The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which presents absolutely amazing global adventures, has nothing compared to what you are about to see.

And, by “nothing compared” I mean that my well crafted, beautifully illustrated, and carefully choreographed offerings are nothing if incomparable to anything professionally published, or even from “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds,” ostensibly in his mother’s basement.

My long history of floating various rivers, creeks, and lakes dates back decades, going back to when I was a twitchy tyke sitting in the bathtub among the bobbing rubber duckies and self-generated bubbling water.

            float channel

Sorry, daguerreotype photographic records were not located dating that far back.

As has been documented over years of my posts, my inspirations include the aforementioned Banff films, decades of Outside Magazine, and my major man-crush, the storied author Tim Cahill.

Thanks to a number of current and ex-commercial river guide friends, my family has enjoyed many memorable river trips, including lottery luck of a permit on the Main Fork of the Salmon River.

Now that I have aged past the point I am willing to be packing my own poop down the river in the infamous “groover,” I have paid to participate in commercial trips, which are, cost-wise, well worth their weight in the aforesaid human detritus.


The common factor in these river treks, whether self-guided or commercial, is often the long distances to drive to get there, plus the appurtenant trip logistics.

The details can be staggering on the self-guided floats, which includes packing enough of your choice of adult beverages/recreational pharmaceuticals to guarantee adequate evening staggering.

Then there are the considerable expenses, esp. if you expect someone else to cook your food, schlep you gear, set up your tent, plus handle those other doo-doo duties.

float armarda

Thanks to a colossal dumpage of rain and snow this winter, the opportunity—like the water level in the oft-dry creek, literally in my backyard—arose to sufficient flows to kayak last weekend. I joined a small group to navigate what nature offered us.

Logistics first; let’s see, how many beers per river mile will that take?

Seven of us floated down the lower Cache Creek in a flotilla of sit-in, sit-on-top, and inflatable kayaks for a memorable day of sun, moving water, and surprisingly scenic setting for an agricultural valley.

That does not mean we spent the whole day in a pancake-flat setting. While not quite the Grand Canyon, there was plenty of variety of topography to view.


For those interested in the specifics, the flow above our put-in (which was the Yolo County Capay Open Space Park) was 100+ cfs (cubic feet per second), and roughly 500 cfs below our take-out (at the Cache Creek Conservancy).

Granted, to seasoned river rats these numbers are truly underwhelming; nevertheless, we enjoyed a fun float on what is commonly categorized as Class I “rapids” (which means relatively flat moving water, plus, what might generously be considered, an occasional Class II. (O.K. Class II—)

      float downstream

There were a few shallow riffles that required “attention,” meaning jumping out of your watercraft for a bit of African Queen action.

                    African Queen scene

There is an inflatable dam (no, really) above the county park, which makes river floats problematic, typically, after May 1st, given the ag use of the river water. You can check the flows by clicking on “latest,” on the links I provided above, or by going to the NOAA predictive site for each gauging station.

Almost all of the lower Cache Creek that is above the high water mark is on private land. The county park is open to the public, and you can park at the Conservancy, but make sure to check their hours. At the Conservancy you cannot drive to the water’s edge, so will have to carry your boat, maybe a couple hundred+ yards, so make sure you finish those cases of beer before you get there.

Since this is not a Disneyland ride, given the changes in the river channel that occur over the winter, you need to know what “strainers” and “sweepers” are, and scout ahead as “necessary.”

Unless you wish to become a candidate for the next Darwin Awards, wearing a life jacket is de rigueur.


Beyond that, what you wear or pack along is a matter of personal preference. As you can see, I tend to go big when it comes to covering up.

         float PPE

On the other hand, our lone female team member was wearing a bikini part of the time. I would have posted her picture, too, but her husband was along, and he has the stature of an NFL linebacker.

We had only one “portage,” meaning we wished to avoid becoming one with a massive beaver dam, which simply required that we walk the boats about 100’ along the shoreline.

             beaver dam1

float portage

We were blessed to see multiple soaring hawks, great blue herons, ma and pa mallards, a bashful river otter, and jumping fish.

