Mount Up and Ride

The weeks ending day has finally arrived. The fifth day was saved for a much needed ride. Of motor, of leather, of warm air and sun, all were part of the original plan. When a rider awakens and looks out to see dark clouds and moisture to threaten the plan. A check of the weather and what from the man but a forecast so low it includes certain snow with high wind to boot. Oh I don’t give a hoot, this simply won’t do, it’s just not part of the adventurers plan.

What should be done when nature throws out a curve? Why lean inside and roll throttle regardless the steepness turn. Add a new layer under the leather and zip it up tight cause there is adventure awaiting for those who don’t weaken. So a man, a motor, and a furry side kick open the garage and a kick stand comes up. Into the desert the three do ride

Quail Creek it seems is a prevailing wind tunnel. Into its main jet stream the motor and her riders do roll. Like a Deep Purple lyric from days long ago, instead of the smoke, I certainly see a red sandy dust cloud on the water below. Carried across on winds from the north, never once touching the surface below but over the white caps it steadily moved looking like a daylights shadow certainly would.

A wind that moves snow storms away to the east releasing the sun to shine down on us all, can cause storms of their own making right from the dust. Hidden inside the veil of a spinning red devil the Tumbleweeds roll pacing the motor on winds from behind. Yes, it’s a race for the centerline marking; who arrives first determines the pass, the quick to the left and slower the right. Sometimes the bike and others the Tumble but we didn’t cross paths which was really a wonder.

A motor runs well when temperatures are colder. A twist of the wrist when the next up kick is made with the goal of merging the traffic at a high rate of speed. The pipes do scream as ponies release to thrust the bike forward and push riders back. The surge of adrenal and a smile that shines on the rider who chose to brave out the storm.

The Expedition of Mollies Nipple

Located on the south eastern edge of the Hurricane Valley is a Butte which has a shape and size that stands out on that beautiful sky line. Mollies Nipple is one of those landscape features that the eye is simply going to notice. As such was my case some three years ago when I first started to frequent the south western corner of this amazing geographical area located in State of Utah, USA.

Of course my interest in the area was and continues to be toward a person more than the geography here but for me once I discovered that hiking Mollies Nipple is not only possible but is frequently done it has been on my, “to do list.”

So on Saturday last as the good Lord granted me yet another day to get it right and I woke with that special person who had brought me to this area in the first place along with my trusty furry side kick Kevin, the question was once again poised; “What should we do today?” At this question the answer popped into my head and I blurted out. “Let’s make a run on Mollies Nipple!” So with that the days adventure was set into motion.

Now any hike requires a degree of planning and preparation. Over the last couple years I had spent some time researching and scouting the area. Locals had told me previously of an access road that made the hike to the summit an easy one. I had spent time searching for this road but was unable to locate it and soon put the thoughts of the easy access out of my mind. I did find the hiking trail to the summit and had driven to the trail head a couple times where I looked up longingly at the summit to the Butte tracing the route visually.

Mollies Nipple trail begins on the valley floor at the edge of a new subdivision where an access gate is located. From there it quickly passes through a wash and then immediately begins a steep upward climb. Statistics indicate the trail is 1.7 miles out and back and has a “difficult” rating with an elevation gain of 1,353 feet above the valley floor. Doing some math I discovered that the hike was a bit of a scramble up covering on average 80 vertical feet every tenth of a mile. I could see that this average was mostly contained in the lower third that is steep and the terrain being that of loose gravel and rock. The trail spider webs into several routes all leading upward. They all converge on a spine that continues upward to the Butte’s summit.

As we planned our day my beautiful little companion had a number of other items on her list and was contemplating a timeline for this hike. I quickly recognized the seemingly short time allowed to complete this, “to do” listed item for me. I think I remember her saying something like; “Well we could knock that out in this many minutes and then we could…” Now my little companion is nearly always willing to try my adventures even when she doesn’t have a clear idea what I’m asking of her. On this occasion I simply stated; “Oh, let’s just play it by ear and see how long it takes us.”

With the plan set we packed hydration and snacks into my pack, donned our hiking shoes, climbed into the power Dodge and off we went onto an adventure filled day. As I drove to the trail head located at the foothill, the summit of Mollies Nipple loomed over us and Kathy asked a couple of questions as she began to grasp my adventure plan. The two I remember were; “We are going up there?” And, “How do you know where to start?” I replied; “Well I have driven out here before, I thought that you were with me?” With a pause I continued to state facts about the trail I had discovered. After talking briefly about the lower thirds challenge and its eventual transition to a easier slope I ended with; “maybe we should get you a better pair of hiking boots so you have better traction and ankle support?” To this there was a distant but thoughtful reply while she continued to look up and up. “No, I’ll be fine.”

With that we hopped out of the power Dodge and seeing two other cars parked near the trailhead I mentioned; “Well, it looks like we are going to have company up there.” I figured a misery loves company statement might be the encouragement she needed. Little did I know how accurate this statement would later prove to be.

