Today Peggy and I are continuing to post about the trip we took up the Rhine River last summer to celebrate Peggy’s 72 birthday. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.
Whenever our riverboat stopped at towns and cities along the Rhine, Peggy and I would go exploring if we had the time. Wandering on our own, traveling at our own pace, and making detours whenever something captures our attention is our favorite way to travel. We also feel that it is also the best way to experience an area. This is true whether we are hiking in the wilderness, exploring a small town, or visiting a large city. We found Boppard, Germany to be an ideal walking town. It was picturesque, historic, and easy to explore in the limited time we had.
Its roots date all the way back to Celtic times. It became a Roman fort during the time of Julius Caesar. Bouncing back and forth between the various powers that occupied the region since, it thrived during the Middle Ages and has maintained its medieval charm down to today where it is noted for both its wine and tourism.
Farther up the Rhine we came to Speyer and its massive cathedral. The Speyer Cathedral was built in 1030 and added to in 1077. It is considered to be an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture. Eight kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were buried in its vault over a period of 300 years. They’re still there.
Next Monday we will be visiting Grand Teton National Park and one of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges.
Peggy and I just returned from our visit to Egypt and trip up the Nile River. Wow! What an incredible experience. We are excited to share it with you. I’m now putting together an introductory blog which I will post later this week. Several more posts will follow as I go to work on sorting though our experiences and some 3000 plus photos. Grin. My apologies for my absence the last three weeks. We had really thought there would be time for reading and commenting on posts. Ha.
Erupting geysers are one of Yellowstones best known features. In fact, half of the world’s active geysers are located in the National Park. Peggy and I photographed lots of them when we visited last fall on our four month trip around the US.
The reason behind Yellowstones record breaking number of geysers is that much of the park is located in a giant caldera, a collapsed volcano. Semi-molten rock exists in some areas as close as 2-5 miles below the surface. This extremely hot rock heats ground water flowing near it and creates Yellowstone’s hydro-thermal features including geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. We featured hot springs two weeks ago. Today is the geysers’ turn. They erupt when the super hot boiling water creates pressure in channels leading to the surface that erupts as steam out of a vent. As the pressure is released the geyser subsides until the process is repeated. They come in all sizes. The most famous is Old Faithful, given its name due to the regularity of its eruptions.
My blogging friends Linda and Karen from Texas called yesterday and wanted to know where in the world were we. It was special for them to check up on us. They caught us between Death Valley and Las Vegas.
Peggy and I hadn’t dropped into a black hole and simply disappeared from WordPress as people sometimes do. We had forgotten how much work goes into moving and selling a house. It’s number three on the top-five list of stress producers— right after the death of a loved one or divorce, and before having a major illness or losing a job! There was no time for blogging during the day, and by night, I had reached zombie status. Sitting and vegging were about all I could muster. I had gone beyond couch potato; I was a couch turnip.
Anyway, long story short, two weeks ago, Peggy and I made a final walk around our house, hooked up Serafina, the trailer, to Iorek, the truck, and drove up our road, honking as we had promised our neighbors we would in a final farewell. Beep, Beep, Beep-Beep, BEEP—BEEP.
Saying goodbye wasn’t easy. We had lived in our little home in the woods for 11 years— longer than either of us had ever lived anywhere since heading off to college. We had come to love the five acres we were responsible for with its irrepressible wildlife and even gotten used to the deer pressing their noses up against our windows to see what we were doing inside. Or leaving their babies sleeping on our porch as the moms went off to browse. That speaks to how much the deer trusted us. It gave a whole new meaning to baby-sitting. Then there were the squirrels and foxes and bob cats and cougars and bears. Oh my! Bald eagles flew up and down the canyon and soared into the air where they were joined by osprey and hawks. Numerous other birds lived on our property or stopped by on their way elsewhere. Watching them gather at our bird feeder and determine who was boss provided endless entertainment. Having a national forest in our backyard and a river in the front yard wasn’t half-bad either. Nor were the views of the Siskiyou mountains, a scant ten miles away with their snow-covered peaks and incredible sunsets.
