Sunday, April 27, 2014

Maple Seeds

Our maple tree is overloaded with seeds.  The helicopters have been blown off the tree and have spread all over the neighborhood.  One of the places where they are accumulating is on the Gaskill's roof and gutters.  We noticed tonight that, once settled on the roof, they shimmer and move in the wind, creating a mesmerizing effect similar to Christmas lights.  The video is somewhat small, and it may not be apparent how they shimmer, but perhaps you can see it.  I hope so!  These are the little things in God's creation that are fun and interesting to capture!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Day in Manhattan

We love the spring football game, especially when the weather is nice like it was this year.  The wind was a mess, which wrought havoc with the allergies, but the sun and warmth were a blessing.  I wish the game had been better, but at least K-State won!

Don had a long DU meeting both before and after the game, so I spent most of the day with Christy Scott.  Babs "spent the night" at her house, since it was too warm to stay in the car, and Christy and I spent some time at the Kappa house, we had lunch with Joey at Colbert Hills, and then after the game, went back to her house to do more Kappa work.  By the time Don was ready to go home, storms were rolling in and Don was worrying about hail on the Lincoln!

It was an enjoyable KSU day . . . not much longer until football season!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two More Books to Read

The Wives of Los Alamos is another book to read if interested in WWII and the way Los Alamos geared up for the war.  After having read 109 East Palace and Girls of the Atomic City, I found the Wives to be an easier, breezier read.  The perspective it takes - that of a number of women in Los Alamos - does not target one particular person but instead generalizes feelings and events into short chapters.  Although it is a novel, the author has done enough research to bring reality to the story.  I found this book to be consistent with what was written in the other two books, but since it was written from a different voice, it was just as interesting.

Boys in a Boat is the most recent book I have read.  Transparency clause:  I still have fifty pages to read, but that does not keep me from recommending it.  I started the book on our way home from Wyoming, and by the time we drove into the cul-de-sac, I had fifty pages left.  It is killing me not to finish it, but things have just been too busy.  And this is the most important part!  But the book is wonderful.  Since I have an interest in rowing, it perhaps made it more appealing, but amazingly, back in the 1930's, rowing was the football of society.  Everyone in the country was wild about rowing . . . not quite sure I see why, but at the time, perhaps it was the most exciting thing around!

The author beautifully intertwines German history, personal anecdotes, and actual events into a compelling story.  I highly recommend reading it for a new outlook on pre-WWII Germany.

Both books are well worth your time!  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ghost Bluffs

Because of Babs, I have been privy to some amazing sights at night.  The auroras in Alaska are one example, but full moons, shooting stars, and lightning strikes are others.  La Grange was another.

The last night we were there, as the wind settled down, I stepped outside to the silence of the evening.  The half-moon was shining between the clouds, various stars were twinkling above.  The bluffs behind the Round House were lightly illuminated by the moon, just so that I could see their shadows and a few of the striations in the hills.  It was as if they were ghosts hanging in the sky.  Unforgettable.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another Restaurant to Try

When we were in La Grange, Gayle and David took us to a new little restaurant in the town of Hawk Springs.  Now Hawk Springs is about like Nipton, California, and Shoshone, California.  About the only thing in each town is the restaurant.  But each one has wonderful food.

The Emporium in Hawk Springs is worth the stop if you are in the area.  (It is on highway 85 in Wyoming, apparently on the way to Sturgis!)  I had a green chile hamburger, Don had the chicken friend steak, Gayle had salmon, and David had a steak.  We started off with onion rings, and I don't know if I have had better anywhere.  The batter was just right - light and crispy - and the slices of onion just the right size.  The French fries were drenched in a beer batter before they were fried - YUM!  The iced tea looked like it would be very strong, but it was tasty, tasty, tasty; there was not one thing we had that was not top-drawer!

I hope this little restaurant survives because the food was well worth it!

The Roundhouse

Our friends, the Johnsons, moved to Wyoming after living in Wichita for over 20 years.  We had seen pictures of the house, but no picture does it justice.  Tucked up against the bluffs, it blends in well enough that if you don't know it is there, you could miss it.

Gayle's brother was the foreman of the project, and because he is an artist, too, his special touches took the house from gorgeous to exquisite.  I have never been in a house built with such tender care and attention.  Whether it was the hand-made furniture he crafted, the porch balusters made of branches collected nearby, the fascinating round construction, or the curvy road to the front of the house, each little part makes for a wonderful home.  Add Gayle's touches for interior decoration and voila - a masterpiece.