So with a spring in our step, fresh legs under us, the thrill of engaging a challenge clearly felt and with Kevin running back and forth excited to be out with us and not on leash, we began our ascent. As we continued up and up, I began to think of some great mountaineers in human history. The likes of George Mallory, Andrew ”Sandy” Irvine, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay were on my oxygen deprived mind. Of course this was no Mount Everest but to a middle age, out of shape couple, gaining feet in elevation with every step, oxygen deprivation is the same.

Years ago, when responding to questions about why someone would want to climb Everest? Mallory and then later Hillary replied; “because it’s there!” This statement continued to ring in my mind and I began to look forward to my own statement about Mollie. You have to celebrate your little victories; they are the marrow of life.

Up, up, and up we went; resting every few paces. Over, through and around scrambling opportunities until at last we reached the spine above the lower third. I smiled when by little companion began to send text messages on our rest breaks canceling her additional plans made for that day putting them off until another time. Yes, playing it by ear for this outing was becoming a necessity.

However, once on the spine the steepness of grade reduced and scrambling gave way to upright walking on a gentle slope with a well-defined trail. Our eyes fixed on the crown jewel itself the summit of the Butte which jutted perkily into the blue sky above. Yes, yes, this Butte had been appropriately named. As legend tells the Butte was named by a Mormon Pioneer named John Kitchen in commemoration of his lovely wife Mollie. Since there are reportedly at least 6 different geological features in the State with reference to Mollie, I think she must have been some little gal who never strayed far from her husband’s thoughts.

Continuing on with heaving breath at every step I was reminded of my healing airway. Having recently recovered from a severe nasal and chest infection. Oh I tell you now, there is nothing like exertion and clean air to clear air passages and remove congestion from the alveoli of the lungs. Yes, it was a blow and go experience for me and I was so thankful that I had remembered to bring along my handkerchief.

As we pressed on and I continued to think of Hillary and Norgay and the elation they must have felt as they accomplished the enviable success in being the first to summit Everest and survived to tell the tale. I was feeling my own sort of elation and excitement at summiting Mollie when I saw movement there on the summit. I stopped mid-stride and looked closely at that amazing shape ahead. Yes, there was movement for certain. I saw standing on the summit, a person with another scrambling up behind. I said out loud; “Well look there, we are to have company today after all.” Kathy also stopped and looked at our destination. We watched for a time as the figures began their descent and were closing the distance clearly on the same trail; we would soon meet.

As the couple approached I saw they too had a furry companion and its looks was very similar to Kevin. Soon we were talking together and comparing notes on our experience of the lower third as our furry friends played together no less energetic from the start. At this time we felt we had less than ten minutes to our eventual summit success. While conversing with this wonderful couple, I continued to keep my eye on the goal by occasionally glancing up to the summit. To my amazement I saw additional movement there. I said; “look there is someone else up there too.” Thinking immediately about the third car at the trail head I determined they must be from that last car.

It was at this time that reality came crushing down upon me. The couple said, yeah there are a lot of people up there. Confused I must have looked because they continued; “Yeah, there is a road on the other side and a parking lot there. You can just drive up from the other side.” I must have let out a gasp of air like that of a fully inflated balloon being pricked with a sharp pin. With a sympathetic tone of voice the couple said; “yeah, it was a bit disappointing to us too.” Disappointing? I thought to myself. No, “crushing” was a better description of what I felt. Imagine the blow to Hillary and Norgay had someone landed in a helicopter at their Everest summit camp and hopped out eating a McDonalds Big Mac. “Road” I thought, where in the hell is the road? I had driven all over out there while scouting and couldn’t find it at all.

I soon recovered and after a few more words and joking with this fine couple we pressed on to the summit. Upon our arrival I saw out in the distance just what had been described. A dirt road with multiple vehicles parked in a turn around and a number of people walking to and from the vehicles. After visiting with some of the folks at the top I determined where I might have missed the road on previous scouting trips. The folks there were young people from a local community out on what seemed to be an awesome group date. I enjoyed helping them with several group photographs to document their day group date and then we went our separate ways.

The tremendous trio of Kathy, Kevin and I made our way to the highest point of the summit where we sat, snuggled, and drank hardy amounts of fluids while snacking on granola bars, cheese and crackers. While overlooking a spectacular view of the Hurricane Valley, we cracked off-color jokes and made creative statements about dining at our current location. We laughed at ourselves and at my scouting error. We looked back toward our own approach and eventual descent and felt a tremendous sense of victory. We had in fact summited Mollies Nipple and we had done so the right way; the hard way.

In fact I’m intending to produce tee shirts for the three of us to boast of the accomplishment. I envision a silk screen image of the Butte and conversation starting statements for the tee shirts. Maybe something like; “We did Mollies Nipple the hard way” for example. That should do it, oh the conversations and bragging opportunities we’ll have.

