Archive for the ‘road trips’ Category

crowd on streetWe stood out there in the mass of humanity, with our stomachs growling and our thirst building, as we watched the stream of cars caked with the desert dust departing for points west.



They had ventured out onto the playa of the Black Rock for the big burn, while we just wanted our fill of the delectable bones of fat and gristle, which served primarily as a grossly overpriced, barbeque sauce delivery system.


     just starting


Such is the annual Best of the West Nugget Rib Cook-off, held in Sparks, Nevada. While the infamous Burning Man event, over the hill to the north, garners a crowd that is over 300 times the 200 residents in near-by Gerlach, the rib cook-off sucks in a reported half-a-million hungry souls ready to suckle on those juicy pork parts.


     crowd want the best


The cookers come from far and wide, bouncing from rib cook-off to rib cook-off, collecting kudos that they display in huge banners in an attempt to lure willing suckers to their wares.

By suckers, I mean both for the highly regarded secret sauces, and people willing to spend $25 for a styrofoam container with a slab of bones, coated in sauce.


     a good start


Yes, I am guilty of both. Four take-away boxes will set you back $100 in cash, but let the gooey getting get going. Hmmm hmmm good ©.


While the purveyors of pork pleasure certainly rake in plenty from the ravenous crowds, those doing the cooking do have certain job-related hazards…like breathing in thick clouds of charcoalized carcinogenic smoke.

(Check out the stained bucket of industrial strength-looking liquid. Looks clean enough for me!)


     eating smoke


While the people watching is always worthwhile, albeit with a lot less naked people caked in mud, as you might see at that other event, you can count on many interesting sights, such as on a banner on the above pictured rib pusher, which read,

“Johnson’s Thermo Nuclear Sauce will improve your cardiovascular system, sinuses, colon, and pancreas simultaneously. 

We’re talking hot. No guts, no glory.”


Luckily, the Renown Regional Medical Center in nearby Reno has an excellently staffed ICU trauma facility for any OD’s that might occur.


On the lighter side, slogan bearing t-shirts were commonplace, and one that got my eye read,

“PETA -  People for the Eating of Tasty Animals”

and on the other side,

“Vegetarian: ancient tribal slang for the village idiot who can’t hunt or fish.”


To maintain my street cred, I hung out with some real Bad Company out there on the street, but truth-be-known, it might be a stretch to call a group of AARP-eligible, white-haired, walker wielding old farts as in any way a threat to personal safety, other than their own, should they stumble on the stage and break a hip.


After we sucked as much sauce as possible and coated our hands and faces in the thick, sticky red stuff, we were able to share the remnants of our gluttony.


     please no more


As evidenced by our distended stomachs and the towering pile of spent napkins, as well as our moans of combined satiation and excessiveness, sometimes it is just not all that easy to curb the consumption.


     ok just one more

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The invitation from a close family member—who shall remain undisclosed for reasons that will become obvious—was simple enough.

“Bring the kayaks, the dog, and whatever sleeping stuff you need, and we will bring the rest.”

Full Disclosure: Let me say, I am fully aware that you can’t just go recreate willy-nilly in the woods without considering where you are willy nillying.


   old man head rock

                (Look at that rock. Lay on your side. No, your other side.)



Some city folks are of the impression that the forests are free for frolicking wherever they wish, as it’s all probably public land, after all. Or, at least it looks that way to them.

(Mountain folks typically know better, but may just choose to ignore the fact.)


If you look at an ownership map of the wildlands of the western U.S., you will see a literal checkerboard ownership.


This includes federal ownership of various flavors, such as national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, and other designations, and these lands are under the control of disparate bureaucracies, including the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (wow, they even have bureaucracy in their name), to name but a few.


Sanctioned activities range from allowing clear-cutting of entire stands of venerable old trees in certain areas, to, “if you pick up that rock we will drone you into oblivion.”


Then there are a number of state owned lands, including,

School Lands were granted to the State of California by the federal government …and consisted of the 16th and 36th sections of land in each township (with the exceptions of lands reserved for public use, lands taken by private land claims, and lands known to be mineral in character).”

“…school lands be proactively managed and enhanced to provide for an economic base in support of the public school system.”

In other words, some of those trees may be logged to pay for the college desk you stuck you gum under (which I’m still trying to get off the knee of my pants).


This, of course, created yet another governmental bureaucracy.

(To manage those lands, not the gum on my pants.)


Back in the day, additional land grants were given to the railroads so James West and Artemus Gordon would have some place to put their fancy-schmancy train as they gamboled their way across the country .