Last, but certainly not least, Peggy and I had great neighbors. They were a diverse group that came from widely different backgrounds but genuinely liked each other, almost a miracle in this age of irreconcilable differences. On Friday we had them all over for a going away potlatch party, which, in case you don’t know, was a tradition of the Northwestern American natives where the chief would call everyone together and give away most of what he owned at an opulent feast.
Our potlatch didn’t quite qualify. For one, we weren’t chiefs; for two, our opulent feast was a beer, wine, booze and pizza party. Papa Murphy’s did the honors on pizza and we cleaned out our liquor cabinet for the beer, wine, and more serious alcohol, like 98 proof rum and Tom’s Blackberry Surprise. The surprise was the amount of vodka he added to juice from the five-gallons of blackberrys we had picked last summer. Drink a little and it tastes good; drink enough and it is the best concoction you had ever downed. There was plenty of alcohol to make everyone happy. An opulent feast wasn’t necessary and the pizza was scarfed down.
And finally, we didn’t give everything away. Hardly. We’d already sent a 16’ x 8’ packed moving pod off to our daughter’s home in Virginia with our treasures— mainly books, book cases, a buffet, art, a couple of comfy chairs and some heirlooms. We had also made numerous trips to Goodwill and the dump. And, while we had shipped 30 boxes of books to Virginia, we had also given 15 to Friends of the Ruch Library to sell to benefit the library. Peggy had been the president of FORL for six years. To top it off, Serafina and Iorek were loaded to the gills with everything we might need for the road— Plus. Peggy kept stuffing things into Serafina or showing up with bins for me to find room for in Iorek. Even with all of that, none of our neighbors went home empty handed. There were still couches and beds and chairs, and kitchen supplies, and lamps, and food, and sporting equipment and left over alcohol. There was even a 24 roll pack of TP from Costco. That would have brought a fortune at the beginning of the pandemic. People would have killed for it. We could hardly give it away.
As tough as saying goodbye was, Peggy and I were more than ready for our new life of full-timing. After all, the name of this blog is Wandering Through Time and Place!
With two weeks on the road behind us, we are almost human again. What we did, actually, was drive down to Reno where we camped out for a week while we relaxed and reacquainted ourselves with life on the road and our new trailer. And then we drove on to Death Valley, getting there four days before they closed the campgrounds for the season. A blog is coming.
We’ve now moved on to Las Vegas and are getting ready for our next National Park, Zion Canyon. We have four travelling companions along: Bone and Eeyore of course. They’ve travelled with us for over a quarter of a million miles. This time, however, they have been joined by Goofy and Iorek’s avatar. Goofy has been hanging out with me since the 70’s when a friend learned that one of my in-law relatives had been responsible for the creation of Goofy and, I might add, Bozo the Clown. I identified more closely with Goofy. Yuk, yuk. Iorek’s avatar was sent to us by Chrystal Trulove, one of our close blogging friends, as a Christmas Tree ornament. He told us that he would much prefer to be on the road with us than be packed away in a moving pod.
I’ve been a fan of Jimmy Buffet’s ever since I went to see him and his band, The Coral Reefer’s, at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in the early 1980s. As I recall, we even had a ‘reefer’ (or three) in preparation for the concert. By we, I mean Tom Lovering, his Aussie buddy, Trevor, and me. It was a guy’s night out. Cheese Burger in Paradise and Son of a Son of a Sailor are still floating around in my mind. As is Margaritaville.
I’ve been thinking about another one of his songs from that era, Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude, over the past three months I’ve been taking a break from blogging. These lyrics in particular struck a chord:
Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder, So I can’t look back for too long. There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can’t go wrong with these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes…
I could hardly blame you for thinking, “At 78, there is a lot more over Curt’s shoulder than there is waiting in front of him.” But Peggy and I don’t view things that way. Life is an adventure to be lived— one day at a time— for as long as you can. So, when Peggy casually mentioned to me a few weeks ago that she was ready to wander again, I was right there with her. We did that in 1999/2000, taking a year off from work to travel extensively in North America for a year. And we did it again in 2008 when Peggy retired. That time it was for three years.