At having seen the area from an elevated spot, we returned to the area the next day and located the elusive road I had missed previously while scouting. I had in fact been right on the very road I was looking for but because of vegetation and angle I had missed the road continuing on past the place I had turned around.

Upon locating it we drove out to the turn around on our OHV and gazed up at the summit which was only a couple hundred yards away. I’ll tell you the experience was just not the same as the day previous, there could be no comparison made.

Although the hike is a butt kicker in every sense, I’m thankful that I had missed the road while scouting and we had experienced Mollies Nipple as we did; the hard way. It seems that the more the struggle the greater the reward. I am proud to have been a member of the tremendous trio expedition that scrambled up Mollies Nipple and we did it the hard way. What is more? We’ll have the tee shirts to prove it.

Fix it

There is an intrinsic reward in, “fixing it”. This is a simple Tale of a grill gone wrong but in the end all is made right. Broken things can be fixed and made right.

In our world of disposable everything the art of repair and the reward felt has been lost. As I watch our society continue to grapple with decline reflected in our collective sense of entitlement, demand of instant gratification, and “used won’t do” attitudes. I’m confident we can overcome financial frustration, foreign goods over dependence, supply chain delay, and a host of problems that go with it. How you might ask? Well in part by the simplest of techniques; don’t replace it, fix it!!!

I was raised by a man of immense talent. My father could do and/or fix anything. He came from that post Depression Greatest Generation Era where people made due and waste was unthinkable. In raising his family he passed on some of himself to his own. I’m proud to be one of those.

So as the Tale goes, my new little Bride told me recently that she had been gifted a new electric griddle some time earlier and after a single use she had accidentally thrown away the plug and temperature dial. Since then the griddle had sit unused.

Occasionally we have grandkids, friends, or relatives visit where a griddle would be of benefit. Now, here is where a choice was made. Reflecting my father I determined to put the griddle back into service and “Fix It.”

My first stop? You guessed it, wholesale parts on the internet. My frustration? I found I could buy new nearly every type of griddle known to mankind and have it shipped to the USA from nations of all points on Mother Earth. But to find a replacement control for an existing unit I owned; nearly impossible. Still, I pressed on continuing to evaluate my options and honestly total replacement was winning out in the available options listing. I just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet.

Then one day, I remembered a local thrift store. This is the type establishment that functions on public donation and specializes in training people for a needed workforce right here in our community. I thought to myself; “hadn’t I seen a whole section of donated used electric appliances there?” Surely if that be the case, they would have an extra control module available. I determined to check and stopped on my next trip past that store. What I found there was box after box of donated control modules for every type device built for the last fifty years. A short search rewarded me with a module I was confident would work based on appearance of the connection ends on the griddle itself. The price was a whopping three bucks!!! “Sold”, I thought to myself as I walked to the cashier.

Upon arriving home, I was actually excited and could hardly wait to see if I could fix the nonfunctional griddle with my three dollar purchase. It was a little like Christmas or the excitement of a new adventure. Ok, I admit it, I’m a bit quirky, but I could smell success and that had my attention.

I pulled the griddle out of deep storage and inserted the newly acquired control module which fit like a hand to glove. I plugged in the combination, turned the module to an “on” position and waited.

The result? The light came on immediately and held steady indicating power to the unit. For the next few moments I waited with a hand over cooking surface. Was it getting warm or was it my imagination? A minute later I knew for sure. Satisfaction was felt as the heat rose to the point where I needed to move my hand away, not long after that the control module clicked off when the desire temperature was achieved. Fixed and working like new!!!

With a great sense of accomplishment I said to my smiling little Bride. “What will it be Ma’am, Pancakes or Bacon and Eggs?”

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!” Red Green

Where Eagles Soar and the story continues

You may recall a recent posting called “Where Eagles Soar”. In that posting I described a majestic sight of two Bald Eagles I had seen during a motorcycle ride near Wolf Lodge Bay on Lake Coeur D’Alene Idaho. Such a wonderful sight that I’ll not soon forget it. Since seeing it, I have, and continue to share that experience both in written word and storytelling. It was on one such occasion that Folklore pushed this experience to a new level, an angle I hadn’t considered before.

Folklore is an interesting word which includes two parts. “Folk” or regional people and “Lore” or stories. Folklore is the tales of regional or local people to an area. Now this Lore can be true, a fabrication, an embellishment, or a combination; it’s all fair game. I didn’t know at days start but I was to meet a regional person that very day.

I was performing the duties of a substitute teacher in a local high school. It is my practice to introduce myself so the students know who is sharing their class of the day and then as time allows I make effort to interact with the students. It is my experience that learning occurs in many ways by doing this and I often find myself learning from the students as well. On the day of this occurrence there was a young person in class that was among his peers yet he was separate in some way I hadn’t clearly understood. While speaking with him I determined he was new to the school and had recently moved to the community. Therefore it made sense that he was among his peers but a little different at the same time; the new kid in school. He told me that he had previously lived near Coeur D’Alene Idaho.

