Thursday, July 27, 2017

Olympic Glory


“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.”---Frank Herbert

“We don’t stop hiking because we grow old---we grow old because we stop hiking.”---Finis Mitchell

A Ferry Tale

On the third morning of their pilgrimage, a cheery jacket-demanding Saturday, Bill and Siobhan taxied to surburban Bellevue, Washington to pick up their rental-car at a tiny Enterprise facility, a lot no bigger than your thumb, but one buzzing with activity as the hustling car-cleaners applied spit and polish to their charges, then zipped them forward to waiting customers.

We had asked for a full-sized Buick when we ordered via Orbitz, but Mick Jagger warned us long ago you don’t always get what you want, you get what you need.  Apparently what we needed was a Ford Flex, a snub-nosed, hatchet-backed vehicle of little distinction but plenty of luggage room.  Our choices would expand if we chose to wait an hour.  On reflection, the Flex seemed just fine.  Bill would not wait in line for The Second Coming of The Messiah, although Red Sox World Series tickets might be tempting.  We loaded up and headed for someplace called Edmonds where a car-ferry (capacity 203) was waiting to take us to Kingston on chummy Bainbridge Island.  This is where we learned once again that you can’t cheat Fate.  The wait for the ferry would be one hour.

The ferry was imposing, but not enormous, hardly giving the appearance of a 203-seater.  The able crew loaded up in no time and we were quickly off to Kingston, humming along at a healthy pace, several of the customers at the fore quickly snapping photos of the oncoming coast before a stiff breeze drove them back.  Siobhan spent the half-hour trip on her cell, putting out fires back home where it was three hours later.  Our Flex was near the front of the ferry and upon landing we leapt off in jig time to inspect the alleged charms of Bainbridge Island.

Very nice place.  Islands have vast appeal, particularly to those who have never experienced island life.  Things are expensive on islands, slow to arrive.  The days are quiet and nights are moreso.  After awhile, cabin fever can raise its bumpy noggin.  But for a certain kind of individual, islands are perfect, serene, lovely to look at, populated by neighbors of a similar ilk.  In July of 2005, Money magazine named Bainbridge the second-best place to live in the United States.  The island is hilly and characterized by an irregular coastline of approximately 53 miles with numerous bays and inlets and a significant diversity of other coastal land forms, including bluffs, dunes, lagoons, streams and rocky outcrops.  The high point is 435-foot Toe Jam Hill, which may or may not have been named for stumbling drunkards.  If so, it just goes to reinforce the notion that there is no desultory condition on Earth ultimately unworthy of celebration.



Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly

To leave Bainbridge Island to the west, you have to exit via the world’s longest floating bridge over tidal salt water, a contraption called the Hood Canal Bridge.  We don’t know about you but a floating bridge sounds a little suspect us landlubbers.  What if it floats off with us on it?  How does one lasso a runaway bridge and put it back where it belongs?  Nobody wants to be like Charley On The MTA, doomed to float forever through the straits of Washington, a man who never returns.  We made an emergency call to our Floating Bridge Advisor and learned the things are made of large water-tight concrete pontoons, connected rigidly end-to-end, upon which a roadway is built.  Um, did you say concrete?  Yes, but despite their heavy composition, the weight of the water displaced by the pontoons is equal to the weight of the structure (including traffic), which allows the bridge to float.  Okay, we feel better now.

Once back on solid land, the road to our eventual destination, Port Angeles, wound through sparsely populated backwaters with barely a filling-station or convenience store in sight.  We eventually found a place calling itself an organic food market and deli connected to a raffish looking bar near the metropolis of Blyn.  Over lunch, the chatty barmaid advised us we dared not miss the colorful lakeshore drive near the town of “Squim,” just ahead.  The map properly added a vowel, making the correct name Sequim.  We chuckled at the woman’s careless use of the language but it turns out all the locals call the place Squim (home of the Fighting Fins, no doubt).  We returned there from Port Angeles the next night to have dinner at the exotic Black Bear diner.  When Bill is at a diner, he has the meatloaf, knowing full well the diner meatloaf is never made correctly, always suffering from a deficiency of tomato sauce.  The ultimate authority on meatloaf was Bill’s grandmother, Celia, who made it perfectly.  If Celia was alive today, she would trounce these “celebrity chefs” in food preparation.  The Black Bear offered no tomato sauce and sordid brown gravy.  Phooey.