Also, I got a glimpse of an elusive creature that was “documented” in the movie Tremors, which apparently no one witnessed other than me.

     tremors worm

Our first wildlife sighting showed up before we even put in on the creek when this little guy crawled by my kayak.

Worry not; he (she?) was not being one-sided. Her (his?) right appendages were just tucked under its belly.


While I would not drink the water directly from this creek, I really don’t know of too many deleterious effects that might be picked up on your person by exposure to a creek flowing through a heavily farmed area.

personal inspection


Funny thing is, they weren’t looking at the turtle at the time.



when pigs can fly

I have yet to make money in my longstanding attempt to break into the travel writing business.


I’ve attended numerous travel writing seminars.

If you search this site for “travel writing” posts, you will see I have talked about the topic countless times.

Then I saw Sue’s story online and I realized I must be really bad at it.

Sue had me at her title with,

“…Become A Travel Writer In A Couple Of Weeks.”

Her story began,

Six months ago, I was a backpacker who didn’t even own a laptop.

Now I am a professional travel writer.”


Sue obviously found her new career as easy money,

I never dreamed I would make the transition so easily. Within a couple of weeks, I had received a commission from a major travel website to write.”

I’m assuming Sue is better at travel writing than she is at math, given that I don’t think the six months she mentions is the same thing as a couple of weeks in her story’s title.

What the hell, I’ll give it the extra 22 weeks to do what I have been attempting over the course of almost ten years and 600 blog posts.

But, I think I may have found my problem. Sue confessed,

“To be totally honest, I don’t see myself as a great writer, or even a particularly good one.”

I guess I’m just too good and those publishers are not willing to pay what I deserve.

Or apparently, maybe they have been.


The old adage goes, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” which roughly translates to, you’re gonna get it when you are least expecting it, sucka.

Wild animals are typically more into instant gratification.

If you f#(% with them, chances are they will f#(% back with you, and do it right now, not a week from Thursday or a month later.

But, sometimes they are just looking for a quick meal.

Clearly, that was the case in a story about a camouflaged coyote hunter who was making wounded rabbit sounds and got attacked by a mountain lion. The quote was,

“It happened extremely fast.”

The guy ended up shooting the lion, but if you ask me, if you pretend to be the meal of a wild animal, well, you might just become the meal of a wild animal.

           animal with hunting rifle

This is far from an isolated case of “sportsman attracts wild animal; wild animal meets meal.”


One of my favorites is about a scuba diver who freely chooses to go into the ocean without the benefit of a protective shark cage while chumming the waters with fish parts and subsequently the diver dies. Imagine my surprise.

When I first wrote about this true story, I suggested that it was a Darwin Award candidate.

           Jaws shark

I have previously written about being attacked—or at least gotten threatening glances:

  • by Titan triggerfish with their mini-great white shark razor-sharp teeth;


                 titan triggerfish teeth


  •  by bigly angry, wounded goose (yes, by me);


                goose revenge 


  • by a pissed off possum, who woke from playing possum;


                 angry possum


  • by menacing wild turkeys when I was on a bike ride while adorned in overly tight Spandex bike shorts (they weren’t impressed by my manliness);


                turkey versus bike tire


  • by a really scary rattlesnake at my bare feet (yes, he was only 8 inches long)


                small rattlesnake by house


  • and a muster of massive peacocks (yes, that’s what they’re called – Google it, and yes, you can’t trust that pretty face)


                angry peacock


I once tried becoming a vegetarian, but I was never convinced that kale was really an edible food product.

I’m a firm believer in survival of the fittest, so as long as I am fit enough to continue shopping in the meat aisle of Safeway, I’ll continue to enjoy a nice medium-rare, bacon-wrapped, filet mignon.

But please don’t give my home address to that herd of cows looking for me with revenge in their hearts (or udders?).

Apparently, domestication has taught them patience.