At this I found an opportunity to share my Bald Eagle observation yet once again. Since the days subject was a little dry and the students were struggling, I did this not only to the young man but the entire class. While I retold the experience the young man sat, listened intently to my tale, all the while he was smiling in a knowing way. I assumed he was thinking of home and being reminded of his time there.

When I finished the tale he asked me if I would like to know the rest of the story. His classmates had listened carefully to my tale and was now very interested and focused squarely on their new classmate from Idaho. I thought what a wonderful way for him to become better acquainted with his new class mates in a new community and share a bit of himself through story.

I gave him the floor and he soon began a tale of his own. He told of the fame of the Eagles I had seen. He said the Eagles do fly together just as I had described and they seem to always be there. He furthered his tale by baiting us with; “and there is a real good reason why”; then he continued.

As his Tale went, and I paraphrase, he described a few years earlier there had been a terrible accident on the lake. A young couple had gone out in a small boat to the open water fishing for the day. On this fateful day a sudden storm approached the area catching the couple unprepared and ill equipped. The boat they were using was capsized by high winds and the loving couple had perished in the cold water as a result. Then he described the lore as told that the couple each had a love of Bald Eagles in the area and each had at one time or another tattooed images the majestic bird on their bodies. Following the tragic loss of the couple the local Folk noticed the same birds I had seen. They hunt, fly, and are always together in the area. Legend holds according to the tale that the birds are the spirits of the ill-fated couple who have returned to continue fishing the cool waters of Wolf Lodge Bay.

At the conclusion of his tale, fellow classmates smiled each thinking and evaluating the tale he had told. I have found that this is what learning looks like on the face of a person with a curious mind. I saw in their eyes a new appreciation for their new peer. Now Folklore is a tremendously powerful form of storytelling. Many listen and reject the lore as local superstition, while others wholeheartedly believe and accept the tale as truth.

As for me the addition of Folklore to my own observations has made the experience all the better. In my mind’s eye now I can hear the pitch of a powerful motor change as I slowed, I feel the cool wind on my face as I looked upward, I smell the dense Pine forested landscape, and see the two Bald Eagles circling in a cloudless blue sky. One following the other not knowing which does lead nor which does follow. A representation of the doomed couple that day?

One thing is for certain they are beautiful and majestic birds, they were fishing, and they were together. Coincidence one might ask? Tell you what; I’ll leave you at this Tales ending to decide for yourself and I hope that you wear a curious smile as well.

Photo by Frank Cone, iStockphoto

Where Eagles Soar

There is a road called Route 97 that passes on the East side of Lake Coeur D’Alene in Northern Idaho, USA. It’s a beautiful route and it’s all the better when two wheels do travel on adventures path. It was on this route I saw a most amazing sight as I rode along. Two Bald Eagles had taken flight and soared in circles in the morning sky light.

A night before there was a choice to make on which route was best for me to take. The choice was one of straight and quick, the other was longer of curves and scenic view. The second route held out as best for me because of the length and ride time it offered. Simply stated I was there for the ride and so it would be.

Not far into this glorious route; the morning was clear and cool was the air. There was little wind except that produced by the motor and movement as we made our way along the East Shore. The water itself was calm with hardly a ripple and appeared like a mirror with a slight wavy surface. A mist was seen on the waters smooth edge and vapor turns to cloud as it began to rise. There is a forest here of dense pine so healthy and green that it cover’s the landscape down to the waters beginning. In it that familiar dark green; it’s almost a shadow. This is particularly apparent when contrast is made with a near cloudless blue sky that has the first of morning sunshine streaking across.

Motion I notice in the sky just above and silhouetted against that beautiful landscape. As I looked to the sky and away from the road I saw one, no two, Eagles it seemed. Bald were their heads and circular their flight. Not 100 feet off the water they effortlessly circled. One following the other but impossible to tell which of them did lead or which did follow. It mattered not as I slowed my speed to watch them in flight around and around. Apparent to me the Eagles were hunting fish in the water. I’m certain it wouldn’t be long, a dive they would make, and breakfast to be taken.

Slow as I had to enjoy the scene, old Route 97 demanded attentions return as it wound, curved, and continued away. There were other sights ahead so wondrous to see, but I’ll always remember the Eagles near Wolf Lodge Bay.

The Skunk and Sharp Shooter Smith

This is an epic tale of man vs. skunk. One pistol toting, the other with a bladder full of stink, it was the making of the ultimate faceoff.

We were visiting relatives recently and enjoying each other’s company when one of the dogs began to bark at the back door which is a full plate glass door. Ole’ Sharp Shooter spoke to his dog and said; “What’s the matter; is the Robin stealing your food again?” He then turned back to our conversation and explained that there was a Robin who would drive his dog nuts by swooping in and stealing his dog’s food then it would fly away before the dog could catch it. The dog continue to bark despite Ole’ Sharp’s telling him to hush several times. He was walking back and forth barking at the door and returning to stare at Ole’ Sharp with increasing concern building which was clearly visible in his eyes. Finally, Ole’ Sharp got up out of his easy chair and walked over to the glass door while saying; “Ok, you want to go get him, here you go.” However, as he reached for the door he stopped short and took a step back away from the door with a slight panic visible on his face.