A word about lavender farms.  Approaching Sequim from the East, they pop up everywhere.  Naturally, Siobhan could not resist resist the orchid fields and we were cajoled into a gift shop full of exciting purple creations like calming lilac therapy candles, amethyst eye masks and psoriasis-killing natural grape body scrub.  There was even lavender lemonade and lavender ice cream, for crying out loud.  You could wash it all down with a large splash of delicious lavender tea were you so inclined.  We weren’t.


Lavender fields forever.  I feel a song coming on.


The cannabis train in Jefferson County.

Comin’ In To Port Angeles.  Bringin’ In A Couple Of Keys.  Or Not.

Port Angeles is a city of 20,000 contented souls, more or less, the largest city and county seat of Clallam County.  More important, it’s the gateway city and headquarters location for Olympic National Park, just down the road, and offers ferry service across the Straight of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, British Columbia.  Port Angeles is located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, which means the city gets significantly less rain than other areas of western Washington, about 25 inches annually compared to Seattle’s 38.  We were booked into the Red Lion Inn there, the largest hotel/motel in the area, for three nights, the longest stop on our trip.  The Inn is downtown and virtually on the water.  The rooms are comfortable and spacious.  It was from there we would launch our invasion of Olympic the next morning.  But first we bowed to the blowing winds and brisk temperatures and picked up a couple of warmer shirts at Brown’s, the local outfitter.  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Florida any more.


Hardy mountaineer contemplates her quest.







Views from Hurricane Ridge.

Mountain Music

It was a cool and windy morn as we began the steep ascent of Hurricane Hill and the extra gear was appreciated.  As always, of course, the effort of the climb and the rising sun soon relegated shirts to the backpacks, temperatures eventually creeping up into the mid-seventies.  We struggled with the grade for awhile, eventually got used to it and moved up steadily to the snow levels.  We stopped for lunch in a rare shady glade, surrounded by bushes.  Nearly finished, I heard a rustling in the greenery very close and I stood up.  It was one of those magic moments you luck into on rare occasions.  A sizeable female deer was standing there not twenty feet away.  She saw me, but didn’t start, probably used to people on the trail.  She did move gradually to the edge of the rim as I raised my iPhone and got two shots, one of them as she gave a last look back.  There was no time to reach the camera, but the cell photos were exceptional.  We used the better of the two for the header of this column.  Then, in a poof, she was over the ridge and gone.  I could almost hear her say, “Come on, Tonto….our work here is done.” 




Who says the Abominable Snowman is extinct?




Life at the heights.

Over The Meadow And Through The Woods….

To Marymere Falls we go.  Subscribers to the philosophy you can’t see too many waterfalls, Bill and Siobhan debarked for the Marymere Falls Trail later in the afternoon of the Hurricane Hill hike.  The 90-foot cascade at the end of a trail with little altitude is predictably popular with visitors to Olympic, many of whom are not in condition to negotiate the tougher hikes, but the wide, generally level trail can accomodate the traffic.  The path to the falls leads through a typical Northwestern understory of ferns, moss, devil’s club and vine maples, with impressive old-growth cedar and western hemlock forming the canopy.  The area near the waterfall offers two viewpoints, high and low, positioned perfectly for photographers to capture the waters of Fall Creek rushing through a gap in the cliff and tumbling down a two-stage drop.  We were a smidge legweary from the trip up Hurricane Hill but Marymere was a breeze, and a nice one.

Nonhikers often ask why we do it, what is the lure of a physically demanding trek through the woods, an exhausting trip up a mountain, where the air gets thinner and the trail often transmogrifies into a vague path.  For some, it is the acceptance of a challenge to body and soul, an affirmation we are still strong and able.  To others, a respite from the slings and arrows of outrageous daily life and all its urban ills.  And to most, a rare opportunity to commune with nature, to spend unstructured hours in some small manner as our ancient ancestors did, incorporating the hills and forests into their daily existence, walking through these vast natural chambers, sleeping with their sounds and scents.

