soda Butte creek. Yellowstone Cutthroat territory. Good fishing. Beautiful scenery. Caught fish up to about fifteen inches long there.

Friday, Bill left for home, and Judy showed up. We fished some more. We stayed at Pebble fishing every day. OK. Let’s back up to the beginning of this trip. Becky and Brian and family left to go camping in Yellowstone the day before I left for this trip. This whole time, they have been ensconced at the Madison Junction campground seeing how dirty their kids could get. They did well. A Ranger even told Tony he had won the “Dirtiest Kid in the Park” competition. Next, Christie and Ken drove down from Washington and met up with Becky and Brian. They all camped together at Madison Junction. On Saturday, Becky and Brian and the kids, and Christie and Ken and the kids moved over to the Pebble Creek campground with us. The kids played in the creek. The guys fished.

Judy had volunteered ahead of time to cook a big campfire stew while everybody was there. On the day they all arrived, the Park declared a total fire ban. So the campfire stew got cooked on the stove in Shamu. Then the thunderstorm hit. Of course the fishermen were pretty far out in the meadow when the rain started. The rain didn’t matter much, but we paid attention and got out of the water when the lightning started. When the wind hit, we were already headed back toward the campground. When the hail hit, we found a gully to hide in. Hiding behind the bank of a gully worked for a while, but as the wind shifted, we lost any advantage there, so we headed across the field again. The weather can change from very hot to very cold and wet in a hurry. Judy brought the car out as close to us as she could, but by the time we got to the nearest road, it didn’t make much difference anymore. One of us actually got in the car for the remainder. Two of us declared it unmanly to accept a ride and walked the rest of the way back in the rain.

So back at the motorhome, we had campfire stew on the stove, three very wet fishermen each getting into something drier, and all the kids moms and wives, inside out of the rain as well. We now know that eleven people can fit inside Shamu and eat dinner. It can be a little loud with five kids all having fun or conversations or both, all at once, but a good time overall.

The rainstorm that night blew out Pebble Creek, which flowed chocolate colored mud down to Soda Butte and blew that out. Soda Butte ran down to the Lamar and blew that as well.

The next day, Brian, Ken and I went fishing again. We went far enough downstream on the Lamar that is was still running pretty clear. The fishing wasn’t very good that day, but thanks to Brian, we didn’t get skunked.

Becky and Brian left for home. Christie and Ken stayed another day. All the local streams were still blown, so Ken and I drove over to Slough creek. It was running clear. Slough is an unusual creek. It is slow and deep as it winds through an open meadow. We fished our way down it and raised a few fish. It is a pleasure to watch Ken fish. He is so thoughtful, focused, and patient. And he has reflexes too. He hooks a lot of fish.

The really unusual thing about Slough is that one bank is always higher than the other, and you can walk the high banks, scanning the pools for large fish lurking in the clear water of the deep pools. Sight fishing. You can go find a fish, creep along the bank through the grass and bushes to a spot upstream, and cast a fly that will drift back down to him. As it does, you can watch the fish to see how he reacts to it, rising out of his deep water to come to the surface and inspect it, refusing it, reconsidering….. It is agonizing fishing. But Ken did it. He tried one fly. Lost it. Got the lunker to come to the surface for the tiniest fly he had in his arsenal. The fish refused it, reconsidered, refused it again, then turned around and bit it. Well handled. An extended battle. A sixteen inch rainbow. That was the fish-of-the-day.

Monday, September 1, 2003


No balloons. There were no balloons this morning. As I was driving north on a warm Saturday morning, I realized that every year I get to see hot air balloons in the valley off to the northwest as I head out to Montana.

I get to drive the rocket ship this trip. At least on the way out. No four thousand pound tow car. I notice the difference. Shamu feels downright peppy.

Cruised up I-25. Judy isn’t with me so I had to stop at the Ft Collins rest stop to rearrange some stuff that was rattling. Decided to drive on north to I-80, and then west. I could take the scenic short cut from Ft Collins directly to Laramie, but then I’d miss the round rock rolling hills section of I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie that I like so well. Stopped at the rest stop just east of Laramie for lunch. 130 miles from home. I like this rest stop. It is easy access, set well back from the highway, and has a completely separate section for trucks. Not like a truck stop at all. And the best part, is that it is right at a mountain biking trailhead. Perfect for a mid day trail run just before lunch. And just enough uphill to get me the run I like the best. A ten or fifteen minute burn uphill, then an easy cruise back to home base.

Drove past the Wagon Hound rest stop. It’s a nice one set back from the highway too. Last year, Judy and I saw a red-necked phalarope there. Didn’t need the rest stop this trip. Drove past the Ft Steele rest stop too. Another nice one. Didn’t need it. Cruised down Interstate 80. Crossed the Continental Divide. Twice.