There is something incredibly freeing about life on the road, as many of you who read this blog know from your own travels. Each day brings something new to see, to experience and to learn. Everyday life and concerns fade into the background. While we have travelled using just about every mode of transportation possible over the years (minus the four-legged type), our North American road trips were accomplished in two different Pleasure Way vans, Xanadu and Quivera.
Our goal this time will be to do a more thorough job of exploring North America than we have in the past— traveling relatively short distances to the next interesting/beautiful location, settling in for 1-3 weeks, and exploring the surrounding country. It will require a slightly different approach. We are buying a small trailer and have already bought a new pickup to pull it. The trailer will serve as our base. The pickup will serve as our exploration vehicle. It even comes with 4-wheel drive and off-road capacity! The trailer is designed for either living in campgrounds with hookups or boondocking (living off the grid) with solar power.
As for our schedule, we have yet to decide how long we will be on the road each outing before we return to our home base. Neither have we decided where each trip will take us but we are thinking warmer when it is cold up north and cooler when it is hot down south. Both Canada and Mexico will be included in our plans depending on conditions. Our goal will also be to avoid some of the worst problems associated with global warming. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as our plans develop. And, of course, you will be invited to travel with us as I blog along the way.
Tom wanders in and out of these posts frequently. I first met him in 1974 when I walked into Alpine West, his outdoor gear and clothing store in Sacramento. I was planning my first 100 mile Sierra Backpack Trek as a fundraiser for the American Lung Association and was seeking a sponsor. After telling me that the trip was crazy and that people would come off the hike hating me and the ALA, he immediately offered to promote the event through his store. That’s Tom. We’ve been friends ever since and have had numerous adventures together that have included backpacking, boating and Burning Man, among others. He was with me when I found Bone on a backpacking trip in 1978. In the photo below, Tom has Bone woven into his hair on an 18 day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon he led in 2010 that included Peggy, me, and other friends.
Three years ago, he and his friend Lita were deglazing a pot that they had used for cooking blackberry jam. Tom threw in a dollop of vodka to make the job easier. Naturally he couldn’t waste the vodka. Much to his delight, the sugar-enhanced blackberries combined with a generous helping of vodka went well together. A new drink was born: Blackberry Surprise! Over the next couple of years, he and Lita made pilgrimages to the Fort Bragg area on California’s Pacific Coast each summer to pick blackberries to mix with vodka as he refined his recipe.
I told him that lots of blackberries grow where we live and invited the two of them up to join Peggy and me in making Blackberry Surprise. To seal the deal, we sent him a photo of plump blackberries a week and a half ago.
Tom called immediately. “We’ll be up tomorrow,” he told me. I hadn’t expected the photo to elicit such a fast response.
“Um, Tom,” I replied, “we are having dinner out with our friends Don and Nan.”
“What time will you get home,” he asked. “Eight-ish” I replied. “Great, we’ll see you then.” I could hear Lita in the background suggesting you don’t call someone and show up the next day. Ha. Tom and Lita drove up the 320 miles from Sacramento in their Pleasureway van and were waiting at our house when we got back from dinner.
Tom immediately broke out a battery operated blender with the power of a professional Vitamix that he had invented and whipped us up a generous helping of Blackberry Surprise. We all went to bed happy.
NOTE: This is one of the occasional blogs I am posting this summer as I take a break.
While the Pond and the Woods provided an innocent and often educational escape for me, much of my outdoor time was spent getting into mischief, especially in my younger years when I roamed around Diamond and the surrounding countryside with my brother and our friends. What I remember most about these great adventures was that we were skating on the thin edge of trouble.
Gradually, we developed a reputation. I am convinced that a whole generation of little kids in Diamond blamed their misbehavior on us. “I didn’t do it Mama, the Mekemson kids did.” And Mama probably believed them. The mother of my life-long friend, Bob Bray, did. She refused to let him play with me. I was a bad influence, guaranteed to lead her son straight into the arms of the law.