My mind became woozy as the blood drained from my arm, and I swear I heard the woman responsible tell me she was from Transylvania. How did I even get here?

How did I get from rum drinks in Panama to a hospital three days away? And that was only the beginning.


Clichés abound about the road of life having a plethora of potholes, teeth jarring speed bumps, unintended detours, and other assorted diversions and misdirection.

I’m not talking about the perennial story of some bonehead who blindly follows their GPS onto clearly untraveled winter roads, questionable shortcuts across barren lands, and yes…even into a lake.
Darwinian selection at its finest.


In the last two years, I found my own share of the above, sans the GPS misadventures. As I have oft repeated, I have never been lost. Like Daniel Boone, I have been a might confused for a spell. But never lost.

My maladies were more of a medical nature, as in nature reminded me that planned obsolescence is not limited to home appliances, cell phones, and that tuna sandwich in your fridge.

The accounting of my adventures through the halls of multiple medical facilities will be presented a la Dave Berry’s Year in Review (times two).

n January of 2015,

The story began in a previous episode, set in a faraway harbor on the remote coast of Panama where I traveled for a planned two-week sailing and snorkeling sojourn.

On my morning stroll down the dock on only Day Two, my heart started beating as if I had just met and was propositioned by a scantly attired Olivia Munn. Whatever the cause, I knew that I could either find somewhere to sit, or risk being swoon into the sea.

After a few hours of my pulse racing like a little VW Golf navigating the Autobahn while trying to avoid be run over by the Porsches, BMWs, and Mercedes (been there, done that), I spent the next three days getting home, while my internal tachometer registered in the neighborhood of 150+. I wondered how long before I would blow a piston.

I decided it was preferable to take the requisite water taxi, multiple flights with a hotel stay in one country and a long layover in another, to get home after I was told by the locals that they would think twice before going to the little clinic in town for anything more than a Band-Aid, and that the nearest hospital ER was an hour trek across the open ocean by panga.

I made it home and was reminded that if you approach the Emergency Room registration window with a complaint of chest pain, they quickly find you a bed and have you hooked up to various machines and tubes before—well almost before—you can whip out your health insurance card.

Once my cardiologist arrived, I learned of a cardiac version of a re-boot, innocently called a cardio-version. What the name does not necessarily illustrate is the means by which that is accomplished.


Let’s just say, the wife-person could have—and probably would’ve been more than willingly to have—accomplished the same result by applying jumper cable leads to my nipples and the other to my backside, connected to a car battery, and then yelling, “CLEAR,” followed by a ZAPPPZZ!  


“Dear, you can stop doing that now..my heartrate is back to…”


Mercifully, the procedure was done under the care of the cardiologist, and by under the care, I mean under the influence of really good drugs.

A funny thing happened while I was laying around waiting for those really good drugs to wear off, all the while repeating myself to the poor nurse (as is not uncommon when “coming off” anesthesia).

“Did I tell you I was just on the beach in Panama drinking rum?”

“Did I tell you I was just on the beach in Panama drinking rum?”

The doc wanted to talk to me, I assumed to tell me that I was back to normal (well, what accounted as normal for me), but rather she had other news.

During the course of all the probing and poking they were doing in the ER when I first arrived, they took some pictures of me, in which they noticed what looked like a golf ball perched on my right kidney.

My first reaction was,

“But, I don’t even play golf!”

In March of 2015,

It was back to the hospital for more probing and poking.

This time, I was to be under the care of a different doc, and by under the care, I mean under the influence of more really good drugs.

Another funny thing happened while I was laying around  waiting for those really good drugs when the doc came in and said (and a la Dave Berry, I am not making this up) they could not find the clamps necessary to proceed with slicing me open and spreading me out like a fillet, to which I asked for clarification,

“Can I get those really good drugs NOW?!?”

About an hour later, they “found” the needed clamps, which I swore were in a box labeled Amazon Prime.

Then in March, April, and May, of 2015,

With only one kidney, came limitations on blood pressure meds, which meant I got to work with yet another doc on numerous prescription changes.