For us, I guess, it’s all of these bundled with a lust for adventure, perhaps a spirit kindred with that of the old explorers, who plunged westward with moribund vehicles and primitive watercraft, slogging through swamps, hacking through underbrush, searching for wonders around every new  corner, sometimes exulting in magical discoveries, other times perishing in the process.  In our case, of course, with a heavy dose of exulting and a lot less hacking through the underbrush.




On the Marymere Falls Trail.

That’s all, folks….

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Meet Me In Seattle, That’s Where I’ll Be Attle


“There’s only four ways to get unraveled; one is to sleep and the other is travel.”---Jim Morrison

The Ballad Of Hubcap Man

Every mornin’ at six, you could see him arrive, he stood five-foot-six and weighed one-forty-five.  Kinda close at the shoulder and narrow at the hip, and everybody knew ya didn’t give no lip to the Man….Hubcap Man.

Noone seemed to know where The Man called home, he just drifted into town and stayed all alone.  He didn’t say much, kinda quiet and shy, and if you spoke at all, you just said hi to The Man….Hubcap Man.

Siobhan and Bill---but mostly Siobhan---ran across Hubcap Man at the entrance to the Hampton Inn Gateway, just a skip and a jump from the Orlando airport, at the beginning of their annual Summer vacation.  As omens go, Hubcap Man was not a rainbow on our horizon.  Bill dropped Siobhan off at the hotel entrance so she could leave her everyday shoes in the car, one less pair to carry, while he drove around back to park.  The swarthy stranger, hubcap firmly ensconced under his arm, saw an opportunity.  He sidled up to her, pumped his eyebrows up and down a few times and muttered something Siobhan couldn’t make out.  He backed off, arched one eyebrow to the firmament and approached again.  “Do you want to have SEX?” he asked casually, as if he was inquiring about the weather in Chicago.  “NO!!!” she exclaimed, “What’s the matter with you?!?”  Hubcap Man looked down at her feet, perhaps by way of explanation.  “You don’t have any shoes on,” he observed, archly. 

So if ya see him comin’, better step aside.  A lotta girls didn’t and a lotta girls cried.  One cap of aluminum, another of steel---if the right one don’t getcha then the left one will….he’s The Man….Hubcap Man.





Bill, Siobhan and Marty Jourard at Pike’s Place Market and the Seattle waterfront.    Deadly duo at The Pink Door.  Siobhan investigates health food superstore at PPM.

We’re Off To The Coxville Zoo

Undeterred by madmen carrying automotive gear, Bill and Siobhan embarked for Seattle on a shining Thursday morning.  The Fates were kind and United Airlines deposited us in the Emerald City a few minutes early, barely past one p.m. with the three-hour time zone bonanza.  Trying a new tack, we deferred renting a vehicle until it was time to leave town.  Virtually all West Coast hotels of any stature now charge daily parking fees and most progressive cities have super public transportation, not to mention Uber and Lyft.  And then, of course, there’s walking.  Ever hear of it?  This phenomenon is gaining adherents in several western outposts.

We met Gainesville expat Marty Jourard at the Pike Place Market, perhaps Seattle’s main claim to fame with the greying of the Space Needle.  I have no experience with the unending Grand Bazaar of Istanbul or Bangkok’s vast Chatuchak market, but this place tops anything in the USA for size and variety of offerings.  Looking for a pig’s head?  How about some octopi?  Candied piroshky?  We got it.  The selection of fresh fish and produce is enormous, and then there’s the block-long flower market.  Many booths are permanent, local artisans vie for space in other areas by filling out craft market waitlist applications.  Some artists get one day a week, others more, thus the market is ever-changing.  And where else can you get your picture taken riding a brass pig?