But, when you drive up to that isolated, mountain lake that looks like the perfect place to set up your tent and build a campfire for some S’mores (made from Maker’s Mark marshmallows, premium dark chocolate, and fancy graham crackers – yes, they were fantastic), you might keep in mind that much of the forest lands are privately owned, whether in the massive holdings of Sierra Pacific Industries, or Ma and Pa Kettle with their 1 acre of prime pot-growing land.


So, I know all this.


But, our daughter our local guide said she had camped at this exact same spot just recently, and without any negative consequence—which, of course, could mean that they just didn’t get caught.


   Kidd Lake view

                                 (Looks like public land to me…)



I guess the allure of the amazing spot and the dearth of signs informing us otherwise, we drove down to the lake’s edge and assumed it was probably permissible to park our camp chairs and beer-laden ice chests.


But, I must have had a premonition of the coming Calamitous Kidd Lake Campout Confrontation, as the wife-person and I decided to just spend the day and then head home for a sleeping arrangement that did not involve hard rocks, pointy pine needles, and hungry bears.


And crazy ladies.


After a picture perfect day of quiet mountain water sports, lazy shoreline lounging, and beer quaffing, we drove out on the few miles of nasty rough road to get back to the interstate.


Franks Putin poseur pic

(Wait, is this that Putin putz or a world published travel writer just sucking in his gut?)


Apparently, it was the morning after when the entertainment ensued, and by entertainment, I mean totally bizarre behavior. 


While the men-folk were off fishing, the ladies were enjoying the quiet of the camp, just until some wild woman came peddling across the lake—from who knows where—on one of those hokie looking water bikes.


     water bike


The story as told to me (and repeated here with a possibility of a wee bit of imprecision) was that the female interloper came into the camp screaming about trespassing and disregard for private property and lack of recognition of same (although not a single sign stating the property was private was to be found).


My…ah, close relative and her friend remained calm and apologized if an unintentional transgression had occurred, and offered to pick up and leave immediately.

All the while, crazy lady is continuing to scream and take pictures of the vehicles and license plates and claim that the gendarmes were called and were en route.


   yelling lady

At that point, the crazy lady’s morning meds must have kicked in, as she abruptly transmogrified into the nicest, sweetest person, whose voice reduced in both decibels and displeasure, and began to hug the person she had just been yelling at.


Then, thankfully, water bike woman hopped back on her aquatic steed and went back to whatever meth lab she had taken her leave from.


Sorry I missed it.


No, I’m not.


   SUP dogs

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It’s a long way around France, especially on a bicycle.


aspen trees

Many of you—or maybe just one of you—have noticed my absence for the last month.


I apologize as I understand that you just can’t go anywhere on the world wide web to witness the epitome of wannabe travel writing.


In the past, a month-long sojourn from online access might have meant that I was on a scuba diving adventure on the other side of the planet, out on a live aboard dive boat bobbing in the middle of the Sulu Sea.


Or, it is possible it was the month I plied the Pacific coastline of Mexico on a 42-foot sailboat, where locating the next small fishing village offering ice cold cervazas was a higher priority than where I could find wifi to post a blog.


But, this time, my lack of posting prolificity was my participation in the grueling Tour de France bike race.


Oh, not doing it. HELL NO.


Do you have any idea how sore my ass would be after three weeks sitting down for that long on a hard, narrow seat, wearing those skintight spandex shorts with the padded, bulging crotch?


No, I just spent those three weeks sitting down for that long, wearing my stretched out tidy-whities with the not so bulging crotch on my heavily padded La-Z-Boy recliner.


Those who cannot do, watch those who can on NBC Sports.


But, they do give the bike racers a rest day, so I took the opportunity to take an overnight camping trip. The destination was Crater Lake, but not the one you are thinking of.


A longtime friend and I drove to the relatively small Crater Lake in Lassen County, up in the northeast corner of California, east of Mount Lassen.


casting a fly 


I went with a buddy who is more accustomed to week-long backpacking treks in the high Sierras, while my camping technique is to back up to the garage and load everything I can cram into the back of the pick-up truck.


This yielded a somewhat disparate, and disproportional, amount of camping equipment to haul up to the campground.


My buddy was able to pack his entire supply of stuff into his backpack, including all his clothing, his tent, his sleeping bag, his camp stove, his .06 oz.titanium spork, and his water filter. (Back in the day, we used to drink directly out of any stream; doing this nowadays will result in days of a stream of disgusting rectal discharge.)