Most of our mischief was relatively harmless. For example, Jimmy Pagonni lived across the street and had a zero-tolerance policy for us. We lusted after his cherries. He transformed them into wine and every drop was precious. He turned his dogs loose on us if we came anywhere near his orchard. Naturally his insistence on keeping us out only guaranteed our presence. Raids were carefully planned.
We would invite two or three friends over and make a party out of it. The cover was sleeping out in the backyard, but sleep was secondary. Somewhere around one o’clock in the morning we would slip out of our yard, cross a very lonely Highway 49, climb over Jimmy’s rickety gate, and disappear up into the trees. It was all very hush-hush and cherries have never tasted more delicious. We would stuff our stomachs and then fill up bags for take-out. It was pure greed.
Jimmy’s dogs never caught us before we were able to scramble over the gate but they did catch my cocker spaniel, Tickle, once, and almost killed him. Tickle had been out on the town visiting a lady friend and took a shortcut across Pagonni’s property. We were infuriated. Marshall retaliated by shooting Jimmy’s bull in the balls with a BB gun. (If not fair to the bull, it was at least alliteration.) Jimmy never knew Marshall committed the heinous act but I am sure he had his suspicions.
Even more serious, an older Marshall (eighth grade I think) stole a jug of Jimmy’s wine. He stored the fermented cherry juice in an old Gold Rush era building that may have served as a jail in its youth. It was located right in the middle of his well-guarded cherry orchard and featured a stout locked door and one barred window. I am sure Jimmy considered it impregnable but he failed to consider just how skinny my brother was. With help from his friend Art, Marshall managed to slip through the bars one night and pinch a gallon of Italian Red.
He and Art then headed for our treehouse in the Graveyard to do some serious imbibing. Considering that a gallon of Jimmy’s Italian Red would have knocked out two grown men, it almost killed Marshall, not to mention encouraging strange behavior. He described how Mrs. Ross, my 4th and 5th grade teacher, came upon Art and him madly peddling their bikes. This wouldn’t have been strange except they were lying on their backs holding the bikes above them in the air!
I remember him slipping in the back door and trying to get to our bedroom before Mother and Pop noticed. It didn’t work. In addition to stumbling and mumbling and heaving, he smelled like a three-week gutter drunk. He was one sick kid. Both parents hurried to the bedroom out of concern and I moved back outside to sleep in the cool, but fresh fall air. It was one of those crimes that incorporates its own punishment.
The question in next Monday’s post from my blogged book It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me, is who shot Pavy’s pig? The sheriff wanted to know.
WEDNESDAY’S POST from my Peace Corps Memoirs: As I came close to graduating from Berkeley, I had a choice of how to serve my country: Either join the Peace Corps or be shipped out to fight in a Southeast Asian War.
FRIDAY’S TRAVEL BLOG: We are going for a walk in the woods— on a trail I built. There are wild flowers to admire, a gold mining operation from the 20s and 30s that suggests that there may be gold under our house, poison oak, and a buck doing strange things.
In my last blog-a-book post from my outdoor adventure book, It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me, I wrote about the Pond, which was a major influence in my childhood leading me to a lifelong love of the outdoors and wilderness. Today, I will introduce another one, the Woods.
The Woods also earned a capital letter. To get there you walked out the back door, down the alley past the Graveyard and through a pasture Jimmy Pagonni rented for his cattle. Tackling the pasture involved crawling through a rusty barbed wire fence, avoiding fresh cow pies, climbing a hill and jumping an irrigation ditch. The journey was fraught with danger. Hungry barbed wire consumed several of my shirts and occasionally went for my back.
Torn clothing and bleeding scratches were a minor irritation in comparison to stepping in fresh cow poop though. A thousand-pound, grass-eating machine produces acres of the stuff. Deep piles sneak up your foot and slosh over into your shoes. Toes hate this. Even more treacherous are the little piles that hide out in the grass. A well-placed patty can send you sliding faster than black ice. The real danger here is ending up with your butt in the pile. I did that, once. Happily, no one was around to witness my misfortune, or hear my language, except Tickle the dog. I swore him to secrecy.
