Sunday, December 20, 2015

Home for the Holidays

Thanksgiving weekend at Yachats
Happy Holidays!  No, we haven’t died or gone off the grid.  We’ve been busy and didn’t have much to share in photos or words.  So that’s why we haven’t posted anything in over two months.  It’s been pedal to the metal since we got home in early October, and it feels good. 

Kathy is still working (in her words) too many hours a day to hold the website developers’ feet to the fire get the new national Assistance League website functional.  But at least it is launched and almost merged with their donor management system. I think it’s cool! Click here to see it.  We’re both so glad we stayed home this Christmas, as any trip would have been very stressful without good bandwidth and the time to enjoy a warm sunny place.  
The Share "Shark" Tank 

My favorite shark
Kathy was one of five "sharks," (including the retired justice of the Oregon Supreme Court) on the Swim with the Sharks Share Tank to raise money for area non profits.  She was a nice & generous shark, but with good questions, and she drew some applause here and there  You can  see her in action here

Brenna Baucum CFP, newly minted CFP
Yes, I’m still ‘working,’ at the Salem office of The H Group, Inc., but it doesn’t seem like work to me.  When the weather is bad, I’d just as soon be productive among fun co-workers and clients.  I’ll be there for three more years part-time, maybe more at my option.  Brenna Baucum, who joined us 2013, makes it possible for me to do this.  She just earned her CFP certification, and we're really proud of her.  

We hired another advisor, and there is no room for me at the office until one of our other associates retires next year at this time, so I'll be working from home, right next to Kathy (and not too many steps from the refrigerator). Not bad, huh?   Well, we'll see.  We married each other for better or worse, but not for lunch every day.

Capital Manor towers
Meanwhile, other opportunities are finding things for me to do.  I was invited onto the board of Capital Manor, a 400+ resident continuing care retirement community, complete with a 10-story building, numerous villas, a memory care unit, and more complexity than I could have possibly imagined.  It’s fascinating learning opportunity, and perhaps a glimpse into our future years from now.

I'm official!
The newly-sworn in CASAs
Most of all, I’m excited to have finally completed my training and been sworn in as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for abused and neglected children.  I should have the 200-page file on my first case in a few days. I am so pumped, and I hope this enthusiasm can carry me through the frustrations and emotions I will surely encounter.  
At a Christmas ships party

Wine tasting in late October

In between all of this, we’re trying to stay in shape and have managed to squeeze in a couple of camping trips and lots of cultural events and social gatherings.  

DNA kits
Kathy’s almost 91-year-old mother is spending Christmas with us.  She’s doing relatively well, all things considered. We got each other DNA kits as gifts, not for paternity or forensics, but for ancestry and health curiosity.  

Our Christmas Doorman
The girls won’t be here, but expecting them to travel from London, Boston, and New York at this time of year is a bit much.  They’re all happy, gainfully employed--with benefits--and have serious boyfriends.  In fact, we just learned today that Feruza, our Uzbek high school exchange daughter living in New York just got engaged today. Maybe we'll be going to Tashkent this summer!
Feruza & Ali

We’re going to Bend over New Years weekend, and I’m hoping to snowboard—my aching back and weather conditions permitting (I no longer do ice, crowds, really deep powder, and poor visibility on the slopes). 

While things aren’t going well for others here and abroad, we continue to be unbelievably  blessed with good health, family, friends, travels, abundance, and each other.  We hope all of you are similarly blessed.  Best wishes to for 2016!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Planes, Roads, Trails, and Trains

A cairn to mark our route
In our April 18 blog post entitled What Are You Excited About?  we listed 8 big things over the coming months.  Well, they all happened, and they were worth anticipating.  We just finished the last one--our road trip through Utah and a camp out with my family in Durango, Co.

Kathy finished up her board position with high fives as Director of Finance with the National Assistance League board at the national conference in San Diego. I headed off through the backroads of Nevada with some mountain biking in Susanville, CA to break up the long drive.