I, on the other hand, needed a garden cart to lug my pile of stuff out to his truck. Note, that out of that entire, mountainous pile of camp material, my entire dinner fit into that foil bag, not much bigger than a bag of beer nuts.


 camp gear


Yes, all that was for a simple overnight trip.


Come on, car camp companions, help me out here. Back me up when I say, one night or 10-nights, the only difference in how much shit to schlepp is more beer, more gin, more ice, and more food. But the rest of the stuff doesn’t much change.


We did discover our dissimilar camping styles lead to discrepant ideas of what we brought with us.


As seen in the picture, it was suggested to me we subsist on a packet of backpacker meals, which I was not told have only a resemblance to actual food.


When I typically car camp, we usually bring up multiple ice chests with the equivalent of a large farm animal in meat and associated food products, a two-burner gas stove with multiple fuel canisters, a fully stocked kitchen of cooking and serving supplies, and large containers full of fresh water.


My buddy packs a lightweight (of course) plastic bottle, containing a small amount of rum, which he mixes with some artificial drink powder and drinks it warm.


I, on the other hand, bring a 64 oz flask of Bombay Sapphire gin (yes, folks, that’s a full half-gallon), a bag of fresh limes, a baggie of garlic-stuffed green olives, and one ice chest dedicated just for ice cubes for my GNT’s (gin, no tonic).


flask drink


My friend carries a small inflatable pad, which I’m sure reduces the discomfort of a rough, rocky forest floor to a slightly less rough, rocky forest floor.


Me, I bring an electric air pump-filled queen-sized air bed, and my down pillow from home.


And, finally, my backpacking buddy brings tiny packets of instant coffee (Starbucks, to make it even worse), while I carry whole beans from Peets, a hand coffee grinder, and a full-sized coffee pot with a Melitta cone, and natural brown filters.


What you ask, don’t I believe in roughing it?


Sure. You’ll notice that I do manage without tonic for my gin for a whole two days.


    lake sparkling


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It was by choice that I ventured out into the hot, dusty desert. After all, I promised Jackson that I would, almost a year ago.


     Wow, he's hot, but what's up with the umbrella?


What I didn’t know, was a chance encounter with a prostitute could have been my last act of free choice, except her offer was neither free, nor really a choice.


The premise was a motorcycle race that started on the saloon filled streets of a storied Nevada mining town, but almost ended when I found out that the scantily dressed blond beauty “working girl,” who put her arm alluringly around me, did not come without a steep price.


        Yes, there was blood.


The imposing hulk that was her handler was quick to hook us up, as he was pressing the establishment’s menu of services into my, now profusely sweating, palm.  (Apparently, a Neopolitan doesn’t always refer to an ice cream treat of different colors.)


While I might have fantasized that the well-known pimpaurateur Dennis Hof was making me an offer I couldn’t refuse, the fact was, I couldn’t afford to not refuse it.


     Let's not compare measurements.


First, I couldn’t afford the cost.

“They charge how much to do what?”


And more importantly, I couldn’t afford what the glare I was getting from the wife-person would equate to in post-pleasure repercussions. (Hint: our house has cooking knives and a garbage disposal.)


Just like the nonexistent negotiations that were going on with the lithesome young lady, so went the beginning of the motorcycle race.


Things on the Old West main street were going nowhere fast. The sea of powerful two-wheeled moto machines stood motionless, as the leather-clad, ruggedly handsome riders waited anxiously for the signal to fire them up and head out onto the remote race route.


    Race, what race?


Finally, the mass of knobby-tired, rattling machines cleared the starting line, and headed out to dust-choked narrow, rocky canyons, for a grueling, bone-jarring multi-hour motorcycle race.


Although, as the YouTube video (below) shows, sometimes the race course was as backed up as the start.


But, truth be told, it really did not matter to me as I had other things occupying my concentration. One of those high-priced Bunny Ranch party gals had me in a partial body clench (actually, it may have been more of a self-defense hold), but, nonetheless, I wasn’t in any real hurry to get anywhere fast.


After all, there are some things where finishing fast is not the desired outcome.


    At least you know where my hands are.


As in the previous year, Jackson showed very well out on the race course.


I, on the other hand, just had to show the good sense to let go of Krissy Summers before it really was going to cost me.


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Here we are, sitting in near darkness, seduced by the spectacular scenery of this wilderness setting.


We are neither cold nor uncomfortable, or bothered by the hard ground.


Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are sitting in plush seats of a temperature-controlled movie theater.


Nevertheless, I recently asked myself,

“Self…why do we wander out into the wilderness? What does it do for, or to, us?”


        Grand Canyon - Colorado River


I have been getting into the great outdoors for as long as I have been breathing. While I came onto this planet in the suburban setting of the San Francisco east bay area, I was lucky to be born to parents who had a love for the fresh, pine-scented forests of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where I spent many a youthful summer.

We used to take annual family car camping trips up to places like Lake Tahoe, and stays at Camp Mather, just outside of Yosemite.


In my formative years, I donned the merit badge-festooned uniform of the Boy Scouts of America—long before scandals of homophobia and the concept of low-impact camping techniques were de rigueur.

(One of our first tasks when making camp was to surround our canvas tents with drainage ditches cut deep into the fragile soil.)


       This is how we rolled back in the day.


While in college in the early 70’s, I joined the Chabot College hiking club, where we would venture up to the central Sierras. My love of wilderness grew during those treks, which may have had something to do with the recreational herbaceous materials we would pass around in the back of the van during the drive.


Or, maybe it was that I discovered women would backpack topless and were—occasionally—not averse to sharing a sleeping bag, after the ritual herb sharing around the campfire.

Hey, remember that was the post Haight-Asbury, Summer of Love era.


But, what really broadened my horizons was my 30- year affair with the iconic outdoor travel writer, Tim Cahill. Whether from Outside Magazine articles, or his series of travel tales with tantalizing titles, his evocative prose, infused with self-effacing humor, created an impetus for global adventure discovery.


I also discovered that the outdoors meant different things to different people.


Over the intervening years, a lot of people decided that the wilderness was not just a place to get drunk, get naked and sit around in a drum circle all night.

(That is what Burning Man is for.)


The fact was, adventure travel seemed to lean more and more towards the adventure aspect of the outdoors activities.


       You go...no, you go...


Enter the world of extreme adventure. Doing it harder, faster, longer—and scarier—became the attraction, in and of itself, for some.


        Waiver...did I sign a waiver?


Is there some form of “runner’s high” which revs up the desire for extreme adventure? Can this just be the outcome of self-induced morphine-like neurotransmitters, namely endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and even something called endocannabinoids, which the human body naturally produces?

(Thanks, U.C. Berkeley Wellness Letter for all those intelligent sounding words.)


Whatever the catalyst, for some, it ain’t a good time unless they bleed and it hurts. And, it gets filmed.


Back a few years, the goal for a few was to be labeled Jackass and get their videos viewed in a hit movie and television series. (I am not sure, but I think now days, you might find some of those that survived those exploits on Tosh.0)


Those wishing to forgo the gaping wounds and severe pain can still venture out—at least virtually—into slightly less testosterone-stimulated situations by viewing various adventure films.


        Brighton Bilek blood


This would include offerings from Warren Miller, Radical Reels, and locally inspired versions, like the Lake Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, or what I just saw at the Davis High School theater, a showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.


I could not help but notice that the majority of the attendees seem to be a league of  like-minded, tattooed tribe of wannabe adventurists, displaying a true sense of uniform individuality by their apparent requisite costume, bearing labels of Columbia, Patagonia, North Face, and REI.


        AG tattoo


But, my guess is that most of that audience does get out, notwithstanding the tagline of one of those adventure film posters that boasted—albeit absurdly—watching others out there in a movie is ”the next best thing to doing it.”


Nah, we know that is not even close to being true. Really, how likely are you to see even one topless woman in an adventure film audience?


I certainly did not see any at the Banff Mountain movies last week.


Although, I did smell some smoke of a particularly distinctive odor in the parking lot during the intermission.


        Jackass movie poster

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Trees hurt, too. Abnormal is the new normal.


No, I’m not talking about me. I only wish that sage saying referred to my own mental disposition.


But, what’s up with this bizarre weather nowadays?


While the rabid right-wing radio-heads are wont to dismiss Al Gore as a wingnut, there’s something happening here and what it is ain’t exactly clear, but nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. (Yes, there IS a song lyric there.)


For anyone even remotely enamored with the classic sport of baseball, the phrase spring training brings thoughts of warm weather, cold beer, and pudgy old farts with well-worn mitts that haven’t cradled a baseball in decades.


Many east coasters, wishing to escape the winter doldrums, travel south to the scattered ballparks of the so-called Grapefruit League in Florida, while thousands of other fans find their way to the sunny southwest surroundings of Phoenix, Arizona, for the popular Cactus League.