Let’s just say that some didn’t work enough and some worked too well. You might wonder what constitutes, “too well,” but walking woozily or driving in a serpentine path sometimes generates unintended attention of law enforcement types.

In late 2015 and early 2016,

Things settle down, as my pill bottles of various prescriptions grow to a pharmacy-sized collection.  

By this point, I am committed to one of those old-person pill organizers, with separate little compartments for each day and night of the week.

(Laugh now, Bunkie…some day. Some day.)


Once a week, the kitchen table looks like a Columbian drug distribution site with all of the pill bottles lined up.

This takes us to July 2016 when,

I began to experience some severe heartburn, and assumed it was gastrointestinal (G.I.) related. Medically, the fact that we equate something with “heart” in the name to having consumed too many spicy burritos the night before, just sets us up for some of the misdirection I alluded to earlier.

I spent the next few months with a thorough G.I. evaluation from stem to stern, which started with numerous blood tests. Then came the poo tests, which they later told me they did NOT want delivered in a brown grocery bag; I explained it was a much bigger target than those little plastic cups they gave me.

Continuing, I got not one, but two, sonograms, as if a misplaced pregnancy was the cause of my discomfort.

Finally, I got to experience the depths of their thoroughness when in one visit they wanted to take a close look from top to bottom. Thankfully it was while unconscious from yet more of those really good drugs, as they ran a camera down my gullet, followed immediately by ramming it up from the other end…hopefully it was in that order!

The result of all that: nothing found, except for all the massive medical charges.

By now, it’s October 2016 when,

It was back to the cardiologist where she decided to put the “heart” back in heartburn I was still experiencing.

The next test was one where they inject you with radioactive dye, and then take pictures as your body glows internally as if you just visited Chernobyl.

This time they did not find nothing. They found that nothing was flowing past an almost total blockage of a major cardiac artery, which they euphemistically called a “widow maker.”

They literally told me that this condition does not result in a heart attack, but rather you just fall over dead. Charming description.

On Halloween, 2016,

Trick or treat. Another ambulance ride to another hospital and, oh boy, more really good drugs, while they threaded a wire up inside of me from my leg, pushing a little spring-loaded doohickey that they SPRUNG! open when they ran into the end of the path. This was like unkinking a water hose up in there, which is a good thing as it got blood flowing back throughout the body, thus allowing me to walk from the recliner to the refrigerator without stopping en route to catch my breath.

In November and December of 2016,

There were a few more potholes, speed bumps, and detours that took me through another emergency room visit, more drug changes, and finally a couple more applications of a ZAPPPZZ!, but at least I’m back on the O.K. to travel list again.

The docs are still sending me to an occasional visit with my local neighborhood phlebotomist to check on things, the latest being yesterday, where I discovered that (and I am not making this up) the woman sucking the blood out of my arm really is from Transylvania.

While her nametag did not say her name was Elvira, she did have the most interesting teeth.

This is a test blog to see if Steve gets a heart attack by me finally getting a post published again.

Life on the road can be crushing. But I was beckoned by the clarion call to mount my bicycle steed, which had been covered by a veil of cobwebs in a corner of the garage.


I was promised that well-being was just down the road, and beauty would flourish from unexpected places.


   Road flower edit


Inveterate back vertebrae, an achy arthritic knee, arrhythmic heart heaving, problematic prostate pressure, and general malaise notwithstanding, I am at least attempting to get with the program of physical enlightenment, as part of the current national bicycle promotion.


Besides, where else am I going to wear that body-contouring, cellulite-clinging spandex I once bought online while in a zombie-like trance after binge watching hours of very early morning Tour de France coverage?


After all, I was already an accomplished wannabe (yes, an oxymoron, I know) in multiple outdoor activities.


An added bonus the bike shorts afforded was the large bulge I was packing in front, which I was convinced would impress certain members of the female persuasion.