Despite his Southern predilections, Marty Jourard is a full-fledged Seattleite, a fan of the city’s gestalt and spirit, a devotee of the local music scene, a celebrant of its gustatory delights.  He steered us through small streets and back alleys, dipping in to a jazz club here, an acoustic bar there, showing off his town.  Marty still plays a few dates each year with the revived Motels, his band of yesteryear, an opportunity open to but a tiny selection of semi-geezers.  He took us to eat at Etta’s, where the waiter was so entranced with his Martiness he brought Bill the wrong meal.  “This happens all the time,” averred Jourard.  It’s actually embarrassing.”  Once a prima donna, always a prima donna.  Etta’s was otherwise outstanding. 

Early mornings in Seattle were reserved for breakfast trips to La Panier, a bakery sans coffee spot across from the market and only a couple of blocks from our hotel.  The pastry and atmosphere there was enough to divert us from the alleged “original Starbuck’s” just down the street.  The shorter lines at the former didn’t hurt, either. 

On our first full day in town, we visited the requisite tourist sites.  We were early to the 605-foot Space Needle, avoiding lines, and zipped to the top in a mere 41 seconds.  The elevator man told us the Needle was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River.  It was built in an area called the Seattle Center for the 1962 World’s Fair.  On a clear day, you can see forever, or at least to Vancouver.  How about a little wave for those Canucks?  The Center also contains the incredible Chihuly Garden and Glass showplace, with eight galleries and three Drawing Walls offering a comprehensive collection of artist Dale Chihuly’s significant work.  We thought we might pick up a little piece of memorabilia but the littlest pieces cost $2000.  And they break.

Since we had bought Seattle City Passes ($79), we also dropped into the nearby Museum of Pop Culture.  After about ten minutes, we decided pop culture doesn’t really need a museum and walked back to the hotel for a short rest before hoofing it on to Pioneer Square.  The park nearby is soothing and offers a decent selection of lunch spots, one of which we visited.  Bill got a BLT sandwich that was as big as a minor planet.  On the way home, a street singer/violinist played us a fine rendition of La Donna e mobile.  Everything may be up to date in Kansas City but you don’t get La Donna e mobile, so ring up five points for Seattle.  Culturally sated, we headed for the docks to book us a boat trip.  Hey, it was part of the Seattle City Pass deal and we were taking full advantage.  Okay, almost full.  You can only see so many aquariums in life, and I’ve done my time.  Sorry, Nemo.






Views from the Space Needle, colorful facade from pop art museum, alien flowers at Seattle Center.

Sleepless In Seattle

Over the last decade, American hotelery has succumbed to an evil blight, a stye in the eye of restfulness, a sure cure for comfortable sleeping misnamed “the comforter.”  Simple blankets, which served sleepers admirably for centuries, no longer would do.  The comforter, a type of bedding made of two lengths of fabric or covering sewn together and filled with insulative materials for warmth, became the New Girl In Town.  Hotel maids could now make a bed in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  Meanwhile, hotel guests roasted under the covers.  You might as well wear a suit of armor to bed.  And don’t bother to suggest merely getting under a sheet.  Those unpredictable hotel air-conditioning systems can leave you Freezing in Fairbanks.  The Hampton Inn Gateway uses comforters.  So does the Kimpton Palladian, our hotel in Seattle.  After about eight hours of sleep in two days, I ran up the white flag and the maids finally came running with bedware suited for human beings.

Another thing.  You know how you’ll occasionally see a giant fire envelop the upper floors of a hotel?  There’s always some clever fellow, perhaps a wily ex-con, who has the good sense to tie a few sheets together and escape a fiery death.  Try that with your comforter, Sparky.







Views from the cruise.


Some folks may tell you that nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning, but it’s just not true. Try cruising Elliot Bay adjacent to Seattle some night around sunset with a mai tai in your glass.  Argosy Cruises will take you out for a narrated spin around the area several times a day.  You’ll find out more about the city in an hour-long jaunt than most of the natives ever learned.  Facts like the land Seattle occupies has been inhabited now for over 4000 years.  The city was founded by the Denny Party, a group of bored midwesterners who left Cherry Grove, Illinois on April 10, 1851, looking for a little fun.  They finally settled their wagons at Alki Point on November 13, 1851.

