Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Frisbee Golf

When we were in Grand Junction, CO, we took the dogs to a large off-leash park in nearby Palisade.  The park has a Frisbee golf course, and there was a state tournament in progress, dozens of 4-person teams.  We'd seen a few of these courses in our travels but rarely saw people playing the game, had no idea it was such a big deal.  A state tournament?  Really?  Who knew?

The players were mostly 30-ish guys, each with 20+ discs stuffed into a rectangular duffel bag mounted on a miniature refer dolly.  We chatted up one of the foursomes and hung with them for awhile, got a little education.  One team member, tall guy, nailed a hole in one from about 500'.  Unbelievable!  He had us sign his Frisbee, as witnesses.  Holes in one are as rare as they are in regular golf; the guy was ecstatic.

The discs have various weights and are labeled like golf clubs: driver, midrange, putter, etc.  The player stands on the concrete tee-off pad, eyeballs the course and obstacles - there were lots of trees in the park - selects the appropriate disc, does whatever style of approach he/she has developed, and wings it down range hoping to miss all the trees and get within putting distance of the goal.

There are over 5K courses in the USA, and it's played in 31 other countries also.  There's even enough prize money in the larger tournaments to generate a few professionals.  I've used the term 'team' above but I think it's the individual's score that counts; I suspect the foursomes are put together in a random manner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Frostbite Falls

Most readers of my vintage know that Frostbite Falls is the name of a fictitious town in northern Minnesota.  It was the hometown of TV cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle.  That's them below; some of the other main characters are pictured also. 

Having grown up in northern MN myself and surviving (barely) its frigid winters, I find the name appropriate as well as humorous.  I left MN at the earliest opportunity but still take a wicked delight in namedropping FF with family and friends who still live there.

Dudley Do-Right

Recently, I stumbled onto the history of the name, found it intriguing.  The creator of the series, Jay Ward, lived in Berkeley, CA, but for some reason became a great fan of the Golden Gophers from the University of Minnesota.  His favorite Gopher was Bronko Nagurski, a star football player who hailed from International Falls, MN.  I-Falls was sometimes called 'The Icebox of the Nation' owing to its dubious honor of frequently having the lowest temps in the country.  That tickled Jay apparently, inspired him to come up with the FF name.

Snidely Whiplash

The cartoon series was at once both silly and delightfully clever.  Puns ran rampant.  I loved it.

Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale

In 2000 a Rocky and Bullwinkle movie was released.  Despite having major star power (Rene Russo, Robert DeNiro, Randy Quaid, John Goodman, et al) viewers weren't impressed.  They preferred the cartoon characters.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Duct Tape

Ever heard the Duct Tape song?  No?  It's a must-listen.

Actually, there are several duct tape songs.  I've only listened to a few but this one stands head and shoulders above the others: the Duct Tape Madrigal in C Major.

Here you go:

If this little ditty doesn't make you smile, better call the undertaker, "He's dead, Jim."

Friday, September 29, 2017


Hotshot: a talented and successful person : someone who is successful or skillful in a showy or flashy way.

One rarely hears the word used that way anymore.  Nowadays, hotshots are men and women who fight wildfires, either full time or seasonally.

On the Burning Edge, authored by Kyle Dickman, himself a one-time hotshot, is a book that tells the story of the Yarnell Hill wildfire and the men who fought it.  Yarnell is a small AZ town, about 50 miles southwest of Prescott.  The book was a random pick from the Arizona section of the LHC public library - an excellent choice as it turned out.  I was especially intrigued by the story because of my own brush with wildfires when I worked for the Forest Service in the mid 60s.  More on that later.

The Granite Mountain hotshots, based in Prescott, AZ, consisted of 2 10-man crews.  Several were veterans who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In 2013, when the story takes place, most of the men had already spent a few seasons fighting fires, although a few were newbies who had recently completed the grueling training required of all would-be hotshots.

Granite Mountain had proven themselves in several wildfires around the country, and were well respected for their ability to get the job done.  The job was mostly building fire lines to contain the blazes, setting backfires, and so on.  Their arsenal included chain saws, pulaskis, axes, shovels.  And sweat.  Lots and lots of sweat.  Despite their training and experience, 19 Granite Mountain men were killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire - the worst wildfire fighter disaster in 80 years.  Miscommunication and freakish, constantly-changing, 50+ mph winds were mostly to blame for the tragic loss.

The movie Only the Brave will be released in theaters next month.  It tells the story of  the Yarnell Hill wildfire, and the Granite Mountain crews

In the Forest Service, I was engaged in blister rust control, but was also trained to build fire line and do mop up work after a wildfire was contained.  We, mostly college students from all over the country, prayed for wildfires because they meant more money.  You got bonus pay - hazardous duty or per diem or whatever - and you worked long hours.

In late July, 1964, we were rousted at 3 AM to fight a fire in the 7 Devils wilderness of northern Idaho.  We were bused from Pierce, ID to Orofino, ID, where we boarded a DC3.  We were in the air about 45 minutes when the plane made a U-turn: turned out we weren't needed after all.

The following summer, I was promoted to crew chief.  In early August, my crew and I (9 of us) were trucked to a remote location where a lightning strike had started a small fire on a hilltop where timber had been harvested several years prior.  We packed in 3 miles, carrying food and water for 2 days, sleeping bags, and the tools of the trade: pulaskis, shovels, axes and jack-off backpack tanks.