        Scottsdale bar welcomes fans without guns.


Last year, the wife-person and I embarked on a two-thousand mile spring training road trip to AZ, which took in a little of Las Vegas (or more accurately, they took us for a little), a visit to a grand big canyon, looked over the edge of one damn big dam, and watched my fantasy girlfriend, Danica, make left turns for 400 miles, going really, really fast.


And, oh yeah, we watched some baseball.


This year we planned—what I now believe after two successive trips to be—our annual mid-March trek, where we looked forward for some of those famous warm Arizona springtime temperatures. We did get at least a little concerned, when about two weeks before our trip a news story reported that,

“A freaky storm dusted parts of the area with hail and snow, a combination called graupel.”

(Gee, I thought that was an Italian liquor.)


HA! I only wish we got some snow while we were there last week. Summer apparently decided to precede spring, and we were scorched by sunshine, and a record 95 degrees. And that was in the shade.


Using the meteorologically scientific Comfort Index of Weather Reporting, sitting in the stands under full sun for three hours, this converts to, as I heard a guy walking behind me in the stands say,



The fact is, it ain’t easy to sit in the stands drinking mugs of frosty cold beer for the full three-hours, or so, of the ball game.


For one thing, they announce “last call” already in the seventh inning. Apparently, it is difficult for the ballpark crew to mop up puddles of spilled beer, and sweep up mustard and ketchup encrusted hotdog wrappers and discarded peanut shells, if they have to work around passed out patrons, once the game is over.


Thankfully, it does cool down in the evenings, especially in the air-conditioned comfort of the many local eating and drinking establishments.


Our favorite place, so far, is Cowboy Ciao, in Scottsdale. As it comes out, we are not the only one who thinks so.

The Visit Phoenix “Official Travel Guide to Greater Phoenix,” quotes local resident, Danica Patrick (yes, that one) as that being her favorite place to eat.


I KNEW we thought alike.  And, we have so much in common; she likes to drive fast and I look to look at her.


   Danica Patrick bares her thoughts about me.


See you next year Danica; I’ll be looking at you for you.


Shameless Promotion Announcement Section

While I cannot claim my abnormal is now normal, I can unequivocally state that my regularity has become very irregular, at least when it comes to my blog posting.  While I would love to blame an excess of time spent doing adventure travel, it is probably that my nap time has increased in both frequency and duration.


So, if you have grown weary of clicking back here every few hours (yeah, as if THAT is happening), I might respectfully suggest that you click on the upper right column, where it says, “Subscribe to Sand Dollar Adventures by email.”


That way, my latest blog post will find its way to you, and I promise not to send you requests to fund my next trip to visit Danica in Arizona.


At least until it cools down there.

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This was not the finest hour in multinational relations.


As we made the third go-around of the traffic circle, I rolled down my pickup window and combined my lack of any semblance of being bilingual with wild, mostly pointless hand gestures.


How do you say in Spanish?

“Please, dear God, just help me find the border and I promise to be good.”


Tijuana street at night

This was the nightmare of our nervous navigation of crawling through the gauntlet of street vendors of downtown Tijuana after dark.


There was probably more an imagined threat to our wellness, than a reality. But, after already suffering one legitimate near-death experience deep into the wilds of southern Baja, our caravan of cars—which had already dwindled from five to two—desperately wanted to get back to Estados Unidos de Norteamerica.


We were traveling with precious cargo—that being our two young daughters—and the wife person was beginning to show sure signs of stress, as indicated by her piercing stares, accompanied by comments, such as,

“What in the hell did you get us into?” and “Find the border crossing, NOW [censored affirmation]!”


It was dark. I volunteered to take the lead and we were lost.


And, the street signs seemed to be in some foreign language.


      tijuana driving at night


Somehow, I didn’t remember our transit heading south three weeks previous with as much consternation and befuddlement. Yes, there was that harrowing U-turn across a freeway median that was specifically mentioned in the guidebook, but, ultimately, we safely made our way to the toll road, which was welcome relief with a relatively straight, fast highway.


We were more than willing to pay a few pesos to put on more miles towards our destination for the night, a small town along the Pacific side of Baja.


      Tijuana traffic


Back to our break for the border in Tijuana: As we were headed home, my buddy, Jack, was following me, accompanied with his wife and two young kids. I suspect his wife had suggested, in no uncertain terms, that he not lose us in the traffic, based on the four inches of space he was following me by.