When gold was discovered in Canada’s Klondike in August, 1896, Seattle became the jumping off point for transportation to and from the gold fields of the Yukon.

The Boeing Company, originally a boat manufacturer, was founded by William Boeing in 1916.  When World War II arrived, the company’s growth exploded with the government’s sudden need for tens of thousands of planes a year.  Boeing immediately became the largest employer in Seattle.  The company is now the world’s leading producer of commercial passenger planes.

The bridge which connects Seattle and Medina across Lake Washington is the world’s longest floating bridge.  Bill Gates, co-founder and former chairman of Microsoft has to cross it every time he drives home to M-town.  Gates, by the way, won a dinner at the Space Needle at age 11, a prize paid for by his pastor when little Billy won a contest by memorizing the Sermon on the Mount and reciting it flawlessly.  Save that one for your next Ultimate Trivia bout.

Seattle is home to the world’s first gas station, opened on East Marginal Way in 1907.  It is ranked the most literate city in the country with the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher.  Seattle is the first city with the good sense to play a Beatles song on the radio.  The city’s annual rainfall, widely advertised and deplored, is actually less than that of Houston, Chicago and New York City.  You’ll be shocked to discover that people in Seattle buy more sunglasses per capita than do those of any other U.S. city.  Seattle has the second-highest per capita rate of live music performances in the country, second only to New York City.  More people bike to work in the Emerald City than any other similar-sized municipality in the land and it’s the first city to put police on bicycles.  Seattle has nearly 500 houseboats, more than anywhere else in the country.  And the city’s Pier 52 is the busiest ferry terminal in the United States.

Last and least, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbuck’s, the indispensible coffee chain which has taken over the world.  The allegedly “original” Starbuck’s across from Pike’s Place Market, has a neverending line out the door and so does the one in Raffles City, Shanghai.

It’s quite a place, this Seattle.  Full of energy and optimism and music and just plain fun.  It’s a beautiful setting, virtually surrounded by water, the awesome Mount Rainier poking its head up in the distance, overseeing all.  Its denizens are happy to be there.  A casual Bill Poll found not a single Seattleite who wished to live elsewhere, and that includes a few generally cranky cabbies.   Our stay during the driest period of the year found us with constantly blue skies and temperatures ranging from 55 to 81 degrees, often breezy but seldom knock-you-down windy.  The inhabitants claim that Winters are not unduly harsh and they’ve learned to live with the rains.  All things considered, a magical place, a top five or six city, far more affordable than its California brethren.  We’ll give it an overall rating of 8.5.   The music is good and it’s easy to dance to.

Images From The Chihuly Glass Museum








That’s all, folks….

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rocky Mountain High

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear as Bill and Siobhan explore the wilds of Colorado in a blast from the past.  The Daring Duo is currently wandering through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in search of enlightenment and a few good photos.  We’ll be back next week with all the results of this mystical journey.  We hope.

Colorado  (Merle Haggard)

There’s a place where Mother Nature’s got it all together,

She knows just when to let wild flowers bloom.

Somehow she always seems to know exactly what she’s doin’

And the Lord saw fit to furnish elbow room.

Have you ever been down to Colorado?

I spend a lot of time there in my mind.

And if God doesn’t live in Colorado,

I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of His time.

I’d love to be there watching  early in the morning:

The sun comes up and crowns the mountains king.

If by chance you dare to be there high upon the mountain,

I swear that you can hear the angels sing.

Have you ever been down to Colorado?

I spend a lot of time there in my mind.

And if God doesn’t live in Colorado,

I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of His time.

We’re Leavin’ On A Jet Plane, Don’t Know When We’ll Be Back Again  (Of course we do.  The ticket says Sunday.)

If God spends most of His time there, it’s good enough for us.  So, on Saturday, August 3rd, in the early Orlando afternoon, Siobhan and Bill climbed into the nice Frontier Airlines buggy and lifted off.  Tell you the truth, we weren’t so sure about old Frontier Airlines.  I mean “Frontier” and “Airlines”  seem like two words that might not get along too well.  But once we looked out the airport window and saw that the vehicle was not a Conestoga Wagon with wings, we were okay.  And, as a matter of record, the flight went swimmingly, arriving twenty minutes early, at 2:45 Mountain Time, thanks to the two-hour time zone advantage.  So far, so good.  And, after all, we had rented our car from Hertz, what could go wrong there?  Well, plenty.