In addition to the house, they have added a bunk house, and small cabin, and they even have the ability for RVs to plug in.  We were the first to use the electricity, and it was perfect.

The Bunk House
Hiking in the hills behind the house gave us an opportunity to experience the magnificence of God's creation.  We are deeply grateful to share such a beautiful venue with our good friends!

. . . and the Wildlife You See

I think the biggest surprise of the trip was how much wildlife we saw.  After the surprise sighting of the big horn sheep in Death Valley, we were equipped for anything.

Once we left Winnemucca, we happened upon several herds of elk, multiple and more multiple herds of antelope, and numerous deer.  Once we arrived in La Grange, we even saw a large flock of wild turkeys.  The toms were working pretty hard trying to attract those hens!

Although the drive to Wichita was not as wildlife heavy, we did see some beautiful sandhill cranes.  Wonder if any of those will end up in our friend's, the Heuers, front yard.


Having grown up in the desert country, I am no stranger to mirages.  I have seen many.  But those we saw on the drive from Winnemucca to Wyoming take the cake.

As we drove through the salt flat country of Utah, Don commented that if he didn't know better, he would think there is a glacier between two mountains.  We both knew it was ridiculous, and once we got further down the road we could see that indeed, the two mountains did connect and there was no glacier there at all.

But the bigger surprise to me was that mirages can have reflections.  At one point, again if we hadn't known better, we would have thought there was a big lake because of the reflection of the mountains in the water.  We watched in several places where that was happening, but nearly every time (once there was a puddle) no water was present . . . just white salt.  I managed to capture of picture of the reflection in the salt - see what you think.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Oh the People You Meet

While we were at the Martin Hotel, we began talking to the three people who were seated with us. Because I think I was a golden retriever in another life, I cannot just sit with people without talking to them.  So I started a conversation, asking about where they are from, where they are traveling, and what their next stop is.  The first thing we found out, besides that they live in Oregon, is that the 80-year-old man was born in Wichita.  Connection #1.  

They live in LaGrande, Oregon, where he was a college professor at Eastern Oregon University.  One of the women is a cattle rancher, but she had just sold her ranch, and the three of them had been in Lake Tahoe visiting a friend.  We talked to them extensively about Oregon and what we should do along with way when we come up there in August.  They had some wonderful suggestions including going through Hell's Canyon, an interesting museum in Baker, and a beautiful lake.

At one point, one of the women, Shawna, mentioned that she grazed her livestock on federal lands.  So I said to her, "Now we have come full circle.  Did you have to have a special permit to graze your cattle?"

"Why yes, for eighty years we have had one."

So I explained that we were at the National Forest Homeowners Convention because there are cabins that also have special permits.  The man said, "Yes, we know.  We own one . . . Well really, we own two."  

So I said, "Do you belong to the National Forest Homeowners?"

"Well, yes I do," he replied.  "I knew the convention was going on, but we were visiting friends."

Don and I could not believe it.  What are the odds?  We talked about the various issues they have had with their cabins, the issues discussed at the NFH convention, and the beauty of the cabin program.  Apparently he had attended the Boise forum several years ago and was very up-to-speed on the bill in front of Congress.  By the time we left (to the relief of the other diners, I am sure), it was as if we had known each other for years. 

We look forward to staying in touch with our friends and hope to see them when we return in August.

Martin Hotel - Basque Food Extraordinaire

When we told Julie Sheppard we we going to Winnemucca, she said we had to go to the Martin Hotel for the best Basque food ever.  I did not even know the Basques had settled in Nevada, but after consulting Dr. Google and reading about their journeys during the Gold Rush days, I knew we had to try it.

When we arrived at the hotel, it was not what I had expected.  For some reason, I was thinking it would be a large hotel with turrets and stone columns, but this is what we saw:

Not at all what we were anticipating, but we knew we were at the right place.  Upon entering, it was more like what I expected - a long bar in a room with wood floors and some decorative features on the wall.  The dining room was enclosed to the right, and although it was understated, we could tell we were in for something special.

The young ladies who served us were very casual - "Hi guys, how are you?  I will sit you here." She put down the menus on a table set for eight and walked away.  I did not know why we were at such a large table, but I figured that is the way they do things.  She was not gone for long.  Within a minute she returned with a basket of bread and a carafe of wine.  And that was just the beginning.

