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I never expected that I would turn into a zombie two days before the much-ballyhooed Great American Eclipse of 2017.

 

Having a self-induced, pre-eclipse hangover was an all together different matter.

EclipsesOfTheSun

I had been preparing for the celestial celebration for months:

planning optimal viewing locations,

determining travel routes,

and, of course,

obtaining the necessary specialized optical equipment, namely,

the $2.00 eclipse viewing glasses.

Was everything about this event connected to 2’s… as one friend (yes you Steve) put it… I was overthinking this stuff way 2 much?

In the meantime, other buddy Bob mapped our route and viewing spot to be very close to the center of the 70-mile wide path of totality, which was totally cool, as in literally totally cool when the sun disappeard for two-minutes.

We had a great spot in a broad, grass-covered open area, with more cows than people nearby.

           IMG_3542

I even spent…yes, you guessed it…a whopping 2 bucks on a fantastic app that would confirm our location and event times, and provide a, only slightly, nagging voice,

“Put glasses on…put glasses on…

…you idiot, unless you are the president…

……..PUT THE GLASSES ON NOW!”

app screens

Other than for Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysics of this event was anything but simple. There were countless websites that explained the details, some claimed to tell everything you needed to know.

I certainly had questions. Many questions.

First off, I did not know where best to place my viewing chair; face west? face east? So, after walking all over the hillside schlepping my chair, I finally decided to be next to the pickup with the table of ale and ice chest, and just look up.

I wondered, why was there no moon the night before, but now a full moon was covering the sun?

And, if the eclipse crosses the country at about 2,000 miles per hour, why does it take approximately 2 hours, from “first contact” to “fourth contact” to get by us?

   

Moreover, once the eclipse was over, where did the moon go until later that night?

The only answer I seem to remember is that the moon would completely blanket the sun, leaving only the corona light remaining to be seen.

Hmmm. I may have misunderstood.

solar corona

I will say, that even with just the light of the corona remaining, it really does not get as dark as night.

More like dark as dusk, which don’t get me wrong, was pretty cool…just not dark, dark.

At least we were packing a good supply of refreshing adult beverages, because when the sun was not covered for those two minutes, it was plenty warm.

IMG_3555

The problem was, while we were wearing those funky 2-buck, pitch black, glasses, we couldn’t find our beers, almost knocking them off the table.

Thankfully, once the moon went off to who-knows-where, I could safely sit with my beloved Bombay Sapphire in hand, sans black-out shades, and toast our bearing witness to an amazing sight.

        IMG_3559

 

Apparently, Steve and Bob had more sober mind numbing activities to return to.

              IMG_3558

“Speaking of sober, or lack thereof, the hangover I mentioned above was post my birthday dinner the night before my zombie-like, 2,000-mile drive across four states (but, only completely through…yes… 2 of them).

There were some magazine reports of other types of eclipse hangovers, such as sharing the roads to get home with thousands, and thousands of people with the same idea.

To ease my drive home, my buddies strongly suggested I stop on my way at the Rock House in Jordan Valley, Oregon, for an espresso milkshake. Not to question their local knowledge, I did grab that drink as my breakfast beverage for my long haul home.

No more hangover to suffer, just a bit of a brain freeze.

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There’s an old cliché that when you get to a certain age, you never pass up a place to pee.

This has something to do with the fact that when you reach your golden years, you have something in common with your earliest years. I’ll say no more, except the term “golden” years may be a hint.

The countdown to the much ballyhooed Great American Eclipse is now down to one month from today, on August 21st.

The path of what is called the totality—as in, it will be totally dark—is a swath about 70 miles wide, “traveling” from the Pacific northwest, diagonally to the southeast region of the U.S.


Countless news stories have explained the big event, from exactly what it is, to where and when to best to see it.


Actually, “seeing” a total solar eclipse is kind of an oxymoron.

The whole point is that it will be totally dark. In other words, you won’t be able to see shit.

Committed solar eclipse chasers have been planning their travel to various viewing sites for years. Lodging options have been fully booked for some time and in many cases, at greatly inflated prices. I called around one state and found some people who were renting out space in their backyards for hundreds of dollars for people willing to camp out.

Committed, indeed. (Or, maybe, should be.)

One location mentioned in that linked story is an eclectic spot, called Carhenge® that I’m sure will be overrun with many of those eclipse chasers.

carhenge clouds

 

Some stories even mention expected animal reactions to it getting dark (or you can just see what happens to them EVERY night) and some folks are even thinking of possible protection for their critters. (See the safety disclosure, below.)

I must admit, I have found it ironic that people are going to so much time and expense for what will amount to a whopping two minutes, of what one friend of mine said he can recreate by walking into his windowless pantry and closing the door.