It Only Hertz When I Laugh

First of all, it took forever to get to the counter, despite the fact there were only three people ahead of us.  The quartet of clerks was having some terrible problem with one particular guy and every time they seemed on the verge of having it solved, back he came with more issues.  Instead of having one person handle it, they all decided to pitch in, rambling hastily back and forth in their limited space behind the counter, bumping into one another like those wacky wind-up dolls that inevitably crash.  It was better than The Three Stooges if you had all day to wait.  Ultimately, I got a middle-aged overweight woman with floozy-blonde hair.

“GoodafternoonwelcometoHertz,”  she said, just like that.

“Iseeyou’reallpaidthroughCapitalOnerewardsandI’msure you’llbewantingourfullprotectionpackageand….”

“WHOA!” I intervened.  “I’ve got my own insurance that takes care of me in any vehicle I drive.  Don’t need anything but a map and the keys.”  This is when she told me that all of the mid-sized cars—such as I ordered—were four-cylinder jobs, not a happy choice for mountain driving.


“I feel like this is a giant scam,” I told her.  “Did you ever work at a carnival?”  She went on with additional stream-of-consciousness blather and I ended up with the larger option, a Chevy Impala, not content to negotiate the Rocky Goddam Mountains in a pipsqueak clown car.  We left irritated but determined not to let the experience tar our merry trip.  Onward to Estes Park!

On The Road Again

The Rocky Mountain Airport outside Denver is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vast open spaces and the occasional pod of hotels.  In the afternoons, you can see scattered thunderstorms gathering in the distance while surrounding skies may be blue and sunny.  The air was very hazy as we departed the airport—might be called smoggy if it wasn’t Colorado—a lot of particulates in the air.  It looked like a settling dust storm.  The winds were fierce and roadside signs advised of this just in case you couldn’t tell your car was being slowly blown off the highway.  We negotiated this travail without incident and headed northwest for Boulder and on to Estes Park, bedroom community for Rocky Mountain National Park.  The rains hit about 20 miles from our destination, lending adventure to our winding climb through the mountains.  Siobhan, of course, just loves this sort of thing—scary driving in the rain—but she is less terrified if she is doing the driving, very slow driving, I might add, so she had the wheel.  I’m not absolutely sure, but I can’t seem to recall Siobhan ever exceeding a posted speed limit, as if the signs were writ by God, Himself.  Eventually, we made it to Estes Park, a cheerful little hamlet of about 6000, all of whom seemed to be marching through the streets, eating ice cream.  There are at least four ice cream shops on the main street in Estes Park and God knows how many others hidden down the side streets and back alleys.  Not to mention a large number of candy stores, taffy shops and the like.  I thought all of my friends in Colorado were leading the healthful life.  Again, me golden idol is tarnished.  Will it never end?

Anyway, the town sits in a bowl, surrounded by the Rockies, at an elevation of 7522 feet, up from Denver’s mile-high 5280.  Rocky Mountain National Park is less than five miles in the distance, a mere three miles from the Stonebrook Resort where we would be staying.  If “resort” seems a little hoity-toity to you, well, think again.  This particular resort had no air-conditioning, phone service was often achieved by walking around in the parking lot until you found just the right spot and the wifi antenna was out.  There was no laundry facility and you maintained your own room, which included hauling the garbage to the dumpster every day.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’m just sayin’.  Why did we choose this place, you might ask?  Well, that’s easy—Stonebrook offered Mike.  Mike Morris, affability personified, is the co-proprietor, concierge, life coach-in-residence and expert at all things Colorado.  He knows what you want before you do and he knows how to get it.  He knows a better way to get there.  He is not pushy, only helpful.  “May I suggest an alternative?” is his favorite sentence.  You will not wind up at a crappy restaurant, a boring hiking trail or an inept massage therapist if you heed Mike’s advice.  Mike loves everybody.  He claims to have been an orphan and considers Stonebrook’s vast guest list “my family.”  We discovered Mike when reading resort reviews on Tripadvisor and the like.  The reviewers looked ready to saint the guy.  Even though we are not the most trusting sorts where these types of things are concerned—after all, anyone can write them, including the reviewee—we were convinced and properly so.  Mike lived up to all expectations.  Our co-host was the renowned Bella Barker, Mike’s charming black mutt, who only once or twice made her presence known a little too early in the morning.