After taking our order (we decided upon lamb chops), she then seated three more people at our table. I said, "This is the 'make new friends' table," to which they responded, but I had no idea how true those words would be. (This will be documented in the next blog.)

Within a few minutes, the server brought out minestrone soup - the best I have ever had, by the way.  Everyone at the table shared the soup, but I could have made a meal just of the soup.  She cleared the table and then brought out a green salad with an Italian-style dressing to be eaten with pinto beans on top.  Outstanding!  Of course, I love pinto beans, and the dressing on the salad with the lettuce added an oomph that I did not expect.  Again, I could have made a meal out of that, too.

Once we had finished our salad, the dishes were cleared, and out came the sides:  garlic potatoes, green beans with bacon and other stuff, and a chicken, pepper and onion concoction that could have been the main dish for any meal.  I took small amounts of each, as I was seeing the handwriting on the wall.  There would be no room for lamb chops if I was not careful.  Once again, she took away the sides and brought out the lamb chops.  Thankfully we ordered one entree, because there were four lamb chops in one entree.  We would not have been able to finish the meal if we had both ordered lamb chops!  As it was, we had one left.  Oh, and French fried potatoes were served with it.  They were good, but I only had a few.  None of us had very many as we were all getting full.

And of course, then we had dessert.  Don's bread pudding came with the meal, but my flan was extra.  Both were spectacular!

I was very proud of myself that I did not roll out of the restaurant, but I could have.  If we are in Winnemucca again, I guarantee you I will be back.  Thanks, Julie, for the great recommendation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Books of the Road Trip

Since I still have not caught up from our Alaska trip and all of the magazines that collected over the summer, I brought all of them plus four books to read.  I knew the scenery would not be nearly as appealing as Alaska was and I trusted that I would be able to read more.  And that is the truth!

So far I have whittled away a number of the magazines, though I have more to go.  But my greatest achievement is that I have read three books and am on the fourth.  That is a record for me!

The first one, a book club book, is Sum It Up, by Pat Summitt.  This is a well-told autobiography that documents her life, all while describing the Alzheimer's that forced her to quit coaching.  If you like basketball, if you wonder how Pat Summitt did what she did, if you want to experience the beginning stages of Alzheimer's and how it looks, this is the book for you.  I could not put it down!

The second book I read was the book about Willard Garvey.  If you knew him, you should read it.  It gives great insight into a very complex man.  I thought I knew Willard fairly well, but it is obvious I did not.  It was well worth the read!

Then I read The Red Tent.  At least several times a year, during book club discussions, this book would come up.  Somehow it would relate to something we had read, so I decided I needed to read it.  I purchased it for Di for Christmas, and then after she read it, I took it.  What an amazing read!  The research that went into a book like this must have taken hours and hours.  And who knows if she got it right?  But her description of the life of a woman in that time certainly seems plausible.  I loved the way the women looked forward to their days in the red tent - whereas women of today look at those days as a true inconvenience.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite the pain that parts of bring to the reader.

My last book, The Wives of Los Alamos, is a very quick read.  I am not through with it, but I have enjoyed it.  Having read 109 East Palace first has made this story more real and more understandable. And since our book club had just read The Girls of the Atomic City, I found the experiences in both books to be similar.  Life during the war years was difficult, and these books give a glimpse into the lives of many different people involved in the war.

So what is next?  Well, we have our book club book, and then I want to read Walking the Bible.  But before that gets read, Don and I both agree we have to read A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.  we just heard about it at the NFH Convention, and it sounds like a must read.  We will see how long it takes me to get to it!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Wild Horses of Nevada

Just outside of Hawthorne, Nevada, there is a very large lake, Walker Lake.  Besides having some interesting geologic implications, including apparent proof that the valley is stretching, and being a testing area for many of the munitions, it is the home of a herd of wild horses.  The Wild Horses of Walker Lake they are called.

They have lived in the area for many years, but in 2010, the BLM was planning to round them up and move them.  The area people became involved and managed to curtail the round-up.  They built a fence so the horses would not get on the road, and a conservation group agreed to help manage the herd.

As we were driving by the lake, we saw the large group down near the lake.  My picture looks like little dots on the plain, but we thought it was great that we saw both wild burros and wild horses.  There is nothing like the west!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Binford 5000 Sewer Kit

Once we arrived in Reno, Don prepared to set up the sewer system.  Unluckily, the hose split (thankfully before he opened the sewage valve), so we had to find a new one.  The first one we bought was too short - what they said was ten feet could not have been.