Just as the exasperation level of pretty much all four of us adults was about go up to DEFCON TWO (the kids probably thought the whole thing was a great adventure), I happened to see a sign on the other side of the four-lane street that read, “U.S. Border,” with an arrow pointing the opposite way from which way we were heading.


So, I did the only logical thing by whipping a wild U-turn at the next, and very congested, intersection just as the light had turned from green to yellow, with Jack basically connected to my rear bumper as the light had clearly turned red. Later he told me that he was going to stay behind me, even if he had to plow through traffic.


The good news was that within a few minutes we were in sight of the U.S. border crossing.


The bad news was that lanes appeared to converge from much of Mexico, South America, and possibly Cuba, so you have like 20 or 30 lanes, which merged into fewer and fewer, until you have only a few border guard stations where you get to let them question you as to where you have come from, what you brought back—including how much alcohol, and check out your sign color, while they listen for a discernable Hispanic accent.


Profiling, before it was popular.


      tijuana border crossing


One of the vehicles that made their way home on their own (or so we thought) was a white Jeep Cherokee, driven by Tom.  I kind of forgot about the three vehicles that found their own route home, especially since some lived in cities far away from where we lived.


That was until I happened to read a recent news story about some guy who tried to make his own border crossing from Mexico into the U.S. As you can see from the pictures, he “almost” made it.


I remember while we were camping in tents on the beach along the Sea of Cortez, in southern Baja, one evening the infamous El Norte winds came up with a vengeance, and we could hear Tom’s wife, Linda, screaming as their tent was about to collapse into a heap,

“Get me home!”


Now, I am starting to think that maybe Linda expressed a similar sentiment as they were wandering around the teeming streets of Tijuana, which may have lead Tom to attempt the fastest way he could get over the border; “over” being the key word.


The story mentioned smuggling, but knowing Tom, if he had been smuggling anything, it would have been a few too many cases of Pacifico.


In any regard, obviously things did not go well.


       jeep on border fence stuck


Hmmm. I seem to remember hearing something about a divorce a short time later.


I guess it was only luck—and a marginally unsafe U-turn—that saved Jack and I from the same fate.

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trailside flower

“It’s only a little bit further to the falls,” we were told.


“You’re almost there,” the next hiker promised.


It is amazing how your perspective for distance traveled and difficulty of passage improves when you are headed down the trail, with the key word being “down,” as in downhill.


We, on the other hand, were headed up.


I was up in Reno this past weekend to retrieve the family pooch after the wife-person and my two-week road tour of Ireland. Number 2 Daughter was kind enough to house our canine kid, to be kept company by hers.


The wife-person opted to remain home to nurse a bad cold that is often a de rigueur result of multiple days of bus travel, followed by a long airline flight across the pond from Europe. (I see sick people.)


Off-topic for a moment: given the crammed seating on our United Airlines flight, I have decided that the much maligned torture technique of waterboarding is a walk in the park compared to being stuck in the middle seat on a plane loaded with the current crop of full-figured Americans.


Holy shit, where did all these fat people come from?!?  We’re talking about hipponormous being the norm nowadays.


I’m not talking about simply overweight. Hell, I am overweight as indicated by a closet of pants that no longer fit well, and by fit well, I mean I can only get them closed if I lay flat on the ground while sucking out every iota of air in my body.

No, we’re talking about 250-pound plus blobs wearing stretch pants and Velcro-closing leisure shoes.


Back to my Reno rendezvous with the dog. 

 trail dogs

After a fortnight of gluttony, I figured a short hike in the hills might begin to put a dent into the “few” extra inches of waistline I brought back with me.


For our intended short hike with the mutts, Number 2 Daughter and I drove up to the Washoe County, Michael D. Thompson Trailhead for the Hunter Creek Trail in the Mount Rose Wilderness in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest.


Yes, all these exact names are actually posted on the signs for this hiking path. No wonder the government has trouble doing things the easy way. Hell, a few more names and the description would be longer than the trail.


Speaking of the length of our walk, we started out with very little water, no food, no map, no idea of an intended destination, and, oh, did I mention, very little water? Once we got going we learned about this supposed spectacular waterfall, “just up the trail,” with “just” meaning, just you wait how far and steep and rocky and dry it is to get there.


I did mention our general lack of drinking water, didn’t I?