I had recently read a news report which had informed of a couple young Mountain Lions that were seen wondering through town in broad daylight not a block from our relative’s home. I thought for just a moment that the Lions might be in the back yard. However, I soon discovered a far worse scenario would be the truth. Ole’ Sharp turned to me and said in a low voice almost a whisper. “There is a Skunk out there!!!” The dog barked one final time as if to say: “See, I told you it wasn’t the Robin!”

I got up and walked over by Ole’ Sharp and looked out. Sure enough there he was the most frightening wild animal on the face of Mother Earth. He was a beautiful skunk, pitch black hair with two wide white stripes running down his back to a bushy tail which held the power of his presence or should I say essence. He was standing there eating his lunch from the dog’s bowl of food. The little bugger was well aware of his prowess among men. It was mid-afternoon and he was blatantly eating his lunch. He defiantly looked up at us several times as if to say; “Yeah, I’m eating your dog’s food and what you gonna do about it?” I think I even saw a sinister little grin come upon his face. As I watched him I imagined he continued to say; “You know I’m a little skunk but I will spray the hell out of you if you even think about opening that door” He seemed to be taunting us like a little Skunk Dirty Harry; “Go ahead Punk, Make My Day!!!”

We clearly needed a plan to deal with this over confident little menace who had confidently strolled up onto the back porch only a foot or two from the door and began to help himself to a lunch which was not intended for him. Ole’ Sharp said out loud but mostly to himself; “What do we do?” For a short time I wished it were the Lion as I had first thought. In such case we could have just employed and old rancher technique to deal with protected predators. Commonly referred to as a; “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”

However, with this arrogant little problem standing not a foot away from the door that plan simply wouldn’t work because if not done exactly right the technique could go horribly wrong and become a shoot, oh damn, cover your eyes and plug your nose for the next two weeks. In addition Ole’ Sharp pointed out another obvious flaw with shooting our little menace where he stood. The bullet would hit the concrete porch and ricochet in any direction. This was not a good idea given the closeness of neighbors and the fact we were right in the middle of town. We determined a Plan B was needed.

I said; ”Ok, if we shoot him you have got to hit him in the head so as to kill him before he can spray!”

Now as a point of clairification here. You notice how I defaulted to, “if we shoot him, you have got to…” as the language of the plan? Oh yes, this is not my first rodeo on making impromptu plans such as this one. When making plans of this nature, one must always leave a route for escape if the plan fails. This way if the unthinkable were to happen, for years to come I could tell tales about the time Ole’ Sharp shot the skunk in his back yard and it ran around the house spraying everything in sight without having to admit my involvement in the planning process. But as the planning would go I continued with Ole’ Sharp listening intently.

“We have to get him away from the house but we don’t want him to run toward the neighbors or to get too spooked so that he would spray.” I said, “Here’s what we will do, you get your gun and watch him from here. I’ll go out side and around back of the house from the direction of the neighbors. I’ll make noise so that he will leave the porch in the direction we want which is away from the house and more importantly away from me. Once he is away from the porch and you have a clear shot, go ahead and take him down. But remember, you have to hit him in the head so he doesn’t spray.”

To my astonishment, Ole’ Sharp liked the plan and went to get his gun. While he was away I had time to look out the glass door at the little devil and think to myself; Oh dear, this had better go well. Ole’ Sharp retuned soon after with his gun in hand. I was surprised to hear the confidence in his voice. He could make the shot, he said. He knew this because he had recently shot a playing card in a motorcycle poker run, he had hit it dead center with his first shot. Not wanting to destroy needed confidence, I walked away without responding but I was there on that poker run and didn’t remember the card shot in exactly the same detail but I didn’t want to destroy the mojo he had going.

I walked around the house as planned and entered the back yard. I was talking out loud to myself which isn’t uncommon. But this time I was saying things like; “What in the heck are you doing out here when the skunk might be smarter than you thought and he’ll be waiting for you.” I wondered if Kathy would be opposed to sleeping with a skunk sprayed new husband? Still, I pressed forward.

I approached the back porch while banging on a can for noise and I saw our little nemesis with his tail raised and in fire position. He exited the porch and ran into a small shed just as we had planned for him to do. At this Ole’ Sharp opened the door we had been looking out of. The dog ran out of the house making a direct path for the shed. Both Ole’ Sharp and I yelled at the dog with a small degree of urgency. The dog sensed the tone of voice and stopped short of the shed. He actually came to me which has never happened before and I grabbed his collar holding tight. I think the dog knew what was about to happen and thought being with me at a distance was a great idea. I told Ole’ Sharp that I had the dog held tight and he was good to go.