As a celebration, she flew to St. George, UT afterwards and we began our trip, starting in Zion National Park.  She is still head of the technology committee, just about to launch their new website and membership database, so some of our trip revolved around phone coverage, WiFi availability, and conference calls.

On the saddle of Angels Rest, Zion NP Utah
But it was still a relaxing trip, all 3100 miles worth.  We explored Zion, Bryce, Grand Escalante, Glenn Canyon, and Durango, CO.  What surprised us the most was the huge crowds at our national parks.  One ranger told us visits are up 50% over last year, setting all records.  Our campgrounds were like the United Nations, only everyone was enjoying him/herself, the scenery, and fellow visitors.  At Zion, our campsite neighbors were from Israel, Germany, and Belgium, all in rented RVs.  We've met people from France, Australia, the UK, China, India, Canada and more.    They all marvel about our beautiful wide open spaces. Talk all you want about the trade deficit, but these visitors are pumping a lot of money into our economy and helping with our balance of payments.
Golden aspen in the San Juan's
My bros:  (L to R): Joe, Neal, me, and Mark.

Colorado residens are often bedeviled trying to time the spectacular aspen colors. We totally lucked out, enjoying soothing vistas of gold, green, and majestic peaks in the Durango-Telluride area.

Best of all, we enjoyed time with three of my four siblings camping out near Durango and riding the narrow gauge train from Durango to Silverton.

This blog software doesn't have the capacity to easily add a lot of photos or do justice to our whole experience. So, if you want to see some amazing scenery, simply click on this link.  For our friends and family who aren't on Facebook, and for those that are, here's a way to get the big picture.

To help pass the long hours over the vast open spaces we are grateful for Sirius Radio, iTunes, Red Bull (at least for me), and each other's company.  However, the frosting on our cake was listening to David McCullough's The Wright Brothers.  What struck us the most was how much everyone in that era wrote heart-felt letters, and because of that, the book--and the facts--came to life.  In this era of Twitter feeds, selfies, and superficial photo-driven social media, we wonder how much our successors will really know how much we felt about things.

It feels good to be home in our spacious kitchen, big bed, and familiar environment.  In contrast to our April post we're looking forward to just enjoying our life in Oregon and being productive again.  I'm looking forward to getting back to work, completing my CASA volunteer training, starting a new board position with Capital Manor, and Rotary activities.  Kathy is looking forward to getting the Assistance League website and data base launched.  Above all, we're looking forward to our normal workout routines and time with local friends.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Our Month in Bali--Slide Show

Returning from spreading the cremains

Kathy and I made a presentation to the Mid-Valley Travel Club at the Salem Public Library on September 10.  Quite a few of our readers and acquaintances said they couldn't make it and wanted to see the slides.  So, here is a Dropbox link.  It will take about a minute.  Then download it and it should open in PowerPoint.  Click away!  Be sure to click on the video clips, as they will be the frosting on the cake.

Shelter on a rice terrace
We have many more photos than we ever published in our December 2014 blogs, so enjoy them on the big screen.   Due to technical difficulties with the library's new equipment, we couldn't open the video clips with the amazing music and processions, but they will definitely give you a better sense of what we were privileged to experience.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Daze/Haze of Wine and Roads

East entrance to 1.7 mile Taft Tunnel
West entrance of Taft Tunnel
Dan & Wendy on a trestle
Bicycling the Hiawatha Trail should be a bucket list item for anyone who can still ride a bike. It is a converted 15-mile railroad bed from the Montana border through a cold and dark 1.7 mile tunnel into Idaho, then 9 more tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles over a gradual 1.7% grade.  We enjoyed it just as much as we did three years ago, but this time we also had the satisfaction of showing it off to 15 members of our Daze of Wine and Roads Airstream caravan. Unfortunately the hazy air quality made it difficult to see the distant trestles across the valley.
Looking from one trestle to another
Cold and dark 1.7 miles
With 9,000 men working round-the clock for two
years and $234 million later, the Milwaukee Railroad opened in 1909, enabling a rail line from Chicago to Seattle.  In 1910, one of the largest forest fires in US history burned 3 million acres, blackening skies as far away as New York. Courageous train engineers are credited with saving 600 lives racing over burning trestles to the relative safety of the tunnels or distant towns.  As a result, 440 miles of the line were electrified in 1911, a novel concept that other railroad companies soon adopted.  The line was abandoned in 1980 and converted to a rails-to-trails path in 2001.
Some of the happy campers at end of the trail