Speaking of members, once I eventually realized the large padded area in the crotchal region (as Ron Burgundy called it) was not for carrying an extra bike tube, my reputation—among other things—suffered severe shrinkage.


Speaking of shrinkage, just pity the poor snake whose only sin was a thwarted attempt to cross the road.


   Road kill edit


Why DID the snake—almost—cross the road?


Beats the hell out of me, but apparently it WAS a crushing experience.

“Care for a cocktail?”


How many times do you hear someone accepting an offer for an adult beverage by claiming,


“It’s 5:00 p.m. somewhere.”


As if there is some arbitrarily acceptable alcohol tipple time.


Well, over the years, I have come up with my own personal schedule as to when it is time to let the good times roll.


Rumpleminze bottle

Back in the day, when I lived up closer to the backwoods and drove an old Ford pick-up truck, replete with the requisite gun rack mounted on the back window, it was pretty much de rigueur to pack a six-pack on hunting and fishing trips, and for those really early morning, sub-freezing conditions, a flask of 100-proof Rumplemintz (schnapps).


Hell, it might barely be 5:00 A.M. by the time we were warming ourselves…from the inside.


Walking around the woods with a loaded weapon after a few belts of booze…what could go wrong?


Years later, when I found myself a lot closer to San Francisco than Woodsy Owl, I discovered what Coach Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) typified as “Early Drinking.

That’s part of what is becoming a rabid fan of English Premier League football (soccer), and by “rabid fan,” I mean be willing to get up at 4 a.m. to watch a game live.


     early drinking


I have spent many an early morning at Maggie McGarry’s pub trying to decide between a warming Irish Coffee, or a chilled glass of Magner’s cider, or a frothy mug of Guinness.


And, by “decide” I don’t necessarily mean which one, but rather, which one first.


“Oo To, Oo To Be, Oo To Be A Gooner.” 


As I am a real opponent of driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs…or texting, thank goodness I get to sleep it off on BART on my way back home.


Let’s see, where else have I found a lame excuse, I mean weak rationalization, I mean plausible deniability of good judgment in early A.M. imbibing?


O.K. I have no fear of flying—as what good would THAT do—but, as oft mentioned in this space, I have been known to enjoy an early morning airport Bloody Mary, while waiting for a flight.

(Hey, I don’t even ask for a double; the bar at SMF just pours them that way. Oh darn.)


What harm could that do? I have no position of responsibility for the safety of a massive flying transport containing hundreds of humans.


Or do I?


On a recent flight to Maui, I opted to pay for an exit row seat, primarily for the extra legroom. I have this personal preference to not having my knees scrunched up into my chest for any flight lasting over five hours.


What I did not initially realize, was that the upgrade came with another perq (which, given my C.V., you’d think I would have noticed immediately):


     AA free drinks


So, in one moment, I am sternly told of my stated obligation to the safety of my fellow passengers, which they require a verbal acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility, and then almost in the next,


“Would you like an alcoholic beverage, say a shot of straight whiskey?


And, as it happens, on a five-hour flight, they make multiple passes down the aisle with the drink cart, bless their hard work.


“Why yes, since you offered…I will take another.”


         Maui exit drink4


I thought that was more than generous, but wait…there’s more.


As we approached the Magic Isle of Maui, lo and behold, EVERYONE on the plane was offered a Mai Tai.


“Wait, what…ANOTHER drink?!?”


       Maui exit drink1


Hey, don’t worry. In the one-in-a-gazillion chance they call on me, I guarantee I’ll be the first one to open the door and lead you to safety.


I was once in the back seat of a helicopter where smoke came billowing into the cabin as we were getting ready to take off. As soon as the co-pilot turned to the back seat and motioned to exit, I was quick to open the rear door and the first to get out.


The “funny” thing was, I wasn’t even the passenger sitting next to the door.

(This is an absolutely true story.)


So, in the case of an emergency, just follow my footprints on the guy’s lap who was sitting next to me.


You think a drink, or two, or even three will slow me down…think again.


You’re welcome.