Ole’ Sharp with his six shooter in hand, crept up on the shed door. From my position he looked a little like a man tiptoeing across an unmapped land mine field. At last he stopped, slowly raised the weapon, and took careful aim, “Crack” the weapon recoiled. Ole’ Sharp turned and took a couple quick steps back toward the house. The dog I was holding completely freaked out and began to spin and pull away. It was as if the dog was trying to say; “Oh my hell he has just shot that skunk in the guts, let me get the heck out of here.” For a few seconds I nearly panicked myself at the sight of the quick stepping sharp shooter retreating away from the shed at a far faster pace than he had used to approach and the dog spinning pulling and barking at me to run for our lives or at least for our sense of smell anyway. Through the confusion of the moment I watched as Ole’ Sharp stopped and turned back, he raised the weapon a second time, took careful aim and “Crack”.

Again the dog began to spin and pull obviously aware that a second shot was not a good sign given the necessity for a clean headshot the first time. But as it were Ole’ Sharp was good to his word, “He could make the shot” and the dogs panic was unwarranted. A clean headshot not once but twice just for good measure. I approached him as he confidently blew the gunpowder smoke out of the barrel and looked confidently into the shed at the not so confident menace. Mingling with the gun smoke there was the slight odor of skunk spray but nearly nothing. I concluded that the plan had worked perfectly and that the fine shooting of Ole’ Sharp had dusted the overconfident little luncheon guest before he could get off a single shot of his own. Perfect execution of the plan and complete success. Victory was found!!!

Since then it has occurred to me that there is only one problem with the plan and the degree success we found that day. I have found that now in addition to the perfect poker run card shoot we’ve heard so much about, we are also enduring tall tales of the great skunk head shot also. How far can these tales go? I can only imagine. Some might include tales of running headshots of the rabid skunk attacking children at play and at having done so while blind folded just to make it more sporting. Oh dear, the sky is the limit to the stories we’ll hear.

Oh well, great stories come from great risk. He took the shot and hit it dead center twice, bragging rights secure in the win. I guess that is why they call him Ole’ Sharp Shooter Smith.

The Orange Cup

Memories are made daily, some last a short time while others a life time. Those in the life time category usually involve loved ones that, because the memories are so long lasting, have departed this life but memory remains. This is a tale of the Orange Cup. Maybe you have one too?

This morning I rose early because the daily chores list was long and well this being December, the last month of the year, the daylight hours are short. So, I rose in cool darkness, walked to the kitchen intent on making a hot drink to start my day. I opened the cupboard door and reached to the second shelf where I keep an assortment of coffee cups and I think there isn’t a match in the whole darn set but I like it that way because each cup has a meaning and place in my heart. I peered into that second height shelf through squinted tired eyes and I saw an Orange Coffee Cup waiting for its next use. I picked it up by a familiar handle and held it in my hand. I suddenly zoomed back many years in my mind’s eye; I saw my father holding this very same cup, sitting in his chair, legs crossed, at our kitchen table in my childhood home drinking a cup of Joe. I kind of heard in my mind a familiar voice, “Good Morning Pard!!!”

A smile crept across my face and I knew from all of the possible cups to be had the selection was made. I would have a cup with my dad this morning.

I fixed a hot cup but not the same as my dad. I stirred in a tea spoon of Pero and a little more Honey ending the process with a quick little sniff. You know on a cool winter morning there are few things better that the smell of a steaming hot cup.

I held that Orange Cup in both hands where I felt the hot liquid inside. I returned to the warmth of my bed, crawled under the covers and drank my hot cup.

Thoughts returned to those childhood days when trouble seemed distant; I was protected and safe in every way. I had a clear picture of the man who made my world that way, sitting at a table that is now long gone, in a time far distant, but this cup that I drink from remains with me still. I suspect there are many who spent time in our home at reading this tale will have a similar image in clear focus now. I wonder at the stories they would tell.

My memories remain with me right to this day. I’m thankful for the home that my parents supplied and the life lessons, the experience, and the skills that were passed on to me. All of those memories and so much more; for I know where I come from and that is much of what makes me the man that I am.

So as I finish my cup, I think in my mind. “Good morning Pappy, we best get a move on!!!”

At the counter

I know many who are reluctant to dine out at a restaurant alone. If you are one of them, this tale is for you.

Now, coming from a public safety background, a widower for a time, and now retired I have and do dine alone often and have found the following to be the best strategy. Sit at the counter!

This morning I felt like breakfast out. I determined to go to a locals spot famous for home style breakfast. Now, when I say locals spot, I’m speaking of that “Cheers” type business where; “Everybody knows your name”. Someday when you would like a treat to put a smile on your face; Google and listen to the words of the theme song for that amazing show.