We found an RV store, and when Don came back out, he had a large box of sewer supplies.  I called it the Binford 5000 box of sewer supplies.  He wasn't going to be unable to get the sewer running this time!

The Ordnance Museum

Shows what I know.  Ordnance vs. Ordinance.  I didn't know there was a difference, but now I do.

Hawthorne, Nevada is the home of a large munitions storage area.  Founded in 1928, munitions were manufactured and tested there, but now it is just storage and decommissioning.  The Ordnance Museum is the home of examples of many of the weapons used in military events, mostly since WWI.

Outdoors, numerous bombs, torpedos, and mines were displayed.  Recalling our trip to Denmark where we saw numerous WWII mines in Hanstolm and Kenneth pretended he was Cleuseau, Don stood next to it and said, "It's a Beum."

Inside there were many more ordnances, uniforms, and remnants of former wars.  They even have an old nuclear warhead.

I am learning to enjoy every place we go, even if it doesn't pique my interest.  And I learned a few things today - what a knee mortar is, how to spell ordnance, what a nuclear warhead looks like.  After about 40 minutes, Don had had enough and we were able to leave.  But I now understand better, military munitions and their importance to Hawthorne, Nevada.

New Adventures

We had been told there are many different animals in Death Valley - deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, kit foxes - but we had not seen anything.  No snakes, no lizards, no nothing.  As we were driving out the east side of Death Valley headed toward Beatty, we rounded a corner in a hilly, but dry area.  Standing there was a herd of about twenty bighorn sheep.  Because we had people behind us, we could not stop, so we didn't get any pictures.  The large ram looking at us is an unforgettable image, however.

The trek to Hawthorne was about 5 hours, and we passed through a lot of desolate country.  We did see several sets of wild burros, but we did not see any of the wild mustangs.

As we came through the town of Tonopah, we noticed the McDonald's had closed down.  A sign above the restaurant said it was "Just down the road."  I knew the next town large enough for McDonald's is Hawthorne, which was 100 miles away.  Somehow, just down the road does not seem like 100 miles.

Tuesday morning, we decided not to go to Lake Tahoe, since the RV park still had one foot of snow in it and it was going to snow some more.  Instead we went to Mono Lake.  Now, Hawthorne is an area where hundreds of ordnances are stores - there are bunkers everywhere.  About 15 miles outside of Hawthorne, we were stopped by a flagman.  It did not appear as if anything was going on, so Don got out of the car to talk to the flagman.  He told us that their firm was exploding old ordnances and weapons, and we needed to wait until they were done.  About 10 minutes later, we heard a large explosion.  The smoke started rising over the hill.  Four more explosions later, a lot of smoke and dust, they were done, and we were allowed to head on our way.

"You think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Desert Flowers

Because it has been so dry, we were not very optimistic about seeing flowers.  But we were pleasantly surprised.  We saw them in Lake Havasu, particularly ocotillo, greasewood, and a few cactuses, and in Death Valley.  We had gone to a talk about Death Valley and the ranger told us that there were plenty of flowers.  We did not see many at first, but Monday as we were leaving the park, we came upon a number of beautiful yellow, white and red flowers.

Indian paintbrush

Palo Verde - bark is green and remains that way


Dunes and Mosaic Canyon

The stars at night, are big and bright . . . deep in the heart of Death Valley.  I only had to take Babs out twice . . . and I was a little worried about snakes and scorpions . . . but the only serpent I saw was in the sky, and it was gorgeous.

Monday morning before we checked out we drove to the sand dunes and to Mosaic Canyon.  The sand dunes were not as big as those in Colorado (though there are others in the park that are), but they were still impressive.  We did see several tracks in the sand, but that is all of the life we saw.

Mosaic Canyon was just across the road from the dunes.  The geology of Death Valley is quite complicated, but Mosaic Canyon is a great example of the force of just a little water over time.  It does not rain much in Death Valley, but when it does, floods are common.  Just 1/4" of the wet stuff can create quite a problem is a person is caught in the Canyon.

When we were in Alaska, we enjoyed looking at the geology.  Death Valley was the same.  We saw some rocks that appeared as if they could have been cut by glaciers, but they weren't.  The forces of wind and water created much the same effect.  Some of the rocks were completely smooth, and it wasn't until we left the Canyon that we realized the rocks were marble.