The Hiawatha was the highlight of our 14-day caravan, as was our stay in nearby Wallace, Idaho. John and Vicki Billdt, who didn't do the ride, had a huge pot of jambalaya waiting for us when we returned.  

Fascinating mine tour by x-miner

If you like history, understated Wallace is the place for you.  Most of it burned to the ground in 1910. Our campground on a creek was just three blocks from historic buildings, museums,  and restaurants. In fact, it even had it's own pub! Some toured the brothel museum and others toured a silver mine and hiked the Paulaski Trail, made famous by Timothy Egan's book, The Big Burn.   Some of us also rode sections of the 72-mile Coeur d' Alene trail, using Wallace as a base. 
Bordello Museum
With Cousin Vicki, one of my best childhood friends
As frosting on the cake, Kathy and I connected with my cousin Vicki and her husband, Bob as they were passing through Wallace.  We had not seem them in many years, and as we age we realize how important it is to strengthen family and friendship ties.
MY center of the Universe

Kathy & me along the Snake on a 15 mile ride.  Not smart!
We were lucky not to have to evacuate any areas because of threatening fires all over the Pacific NW. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes and to all the firefighters trying to protect them. The smoke closer to the fires had to be much worse than our inconvenience.  The air quality affected us more than we wanted.  I didn't ride a segment from Coeur d'Alene to Wallace because visibility was barely 150 yards.  

In retrospect, we shouldn't have ridden the day we arrived in Clarkston. We were going to spend three nights in Clarkston, WA (right next to Lewiston ID on the Snake River), but left early after a sleepless cough-filled night.  

View from our campsite on the Snake River
Our first attempt to leave on Thursday didn't succeed.  About 25 miles out of town in hot temperatures climbing a steep pass, our engine overheated and lost almost all of its cooling fluid.  We had no cell phone coverage.  Just as I was getting ready to fix the two flats on my bike and ride back to Clarkston, a helpful state trooper pulled up and drove me into a town 15 miles away to buy more coolant. Then he drove me back, but the trip was too short because I was having too good of a time learning about what it's like to be a state trooper on remote roads.  Of course, he just had to see what the inside of an Airstream looked like!

Master griller & Cook, Davis Cook
Two tows at Alpowa Summit

The new fluids got us two miles to the summit before we realized that we had a serious leak.   Our terrific friends, Davis Cook and Craig Bowcock still in the campground drove up to pull our trailer back to camp and a tow truck hauled our VW back to the dense haze of Clarkston.  In stark contrast to the delightful Trooper K.C. Scott, I got to learn all about the tow truck driver's anger about his online anger-management classes.  

In the end, it was a happy ending because we got to see almost everybody again and enjoy one of our best spontaneous potluck barbecues of the entire two weeks.  The repair shop was able to tighten a lose nut on a coolant hose by the next morning and we got one more chance to hug everyone good bye.

Our leadership mantra
At times we wondered what we were getting ourselves into when we agreed to lead this experimental 'Casual Caravan' with our friends Bonnie and Craig.  But it turned out okay.  We made new friends, solidified existing acquaintances, tasted and drank a lot of fine wines, rode some great bicycle paths, had stimulating conversations, lots of laughs, and (of course) ate a little too much.  For all of the caravaners who are reading this, THANK YOU very much for your flexibility and enthusiasm! You are what made this trip fun and special.