By sitting at the counter you are no longer alone but among a new set of potential friends, the Staff and others who know the value of the counter. Going back to the Cheers setting; you notice Norm, Frazier, and Cliff never sat at an isolated corner table but always at the counter. In doing so they were an involved and integral part of the social interaction. The same is true in real life.

This morning at a little after 7 am I walked in and was greeted at the door. My first request, can I sit at the counter? A knowing host said; “sure, pick your spot”. I chose my spot among others; one a Native American man with long hair braided down his back, one a clear Republican with his “Let’s Go Brandon” hat proudly worn, another older man with a timid voice that one had to concentrate on to hear, and me with a plaid shirt and Harley Davidson hat among several others. All so different but yet the same, you know products of a melting pot, the Great American experiment. The conversation? Well, everything from the weather to the Supreme Court and cases being considered this session.

I saw co-workers arrive at work and give one another hello hugs that had real meaning. I witnessed, laughed at, and participated in bantering with each other. All good natured and fun. I heard time and again how much each staff member enjoyed and looked forward to coming to work regardless of their duty; from cook, to service, to washing dishes, because like me as I enjoyed my sausage and eggs, they enjoyed being with their peers. I have served in management positions of human resources at front line supervision in the past and would have done almost anything then to create a work environment like the one I witnessed this morning.

I watched in amazement at the quickening of pace as additional customers filed in. I watched a fine tuned system kick in and those same friends now a part of a very effective service team rose to the demands of the day. The smiles didn’t fade and the polite teamwork didn’t change.

Others finished their meal or drink and left. I heard salutations like; “Have a good day Bear!” To which my Native American associate said in return; “You too!” I finished my breakfast, wished my new friends of this morning a pleasant day and walked out knowing I would have one too.

We all travel this life alone but the degree is completely up to us. Be surrounded by loved ones, have a great day, and I will see you at The Counter some day soon!!!

Take a ride on The Old Lincoln Hwy

Few things go together better than motorcycles and old roads. It’s like sugar and spice or cake and ice cream or Harley and Davidson, they just go together. So when I found myself with a free afternoon I thought to myself, “I should go and take a ride on the Old Lincoln Highway.”

The Lincoln Hwy is identified as the first transcontinental hard surface road in America. It’s route traveled from New York City, NY to San Francisco, CA crossing the entirety of this great land at an initial length of 3389 miles completed and recorded in 1913. To put things into focus that is merely 10 years after Harley Davidson was founded as a motor company. It also just happens that about 25 miles of that 3389 are still in existence right here in Eastern Summit County, Utah.

Kevin and I jumped on the motor and headed into town to pick up our wing man for this ride. It wasn’t long until two bikes were headed down the Weber on a ride into history. We joined up with the Old Lincoln in the town of Wanship Utah and then we headed North East on that trusty old route. We traveled the towns of Hoytsville and Coalville finally arriving near the small town of Echo.

Although we had been riding the Old Lincoln for some miles this was the starting point of this day’s adventure. I had envisioned the ride up Echo Canyon from the small town of Echo to the Ghost Town of Emory. I stopped in the now nearly deserted roadway and the wingman pulled up alongside me.

I asked one question; “Are you ready?” The Wingman replied yes; let’s do it. Then added a cautionary; “just watch for deep pot holes”. I replied; “Ok, will do,” and we were off. A Harley Davidson Road Glide and a Honda Goldwing traveling East on a roadway first recorded 108 years ago in the year 1913 and has been in use ever since. I think a very good match for this day’s adventure.

The 11 miles of pot hole free patchwork asphalt and crack seal went by quickly even though our traveling speed was slow. Some areas smooth and others rougher but through history we rode and saw places and things of times gone past. An old sedan which once traveled this way but now lays in a ditch bank covered with earth and is far into decay. An ancient bridge railing of concrete and pipe can clearly be seen still on the job protecting travelers from a nasty fall.

There are places where Militia and Army once met in an ill-conceived conflict that didn’t exist. Long before that, Ancient Native American people, Fremont’s and others, used this very same path years before Europe even knew of this land. Once it was discovered; Mountain Men, Explorers, Pioneers and Settlers all passed on the very same route. Following dreams of freedom they sought, or riches in gold and land for the taking. All this before The Old Lincoln even existed.

Today the route winds along and follows the tracks of a railway main line. The modern interstate is off in the distance with vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, drivers giving hardly a glance at the history we ride.

Telegraph lines no longer in use now drooping and fallen in great twisted loop’s. Copper they are made of and a recyclers dream but to take it a crime just might be claimed.

Now there are only trees and bushes that appear out of place along with foundations of homes and buildings long since past. The water stop ghost town of Emory, it’s heyday long past, now a place that nature has reclaimed and nothing remains except the sound of the trains.

Rocky bluffs so close to the roadway that in places the cliffs angle out over most of this road and we ride under.

Rock climbers galore can be found on the cliffs and more than a few challenge themselves here. The traffic we did see when riding the route was mostly from those climbers scrambling for more.