As wildfires go, this little blaze didn't amount to much.  It was only about 5 acres, had no tall trees and not that much brush. Still, building the fire line was no picnic.  Nor was the mop up - a dirty, hot, nasty job.  The fire line completed, and all hot spots taken care of, we packed out again after about 36 hours on site.  Our filthy faces would have made Al Jolson proud.  Although my wildfire experience doesn't hold a candle to what today's hotshot crews endure, it gives me an understanding of what they're up against and the deepest respect for these tough, brave men and women who put themselves in harms way, over and over.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nails, Corn and Rocks

A couple days ago I stopped at Lowe's, getting supplies for various honey-do projects.  My list included 4" nails.  When our RV campsite is dirt, we lay a large synthetic rug on the ground, helps keep dirt from getting tracked into the RV.  The rug is very lightweight, has loops at the corners and sides for securing it to the ground so it doesn't blow away; hence the nails.

The nails reminded me of my first introduction to same.  Back in the day, back on the farm, the chores were endless, and we kids were 'volunteered' into the work force early on.  One of my first chores was removing nails from old boards.  And, there were always piles of old, salvaged boards, where they came from I haven't a clue. The nails were bent more often than not.  So, straighten the nail, pound on the tip, use the hammer claw to remove it, straighten it some more, throw it into coffee can.  Exciting stuff!

Another salad-years task was uncovering corn.  Horse-drawn planters and cultivators weren't famous for maintaining a straight line.  Cultivators were, however, famous for burying little corn seedlings.  "Mike, I want you to uncover corn in the field I cultivated yesterday."  Gee, thanks, Dad!  Can't think of anything I'd rather do.  I get my trusty forked stick and off I go, trudging up and down the corn rows all day.  And the next day.  And the next, liberating little plants from premature burial. Talk about tedious.

Picking rocks was another ongoing chore.  Every time a field was plowed, a new crop of rocks appeared - not good for cultivators, harrows, discs, or other machinery.  Hitch up the horses - later, the tractor - to the stone boat. grab shovels, pickaxe, 6' crowbar and off you go.  We had several rock piles scattered around the farm, the largest of which was a good 300' long, 4' high and 12' wide.

Stone boat is a misnomer.  They're not shaped like boats, doubt they even float.  Don't recall ever seeing anyone water ski behind one.  They're crude, sturdy, heavy, constructed of thick oak planks.  Actually they're sleds, not boats.

I'm reminded of an old joke.  This city slicker is driving through Minnesota, stops to stretch his legs beside a field where a farmer is picking rocks.  Mr Slick decides to have a little fun with the farmer, asks him, "Where did all those rocks come from?"

"Glacier brought 'em," the farmer replied.

Slick: "Where's the glacier now?"

Farmer: "Went back for more rocks."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trip Summary 2017

The highlights and low lights of our summer travels:

1.   High: Love the new truck and RV!

2.   Low: Constant alarm beeping in truck, along with "Check Trailer Wiring" notice for first 6 days of driving.  Had RV checked at dealership: "Everything is okay."  Sure it is.  I just dreamed it was beeping.  Silly me!  Had truck checked at dealership: "Couldn't find anything wrong."  What else is new?  Bought a can of electric circuit spray, sprayed the hell out of receptacle and plug (the pigtail electric cord that connects truck to RV; it controls brakes, lights, other good stuff).  Problem solved.

3.  High: The electric fireplace.  We thought it was a ridiculous feature.  Wrong!  Used it every morning in Bend.  Much quieter than furnace, nice ambiance, no cost - uses RV park's electricity instead of our propane.

4.  Low: Had to bag Grand Teton NP because RV water pump croaked.

5.  High: Visiting with friends in Bend, Ketchum and Grand Junction.  Plus: son Tod and wife, Char, joined us for an enjoyable week in Bend.  Tod, when we're in Mexico, I'm gonna kick your butt in Spades!

6.  Low: Bed platform hinge screws pulled out on one side (lower half of bed raises to access storage under bed).  Faulty installation but easy (temporary?) fix: larger screws.

7.  High: I played pickleball in 3 states; Trish cycled in 4.

8.  Low: Wildfire smoke in several states, terrrible for T's allergies/asthma.

Stats: Towed the RV 3230 miles; put 6215 miles on the truck.  Most of the difference, nearly 3K miles, racked by Ms T, heading out to kayaking venues, quilt stores, cycling venues.  Seems she likes the new truck a whole bunch.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Yes, Zion NP merits the exclamation point.  Magnificent, multi-colored mountains with sheer cliffs.  We're in Watchman Campground, just inside the south entrance.  That's Watchman Mountain, below. Top picture was taken from inside the RV, while sitting at the dining table.

The Virgin River, which runs right by our campsite, is small, unimpressive - but it did one helluva job carving out Zion Canyon.

We took a 1-mile hike up the Virgin River to the point where the trail stops and you have to continue by walking/wading in the River itself, into The Narrows.  Some of the Stick People continued upriver; we did not.  Stick People are tour group folks.  They carry walking sticks which have the names of the tour companies painted on them.  The sticks aren't state of the art, just wooden dowels really, but hey, they do have rawhide thongs near the top to give those tenderfeet a real feel for the Wild West.

Mule deer abound in the Park, nice rack on this one.

Hanging gardens, above and below.  
Plants cling to sheer cliff walls where water seeps down from above. 

I was last here in 1987, was into backpacking and mountaineering at the time, did a whirlwind tour of Arches, Bryce, Zion.  We (girlfriend and I) backpacked up Walter's Wiggles, past Angel's Landing, to the plateau above, camped there a couple nights.  This picture was taken up top, Great White Throne in background.