While many articles have addressed the expected gridlock on local roads, one story had an even more pressing concern, especially for us old farts,

“What we’re worried about is … there won’t be a place to go to the bathroom.”

“Andrew Fraknoi is an eclipse expert, has a plan for where he’ll go to the bathroom Aug. 21 during the solar eclipse.”

“All of the porta-potties in the zone have been spoken for,” Fraknoi said.”

“…small towns have planned ahead, renting as many porta-potties for that day as they can get their hands on, Fraknoi said. But they likely still won’t have enough.”

Before you ask, yes, I am one of them planning on finding my way to the dark.

I’m heading out with two long-time friends to a secluded, high mountain, undisclosed location. Bathroom options will be limited, but I’ve already got my spot picked out.

mountain potty

Of course, no matter where you end up not viewing the sun, remember for about two minutes, you can pretty much go anywhere and no one will see a thing.

(Note: that was the big travel secret. Shhh, you didn’t hear it from me.)

FULL DISCLOSURE: so that I can avoid being sued, I better state the SAFETY WARNING you will read in every eclipse story until you are blind, or will become if you don’t pay attention to it:

Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness. NEVER look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection.

O.K. you’ve got a month to scour Google Earth to find your place to go in the sun…I mean, the dark.

My coffee is on fire.

The recent Wall Street Journal article claimed that hard liquor is making a revival, which certainly puts me in good spirits. (pun obviously intended)

 

The story started with, 

“The world’s drinkers are turning to the hard stuff.”

 
My first thought upon reading this in the Journal’s Business News section was, what do you mean “are turning?”
 
In the parlance of you kids, you might say my personal consumption of the so-called hard stuff has been a trending topic for years.
 
But, the article was simply providing a comparison of spirits sales to that of beer and wine as of late.
 
The bar graphs (can I take credit of a visual pun by the newspaper’ staff?) show that the biggest worldwide increase in hard liquor use is in the United States.
 
Hmmm, could it be the politics of the last six months has driven all of us to drink the more mind numbing substances. 
 
On a recent weekend in Portland (the one on the “left coast”), which is known to have maybe three microbreweries per resident of drinking age, I had a couple of noteworthy opportunities to add to the statistics of spirit imbibing.
 
The first was for brunch at a great place known as the Southland Whiskey Kitchen
 
Needless to say, they had me at “whiskey kitchen.”
 
Almost before I checked the list of brunch libations–I said, almost before–I saw they offered beignets, which while I have some difficulty both spelling and pronouncing, I have no problem swallowing whole.
 
In my quest to eat healthily as often as possible, I ordered a Smokehouse Mary, their version of the iconic vodka-based breakfast cocktail, which is loaded with various healthily to consume vegetables.
 
You might even call it farm-to-under the table (if you drink enough of them).
 
They also add their own smoked bacon and rim the glass with smoked salt. 
 
O.K. Now for the true confession (no, not that I’m responsible for fully 1% of the world increase in liquor consumption); the Southland Whiskey Kitchen serves their Bloody Mary with a beer side as kind of a palate cleanser.
 
The confession is that I actually drank a Coors Light, which is what they serve with their cocktail.
 
Those who know me, have heard me oft repeat, I don’t drink beer I can see through. 
 
Hell, I’m not even sure there is beer in a Coors Light beer.
 
But, maybe the cleansing effect also counters the deleterious effects of the smoked bacon and the smoked salt. 

What do you mean, it doesn’t work that way?



 




To quote the world famous, multiple land speed record holder, salt flat car racer, Craig Breedlove,

“For my next act, I am going to set myself on fire.”

 
I still remember reading about him in the May 1972 edition of Playboy Magazine. 
 
(Gee, if I confess I actually read the articles in Playboy will my Official Manly Man Club card be revoked?)
 
But, in the case of my recent trip to Portland (the Portlandia one), it was only my coffee that caught on fire.
 
The source of ignition was my rum–well it is called Frank Rum–that, being 135 proof, burns quite nicely, thank you. 
 
Frank High Proof (which kind of goes without saying at 135 octane) Rum is the local product of the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery.
 
At the McMenamins Kennedy School (no, it’s not that kind of school), one of the most visually enjoyable uses of that product is a coffee of ethnic origin, where one might be heard to say,

“Mi cafe es en fuego!!!”

I say visually enjoyable, because it is a fact of alcohol pyrotechnics that once ignited, the good stuff pretty much gets burned off.
 
But, I think I’m still entitled to take credit for my consumption of  yet more (very) hard alcohol, albeit, it went up in flames.
 
 
 
 
 

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.

           cliff3

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.

                  turtle

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).


I
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…”

ZAPPPZZ! ZAPPPZZ! ZAPPPZZ!


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.