As always, it's always nice to be back home.  This time, the Willamette Valley never looked or smelled so good to us.  We were serenaded with a refreshing rainstorm that reminded us that we live in the best place in the US.  Kathy is catching up on all of her Assistance League board responsibilities for a major conference on September 15 in San Diego.  I'm looking forward to going back to work for a couple of weeks and to resuming my training sessions to be a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for abused and neglected children.  

Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 10, 7:00 PM.  Kathy and I will be making a presentation to the Salem Travel Club at the public library auditorium about our month in Bali last December.  We'll have many more photos than we posted in our blog back then. If you are a local reader, we hope to see you there.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What in Sam Hill (Did we get ourselves into?)

View from Maryhill Museum
Wine tote bag and decal
During a mountain bike ride late last September from Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake with some fellow Airstream club members, we started talking about rails-to-trails bike paths.  One thing led to another.  The next thing we knew, Kathy and I were co-leaders with friends Craig Bowcock and Bonnie Schaefer of Canby on a two-week Airstream Caravan in eastern WA and northern ID.  We appropriately named it the Daze of Wine and Roads. 

Syncline Winery
Our mission:  to discover discovered (yes, you read that correctly) wineries and ride some outstanding rails-to-trails bicycle paths, culminating with the Hiawatha trail from Montana to Idaho, which we will ride on Monday.  Along the way we have had some good cycling experiences, winery visits, and fun times with our fellow travelers.  

Jacob William Winery
We started off with 10 trailers at Maryhill, near the museum created by Sam Hill, legendary road, railroad, and palace builder, hence the phrase “What in the Sam Hill (are you doing?).”   He built the Columbia Gorge scenic highway and the Maryhill Museum.   Unfortunately, our good friends Charlie and Nancy Wilson had to return to Salem because Charlie severely hurt his back.  He's doing better and won't need surgery--yet.

The Stone Hedge Memorial for WW1 Vets & Sam Hill

Somewhere outside Walla Walla
Long Shadows Winery
Now there are only 18 of us, but we carry on, and the wineries and local economies are prospering as a result.  Our second stop was Walla Walla, WA for three nights. The bike riding included a ride to the Whitman National Historic Monument and in the hot and hazy rolling wheat fields. In many ways, the Whitmans were zealots just like the extremists in the Middle East--so convinced that they are absolutely right and that God is on their side.  The Indians suffered as a result.  The most unique wine tasting and over-the top winery we have ever experienced was Long Shadows. Note the Chihuly sculptures in the photo! 

A motley crew on the Centennial Trail at Higgins Point
From Coeur d' Alene to Higgins Point
Best Bridge (and friends) ever!
We also visited  Coeur d’ Alene for four nights. We rode the Centennial R2T to Higgins Point and a 16 mile segment of the Coeur d' Alene R2T along the lake.  The .75 mile bridge over the lake was the best ever bicycle bridge we have ever ridden.   
Kathy coming down the fun bridge over lake CDA
Nuclear Winter in Idaho

On Sunday, we travel to Wallace, ID, the epicenter of a forest fire in 1910, the largest in US history.  We can highly recommend reading The Big Burn by Timothy Egan.  

Note the bridge in the distance

And speaking of the Big burn, we are caught in some big time smoke and haze, but fortunately no fires have affected our itinerary--yet.  Today was actually clear, cool and beautiful--a most welcome change.  Some of the group rode the route we did yesterday, but under blue skies and calm winds.  Kathy and I drove to Sandpoint, ID--a vacation from our vacation--and time for just us. Nice place,but we wish we had brought our bikes.

View from our dinner cruise on Lake Coeur d' Alene
Did we mention the fun and friendly people in our group yet? Lots of fun happy hours, communal meals, and more.  Suffice it to say that they are delightful to be around, the frosting on the cake, and willing (for the most part) to put up with our 'make-it-up-as-we-go' style of caravaning.   We are all very happy campers! 

(In case you missed it, please check out our earlier post from today entitled Reflections on a Dying Town.  Here's the link