Features with names such as Hanging rock which is really an arch. The Breastworks, Castle, Monument, Death’s, Rolling Rock’s can all be seen here and that names just a few. The pitted and towering red rock routes are more than a climber will power to resist.

Soon our path was complete and we found ourselves sitting on the overpass structure where the historic old road and the modern highway meet. After talking a while of the things we had seen, we decided our path taking us home would be back through the history of The Lincoln Hwy.

Yes, old roads and motorcycles, a definite match!!! Summers going fast, best mount up and ride, the warmth and the sunshine is here at last.

All the way through

Adventure often calls for us to exercise a bit of courage and to step into the unknown. Actually, that kind of adventure is my absolute favorite because it removes the comfort zone and often pushes boundaries and challenges skill. This was not the extreme adventures that I value so much, but it was a challenge and sometimes that’s enough.

The day began with the question which went something like: “Hum, what should we do today?” The answer soon came and it was let’s explore the desert on our ATV but then the ultimate detail was, “Where?” That’s where a dear relative comes into this tale. We were advised of a beautiful area with red rock, stream crossings, quiet meadows, and wildlife. I had heard of this area previously and it was on my bucket list to see and determine if I could get from here to there yet once again. The clincher this day was that we were told; “You can go all the way through!”

So, off we went with this description in mind. The trail along La Verkin Creek starts off of SR 9 East of the small town of La Verkin near a gun range. It travels through an area of desert where dirt bike riders love to play on the desert terrain making loops up and over mounds and hillsides. The main trail weaves it’s way through and we passed numerous dirt bikes and riders.

At the far end of this area there is a steep down slope which covers a couple hundred yards and is covered in rock, sand and loose material of every kind. Well, if you have ever felt the times on an OHV when weight, gravitational pull and steepness of grade combine then add in the disengagement of tires with terra-firm and you will know why the thought, “Oh, sh17” ran through my mind.

It was at about this time the rear wheels began to slide which for some reason always allows them to travel faster than the front. If left unchecked the back of the OHV will pass the front on one side or the other and the rider can feel this occurring as the vehicle begins to tilt and rotate. If left unchecked the riders will soon find themselves sliding down hill sideways or backward. This usually precedes the worst case scenario where spectators might report seeing an anomaly well described and follows of the theme of; “Well we saw, the shiny side and then the wheels and then the shiny side again in an alternating fashion until it came to a bloody rest down there!”

Fortunately, there is a technique to employ which will correct this motion if applied soon enough. Against every human instinct the required action is to release brake and accelerate while turning ever slightly into the direction that the rear tires are traveling. This acceleration is often called “goosing it” so to speak. I employed this technique which worked perfectly.

So picture in your mind if you can Kevin (My Dog) in front ears flapping in the wind and a big panting grin on his face, me in the middle, and Kathy behind hanging on with surprising strength and eyes closed. The ATV itself rocketing down a loose material covered steep roadway at break neck speed seemingly like a blue meteor and me with a hand full of throttle accelerating.

Ok, I must admit at being a bit of an adrenaline junkie and as we exited the slope near the bottom and began to slow, the force of gravity no longer being applied. I thought; “Well then, that was exciting” and with that my junkie fix for the day has been achieved. As I looked back up the slope which seemed to be the only way back to the truck, I had the clear thought; “We are committed now!!!”

With the back door seemingly closed the ATV odyssey of La Verkin Creek to Toquerville Falls began. For the next few hours we encountered obstacle, challenges, and difficulties that required strategy and pathfinding which made for an adventure in every possible way. Countless stream crossings, opportunities to skin up creek in water over the footboards with steep rock walls on both sides, over and around downed timbers, slight delays where other 4×4 units had chickened out but were now stuck blocking path and needing 9000 pound winches on a buddies jeep for extraction, bumps, boulders, sand washes, stair step flat rock, deep cut solid rock ravines.

Eventually, the canyon walls widened and the spaces between water and rock expanded. The trail that was almost unidentifiable in places became once again a road. We did in fact see red rock, beautiful meadows, multiple stream crossing and wildlife. As we went the 4 wheel drive was changed to 2 wheel and our speed increased.

We encountered others on side by side OHV’s along the way who stopped to chat. I began to hear a now common theme. I asked if others had gone or were going, “All the way through?” I have been told time and again now; “No way, we always turn around.”

With a smile of accomplishment on display we pressed on. The cool wind blew on our faces as we rounded a curve in road holding tight to the mountainside when suddenly it appeared before us; Toquerville Falls. I exclaimed to my beautiful, although now completely stressed out little bride, “Well look there, you can go all the way through!!!” I continued; “Should we stop for a picture?”

Ignoring my question, Kathy asked with a little shake of concern in her voice: “Do we have to go back through that to get to the truck?” I replied; “Naw, there is another way.”

But that my friends is another tale involving two Sheriffs, an OHV on a State Road, and a stolen car.

Life, you just gotta live it!!!