I have been paying more attention to how much water I should drink. Every day I’m supposed to drink three of those sixteen ounce bottles of water. The water kicked in. I couldn’t make it to the next rest stop. I got off at Wamsutter. Good thing I’m in the Motorhome. Then I stopped at the Bitter Creek Rest Area just past Rawlins. Then I stopped at Rock Springs. Maybe I don’t need all that water when all I’m doing is sitting down and driving.

It was a pretty quiet drive to Yellowstone without Judy along. Seven hundred miles by the route I took. But a little help from the Rolling Stones, John Prine, Martin Sexton, Dave Alvin, and Kelly Joe Phelps got me through it. And Pink Floyd. I could have used some Pink Floyd. OK. Next trip.

Drove north from Rock Springs, through the town of Eden, crossed Little Sandy Creek, Big Sandy Creek, passed the still visible ruts of the old Oregon Trail, then two miles of washboard, and I’m there. Big Sandy State Recreation area for the night. There is no reason to stop there. There really isn’t anything. It’s just high desert sage and rabbit brush, with a lake. No trees. No improved campsites. No campers. No camp hosts. No fees. Just me in the motorhome on a bluff overlooking a desert lake. A few birds. One evening on a previous trip, I ran over a hill and startled some pronghorn antelope. They ran with me for awhile, then just faded into the brush. I stop here every year.

The next morning, I dropped down out of the desert into the lush river valley town of Boulder, population 75. This is great 65 mile an hour highway with no-one else on it. This could be one of my favorite highways in the world. Right up there with highway 50 across Nevada. At Boulder, we see the first osprey nest high up on a pole. Then, after more highway miles, we get to Pinedale. I love Pinedale. This is bigger than Boulder. Population 1,200. There is a sign at the outskirts of town welcoming you to “Pinedale. All the civilization you’ll need.” They could be right. Now we’re getting scenic. Wide streets. No storm sewers, just dips in the intersections. This used to be a fuel stop for me back when I had to stop every 150 miles.

Crossed the Warren Bridge across the Green River. There is a campground. We don’t usually stop there, but we did once. It is a nice fishing spot. Popped over a over a sudden alpine crossing and into an unusual 10am thunderstorm. Pretty early for a thunderstorm. Didn’t last though. Crossed the Hoback for the first time at the outskirts of Bondurant. Bondurant is a high-country ranching community set in a mountain meadow that always looks like it just emerged from winter. In August. From here, down the Hoback River canyon, looks fishy, to Hoback Junction. At this point I can choose the shorter but busier route through Jackson, the Tetons, and Yellowstone, or I can turn left and go the long quiet way through Idaho. I always turn left.

Now it’s a drive down the Snake River canyon to Palisades Reservoir. The water in the Hoback was clear all the way. The Snake is green. The Hoback is for fishing. This part of the Snake is for rafting. Palisades is my mid-day lunch run stop. I run the road along the lake, watch the people camped down by the water driving their boats or jet skis, kids splashing in the shallows. I pass secluded coves, some with swim floats, sometimes a boat tied up to the float. This time is different however. This time there is no water in sight. There are no people playing. I run next to a great flat grassy plain. The drought has left its mark in Idaho. There is still some water in the lake farther down by the dam. Enough even for boats. But there is none to be seen from this end.

I run in the heat. It is in the eighties. I don’t know what it is about running in the heat, but I’ve always loved it. A hot sweaty run in the eighties is about as good as it gets, unless of course, you can run at ninety. I used to scare people, like park rangers, by doing my run in the middle of the day in the heat of the desert. It’s not supposed to be good for you. But I figure if it wasn’t good for me, something about it wouldn’t feel good. Anyway, now I don’t run far enough to scare anyone, but it still feels good. A flock of grasshoppers in the dry grass next to the road joined me today. They leaped and swarmed and buzzed ahead of me, the farthest landing, the nearest taking flight. We ran the entire way together.

Well, onward, out into the dry wheat fields of Idaho and the town of Ririe, for my turn north. I never quite turn right at the right spot, but I always find the highway north eventually. On to West Yellowstone.


Speaking of work, I'm in the midst of a minor catastrophe. Did I mention that we're moving? We've churned about that for about six months now, and ended up moving down one floor in the same building. We've signed a five-year lease, and they've just finished the build out. The wall have been cabled. The carpet has been laid. Here's the problem: The carpet has been laid.

Something I said, meant to instigate conversation, was taken seriously. I was out of town. The carpet got laid. Red.

Now we're trying to figure out what to do about it. It's going to cost thousands to replace. Guess it's the price I pay for being me.