We eventually found out that the hike was about six miles. Given that I just returned from a trip to Ireland, I was still thinking in metric, so I figured it was about 10 kilometers. Wishing to convert it back to miles, I simply used the conversion of 1.6 dollars to Euros, which I think meant we went 16 miles.



    trailside tree


Add to that, was the fact that this trail started in the mountains above Reno, which is already a high-desert locale, and it went up and up from there. I knew this was a significant gain from what I was used to being at sea level in Ireland, although I am not really sure of the elevation of sea level over there, since they drive on the wrong side of the road.


If I knew how far six miles is when measured on the slope, I probably would have forgone this four-hour march. But given male ego and trying to prove what my running friends used to say about me (“What he lacks in brains, he makes up in stamina.”), I forged on.


Besides, I could not show weakness around Number 2 Daughter, even though she is at a level of superb athletic conditioning, and half my age.


I don’t know if it was just that Christmas and her birthday are coming up, but I heard her say more than once to folks we encountered along the trail,

“My 61-year old dad is kicking my ass.”


How could I not continue on with encouragement like that? So we did and, thankfully, it was worth it.



     Hunter Creek Falls


     Hunter Creek Falls pool



The waterfall is, indeed, magnificent, but the problem is once you cool off in the refreshing pool, you have to hike all the way back to the pickup truck, over miles of a dry, rocky trail, which is exposed to the full sun.



      The long, hard road to Reno



And, I should mention…we really did not have enough drinking water.


I am told this sometimes causes one to repeat themselves.



             Can we go home now?

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Stay thirsty, my friends

The beach was Baja-esque and the beer was distinctly Mexican, but any additional resemblance to previous sojourns south of the border would be based on our chosen camping comrades and the prolific consumption of fresh lime slices appurtenant to a multitude of Pacificos.


Besides, this trek required neither passports, nor pesos.


Given the superb camping site at the end of a rough, rocky dirt road along the shore of a beautiful, large northeastern California lake, I was cautioned by our posse not to divulge the specific details as to our location, under threat of severe pummeling by a large metal liquid-carrying container.


But, I am getting ahead of myself.


Before we could even leave home, there were camp lists to flesh out and flasks to fill.


Well, that killed that bottle.


A bantam-sized flask of Makers Mark whiskey was requested by the wife-person (almost half of which made it back home), and then there was a somewhat more ample container of Bombay Sapphire gin, which actually holds over a “handle” of the so-called Blue Bottle.


Full disclosure: almost none of those two liters of that libation remained at the end of the campout, but truth-be-told, it was somewhat of a community “resource.” (And that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)


Once the packing list was compiled, the truck was loaded and the drive was on. Given that this was the first camping trek with my relatively new truck, the last thing I wanted was dog hairs all over the seats, and since the back end was full of absolutely necessary outdoor equipment (see previous discussion regarding liquid provisions), well, you wouldn’t expect me to put the poor pooch on the roof of the vehicle, would you?


He runs faster than he looks.


But, not to worry; I did stop occasionally to allow him to catch his breath.


Once we arrived lakeside, we found a lone shade tree, which proved perfect to protect our ice chests from the weekend’s blistering temps.


morning glow


Cool quiet nights along the placid lake were pierced by a spectacular sky show, as part of the peak of Perseids meteor shower. Some searing streaks seemed to hang in the night sky like shiny bright tinsel.

While the night sky was clear and full of bright stars, the days were sometimes clouded with the smell of nature burning.

Apparently, we had not followed the local news reports that much of northern California was being scorched as a result of multiple wildfires. Dependent on the whims of the wind direction, we were sometimes subject to heavy drifting smoke.

It wasn’t until the drive home, did we see the many end times-sized smoke columns billowing up along the Sierra Nevada mountain range, as well as from new fires popping up within the interior coastal range.

The massive fire near the Feather River canyon had created a colossal column that had become a huge cloud typical of a thunderhead build-up.

In other words, if it wasn’t the end of the world, as predicted by the Mayan calendar, it could have been an effective film trailer for the next post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie.


quiet times


Nevertheless, our days were occupied with windsurfing, stand-up paddling, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and other, somewhat less energetic activities.


The solitude of the scenery was stark yet settling.


Golden glow evenings


This was a good place to hang out and I am sure we will return again.


Sunday, another blood Sunday


But, I will have to check: do they make flasks larger than half a gallon?


A person doesn’t want to end up dangerously low of necessary provisions.


Caution sign

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Home is where the beer is made.

My last blog post was supposed to be about a recent kayak trip, but my story didn’t get much past the beer stop. 


Not that there is anything wrong with that.