For all of its hazards, the total hike to the Woods took about 15 minutes. Digger pines with drunken windmill limbs guarded the borders while gnarly manzanita and spiked chaparral dared the casual visitor to venture off the trail. Poison oak proved more subtle but effective in discouraging exploration.
I could count on raucous California jays to announce my presence, especially if I was stalking a band of notorious outlaws. Ground squirrels were also quick to whistle their displeasure. Less talkative jackrabbits merely ambled off upon spotting me, put on a little speed for a hyper Cocker, and became bounding blurs in the presence of a hungry greyhound. Flickers, California quail and acorn woodpeckers held discussions in distinctive voices I soon learned to recognize.
From the beginning, I felt at home in the Woods, like I belonged. I quickly learned that its hidden recesses contained a multitude of secrets. I was eager to learn what they had to teach me, but the process seemed glacial. It required patience and I hardly knew how to spell the word. I did know how to sit quietly, however. This was a skill I had picked up from the hours I spent with my nose buried in books. The woodland creatures prefer their people noisy. A Curt stomping down the trail, snapping dead twigs, and talking to himself was easy to avoid while a Curt being quiet might surprise them.
One gray squirrel was particularly loud in his objections. He lived in the top branches of a digger pine beside the trail and maintained an observation post on an overhanging limb. When he heard me coming, he would adopt his ‘you can’t see me gray squirrel playing statue pose.’ But I knew where to look. I would find a comfortable seat and stare at him. It drove him crazy. Soon he would start to thump the limb madly with his foot and chirr loudly. He had pine nuts to gather, a stick home to remodel, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed lady to woo. I was blocking progress. Eventually, if I didn’t move, his irritation would bring him scrambling down the trunk for a much more up-close and personal scolding.
After about 15 minutes of continuous haranguing, he’d decide I was a harmless, if obnoxious aberration and go about his business. That’s when I begin to learn valuable secrets, like where he hid his pine nuts. It was also a sign for the rest of the wildlife to come out of hiding. A western fence lizard might work its way to the top of the dead log next to me and start doing push-ups. Why, I couldn’t imagine. Or perhaps a thrush would begin to scratch up the leaves under the manzanita in search of creepy tidbits. The first time I heard one, it sounded like a very large animal interested in little boy flesh. Occasionally there were special treats: A band of teenage gray squirrels playing tag and demonstrating their incredible acrobatics; a doe leading its shy, speckled fawn out to drink in the small stream that graced the Wood’s meadow; and a coyote sneaking up on a ground squirrel hole with an intensity I could almost feel.
I also began to play at stalking animals. Sometime during the time period between childhood and becoming a teenager, I read James Fennimore Cooper and began to think I was a reincarnation of Natty Bumppo. Looking back, I can’t say I was particularly skilled, but no one could have told me so at the time. At least I learned to avoid dry twigs, walk slowly, and stop frequently. Occasionally, I even managed to sneak up on some unsuspecting woodland creature.
If the birds and the animals weren’t present, they left signs for me. There was always the helter-skelter pack rat nest to explore. Tickle liked to tear them apart, quickly sending twigs flying in all directions. There were also numerous tracks to figure out. Was it a dog or coyote that had stopped for a drink out of the stream the night before? Tickle knew instantly, but I had to piece it together. A sinuous trail left by a slithery serpent was guaranteed to catch my attention. This was rattlesnake country. Who’d been eating whom or what was another question? The dismantled pinecone was easy to figure out but who considered the bark on a young white fir a delicacy? And what about the quail feathers scattered haphazardly beside the trail?
Scat, I learned, was the tracker’s word for shit. It offered a multitude of clues for what animals had been ambling down the trail and what they had been eating. There were deer droppings and rabbit droppings and mouse droppings descending in size. Coyotes and foxes left their distinctive dog-like scat but the presence of fur and berries suggested that something other than dog food had been on the menu. Some scat was particularly fascinating, at least to me. Burped up owl pellets provided a treasure chest of bones— little feet, little legs and little skulls that grinned back with the vacant stare of slow mice.