We did not have the afternoon sun but instead the morning, but we still found some beautiful colors.

An Oasis in the Desert

Did you know that Borax was mined in Death Valley?  Twenty Mule Team Borax?  I didn't either.  But in the 1920's when the borax trade slowed down, one of the men decided to build a hotel in an oasis.

It is just like a movie about a rich sheik in the desert.  The inside was just as grand.

We decided this would be a nice place to visit in the middle of January.  Maybe in a few years.

The Artist Palette

We spent too long at Badwater.  It was so fascinating that we forgot to watch the clock.  We wanted to catch the Artist Palette as the sun was setting.

Jerri says that photography is a matter of timing, and our rush to catch the light was the perfect example.  We were a little late for some of the pictures, but we still managed to take a few of some very pretty rocks.

There is green in this picture - it would have been stunning in the light!
We need much more training to be good photographers, but these scenes, though stark and desolate, are gorgeous.  Wish our pictures had been more so.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Down in the Valley

After Bart and Jerri left on Sunday, we departed in the opposite direction toward Reno, via Death Valley.  The wind was blowing nearly as hard as it did when we drove from Albuquerque, but it was from a different angle and therefore was not as bad.

The closer we came to Death Valley, the more desolate it became.  I thought it was dry between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but it looks like a virtual oasis compared to what we were seeing in Nevada and California.  By the time we arrived at Furnace Creek and our campsite, we were accustomed to the look of a plant every ten or twenty feet, surrounded by dirt and rocks.  Furnace Creek is situated at 193 feet below sea level.

After setting up in the campground, we went to an area called Badwater, which is 282 feet below sea level.  Above the parking area sits a sign that indicates the elevation of sea level.

See the white sign to the middle-left . . . that is sea level.
As we were driving toward Badwater, it looked as if a huge lake surrounded it, which it does at times, but not this time of year.  It is just salt.  The water is a mirage.  We also saw what looked like fields of wheat stubble.  We couldn't figure that out either until we got to Badwater and looked closely at the salt crystals.  The salt crystals grow, and when the dust blows, it settles on them, making them look like plants.  Another amazing mirage.

This is one salt crystal

These at long distance look like wheat stubble

Total desolation

That is not a lake - just salt.

We walked a ways on the salt path, and at about the same time, Don and I commented that it felt like we were walking on a rubber sport court.  Fascinating.  There is one little pond filled with salty, salty water and the microbes that can live in it . . . and that is why it is called Badwater.

Spring Break in Lake Havasu

On Saturday morning, while it was still cool, we all took a walk around the RV park, taking pictures of flowers and trees along the way.  We arrived at one boat access, and suddenly, Don was enthralled.  He was watching a huge truck, tricked out in every way possible, unload a $750,000+ speed boat into the water.  Once it was in, the people fired it up, and it sounded like Harley Day.  Don loved it.

I can tell I am old.  Although the boat was expensive, I was not particularly impressed.  It was obvious the young kids driving it were taking advantage of Daddy's money, and they did not appear to be particularly responsible.  How do I know?  They unloaded at least three cases of beer onto the boat - and there were only 5 of them.  And I can imagine when Daddy bought the boat, he told his insurance agent that he would be the only one driving it.  Sure!  (Can you tell I am an insurance man's daughter?)

Anyway, we didn't realize that it was spring break, but after our walk when we went downtown, it became apparent.  Cruising up and down the bay was every kind of boat imaginable - from run-down to very expensive.  Pulled up on the beach were more boats, including the one we had seen earlier.  Don said it reminded him of dragging Wyatt Earp.  See and be seen!

After lunch we walked up the walk to see all the partying.  Of course, there were hundreds of co-eds in their string bikinis, muscled-up guys strutting around, all seeming to have a good time.    When we were there, the alcohol had not gotten out of hand, but I suspect that by evening, it was a rocking and rolling place.  I have no trouble with that, as long as they don't end up dead in the river from over drinking.

But then there were the big-bellied men walking around shirtless, the older women in bikinis that they should not be wearing, and the worst - old men with their binoculars, eyeing the cute girls. Spring break is for the kids, and people my age need to stay out of it.  Let the kids have their fun.  As it was, I was glad to go back to the quiet of our RV.  Yes, I am old.