As you may recall, after a brief visit to the Truckee River, west of Reno, it was time to head up to the high desert of northeast California, and the so-called eastside of the Sierra Nevada/ Cascade mountain range. As I mentioned previously, we began this sojourn at Lassen Ale Works, a wonderful new brewpub in Susanville.


After sampling a “few” of their local ales, I forgot to ask them why couldn’t they have opened the place during the 21 years I lived there?


Then again, maybe it’s better all around that they didn’t.


When I finally remembered that we were up there to get on the water, it was time to launch the boats on a beautiful, bucolic lake outside the small town of Westwood.


Depending on the map, we were either on Walker Lake or Mountain Meadows Reservoir. Or both; it’s all the same body of water.


But, by the time we spilled ourselves out of the brewery and got to the put-in, it was getting kind of late in the day and I was a little concerned about trekking out onto uncharted waters—or at least since I was chartless.

(I said chartless…not clueless.)


I assumed—apparently mistakenly—that our expedition’s doctor, who was supposedly familiar with the local area, would be a safe bet to follow.


           The doctor knows best...or does he?


I was wrong.


The last I saw of him, he was paddling into an ever-narrowing channel, and as he disappeared into the almost impenetrable, head-high tules, the last thing I heard was a faint,

“Don’t go this way.”


            I am NOT going into that thicket.


This was not Dr. Livingstone, I presume, who I was following into the jungle of bulrushes.


No, it was Dr. John, who, like his namesake, might be more familiar with 70’s rock music, than by his navigational knowledge of these waterways.


As Dr. John’s head disappeared into the dense mat of bushes, I decided to chart my own course into a different direction…one that did not require getting out of the kayak and dragging it overland to a path that might eventually go through to somewhere with floatable water.



           It's been nice knowing you, doc.


I am not a boating professional, but I am pretty sure that kayaks are meant to be paddled in water, and not drug through thick vegetative growth requiring a machete to make headway.


By now, the sun was slowly sinking down towards the mountain to the west, and it appeared that I was on my own to find my way back to base camp. Then, off in the distance, I saw the women of our group, paddling in an entirely different direction, which I only hoped was towards the take-out.


I was getting hungry, and by then, the beer buzz from lunch was certainly wearing thin.


While not so vain with male ego that I would hesitate to follow the ladies lead as they paddled across the lake—I did maintain a reasonable distance as to not reveal that I had no frig’n idea where I was going.


About the time our destination for the day was in sight, I happened to notice a relatively large animal floating mostly below the surface, and apparently pacing my kayak.


As I saw the setting sun glistening off some really sharp looking incisors, I momentarily wondered if piranha were present in this body of water, until I remembered that we were thousands of miles from the Amazon (the mammoth South American river, not the massive online shopping dot com). No, I ascertained that this critter was a very large beaver, which lead me to be thankful that my watercraft was constructed from plastic, not wood.


I would think that floating by a big beaver in a wooden dugout canoe could have had disastrous consequences; jagged splitters stuck in my arse come to mind.


By the end of our evening of paddling, all souls did survive the navigational missteps and encounters with wild animals.


    Mc Coy Flat reflections


Another day was time for another kayaking venue, so the next morning we put-in on McCoy Flat Reservoir—which to my knowledge has no other names, but might be confused with near-by Hog Flat Reservoir.

(Truth-be-told, we saw neither Hogs, nor McCoy’s at any time during our paddling adventure.)


We beached on an island for breakfast, and for those of us with impressionable bladders, a potty stop (and by impressionable, I mean that, after sitting in a kayak for hours, the hard seat makes a generally uncomfortable impression on my bladder).


Eventually, we reached the take-out on McCoy Flat, and not coincidentally, the same location as our morning put-in, which was very convenient, as that’s where the vehicles were parked.


Then, it was time to head south, back to Reno, but not before an encore visit to Lassen Ale Works for lunch, and, oh yes, twist my arm, another beer. Or two.


     As the sun slowly sets...where in the hell am I?


The next day, in order to close out our mountain lake hat trick, we headed up to Stampede Reservoir, northwest of Reno.


It was there that we concluded our multi-day, multi-state (multi-beer) water adventures with a rare sighting of a couple of hairy-assed animals basking along the lakeshore.


One appeared to be highly educated based on his viewing interests…while the other did not know better than to cover up an overly hirsute, pudgy physique while pretending to be actually reading some intellectual magazine.


    What IS that dog looking at, anyway/


Cover up that hairy-assed mass of flesh, would you?

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