While Tarzan hung out in the Graveyard and pirates infested the Pond, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, Robin Hood and various bad guys roamed the Woods. Each bush hid a potential enemy that I would indubitably vanquish. I had the fastest two fingers in the West and I could split a pine nut with an imaginary arrow at 50 yards. I never lost. How could I? It was my fantasy. But daydreams were only a part of the picture. I fell in love with wandering in the Woods and playing on the Pond. There was an encyclopedia of knowledge available and a multitude of lessons about life. Learning wasn’t a conscious effort, though; it was more like absorption. The world shifted for me when I entered the Woods and time slowed down. A spider with an egg sack was worth ten minutes, a gopher pushing dirt out of its hole an hour, and a deer with a fawn a lifetime.
NEXT MONDAY’S POST: Not surprisingly, my classmates start calling me Nature Boy. It was a title I wore proudly.
My friend and blogging buddy, Crystal Trulove at Conscious Engagement posted this blog today that feature a quilt made by her daughter and friend and a dragon quilt made by Peggy specifically for Crystal. Quilting helped lots of folks get through the pandemic. Scroll down to see a pair of beautiful quilts made in two, very different ways.
This post also speaks to the close friendships that are developed through blogging. Crystal came down from her home north of Portland, Oregon and stayed with us while we all enjoyed the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. She also carried Bone back with her to meet her Cherokee Tribe in Oklahoma. And she has been working with our son Tony in defining what medical benefits he is eligible for from injuries received while serving as a Marine and Coast Guard pilot, a specialty of hers.. –Curt
Today’s post is about two quilts. Maybe three if you count the amazing quilting on BOTH sides of one of them. Ok, we’ll make that 2 1/2 quilts.
The end of March, my kiddo Tara, and their partner, Brynnen, came to visit for a real visit. This time no masks and we were indoors together and even hugged. It was blissful. Tara wanted to see me, but also wanted to work on a quilt. This is a new kind of project for T. Their very first quilt ever is not quite done, but will be finished soon because Tara was picking up some fabric for that quilt that I had at my house. In the meantime, they had started this new quilt. So the one you see here…
I watched the presentation of colors today at President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration. I listened as Lady Gaga sang an incredible version of the Star-Spangled Banner. I noted the flags from our history that dated back to our very beginnings. I looked out on the 200,000 flags flying on the National Mall and the flags flying in the breeze on virtually every building.
And while I am not by nature a flag waver, I was proud, prouder than I have ever been of the flag.
Two weeks ago, my vision was totally different. I watched as an American Flag was used to beat a policeman whose only crime was protecting our Nation’s Capital from a band of thugs whose goal was an assault on our very democracy. I watched as they claimed they were patriots, wrapped themselves in flags, waved them from the ramparts, and carried them as they ran through the capitol corridors breaking windows, spray painting walls, and threatening the lives of Republican Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
That vision has now been wiped out of my mind.
May we now move forward to solve the very real problems this nation faces— from the raging pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans to the racism that continues to haunt our lives, from the environmental degradation that has led to global warming to severe economic depression that has destroyed thousands of businesses and thrown hundreds of thousands of people out of work, from denying citizens the right to vote to governing with mistruths and conspiracy theories.
And finally, may we return to our role as a positive, responsible partner in addressing the problems of the broader world.
Oregonians are known for flocking to the coast when winter storms rile up the Pacific Ocean and send huge waves crashing ashore. Local media can be depended on to report the when and where. Peggy and I escaped to one of the best locations on the coast a few weeks ago, Cape Arago near Coos Bay. Both of us were kept busy with our cameras.
On Tuesday’s Blog-a-Book: The next chapter in the Sierra Trek. Sixteen miles without water and a Trekker is lost… or goes awol. And a humongous rattlesnake presents a unique challenge.
On Thursday’s Travel Blog: We visit the very strange but beautiful Sunset Bay.