Stonebrook was a quiet place, partly due to a policy of No Kids Allowed.  The resort sits on the Fall River, visible and audible from your back balcony.  Our room was expansive and included a giant jacuzzi, which we used liberally.  It was easily cooled with a large ceiling fan and open sliding glass windows.  As an alternative to the main building in which we were located, Stonebrook also offered attractive cabins.  The  whole place was filled with happy campers, as were the resorts surrounding.  The most prevalent sign in Estes Park was “No Vacancy.”

It Must Be The Altitude

During last year’s vacation in Glacier National Park, I was free of the stomach doldrums that have dogged me for the past few years.  After a fast-food dinner the first night in Colorado—and feeling vacation-invulnerable—I joined the rest of the town in ice-cream-cone eating.  This turned out to be a bad idea, leaving me miserable through the night.  Next day, at the start of our first planned hike, I still felt lousy.  Halfway up the first steep hill, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere today.  Eventually, I figured out it was not just the ice-cream but also a lack of acclimatization that was causing the problem.  We went home, came back the next day and pushed on through it, visiting Nymph Lake and her sisters, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake in the Bear Lake Trailhead area of the park.  Siobhan had devised a new diet, in which she joined me for moral support.  For the next couple days, we would stick to eggs and toast in the morning, soup at lunch and boiled fish at night.  We became regulars at one of the town’s more popular restaurants, The Egg And I.  The plan seemed to work.

The second night in Estes Park, we had dinner in the Cascade Room of the famous Stanley Hotel, which sits on a high rise overlooking the town.  The Stanley is a 140-room neo-Georgian edifice first opened on July 4, 1909 to cater to the rich and famous.  The hotel and its surrounding lands are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley , the man who developed the Stanley Steamer, a reproduction of which sits in the ample hotel lobby.  Under the strict gustatory compact, I had trout.

Break On Through To The Other Side

On Tuesday, we had reservations to see A Chorus Line at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater in Grand Lake, on the western side of the park.  This required a drive of about an hour and fifteen minutes (assuming no stopping) from the northwest entrance at Fall River, through the forests, up to and over the tree line along Trail Ridge Road, past the famous Lava Cliffs and across the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, ascending to heights of 12,183 feet along the way.  The vistas were impressive and the road was good.  We exited the park in mid-morning and shuffled on down to Grand Lake to pick up our tickets for the theater, stopping to grab a pastry at the small and jam-packed coffee-shop/bakery which all these towns seem to feature.  I know what you’re going to say—“Bill, you’re breaking your DIET!”—and you would be correct in your warning.  We travelled further south to the big ski mecca, Winter Park, had lunch (eggy crepes) and headed back toward Grand Lake, me feeling less than spiffy thanks to the wonderful pastry.  A short distance from Winter Park, while passing through the tiny town of Fraser, we spotted an interesting-looking place called the Sunshine Herb Market.  Siobhan will not willingly pass ANY herb markets so we were going in.  Good thing, too.  Because this small, inauspicious retail shop in the middle of Nowhere, Colorado proved to be the home of a rare but life-altering phenomenon known as:

The AHA! Moment

The Sunshine Herb Market turned out to be a small herb and supplement store, flush with inventory, and customerless except for us.  Steering the ship was a twentyfiveish kid named Parker (Parks) Thompson.  He and an antsy male friend/hanger-out were delighted to deluge me with cures for my problem, they having had similar bouts of stomach nastiness despite their young years.  I would like to say, at this time, that since I first brought up these stomach issues a short time ago, I have received a TON of advice from readers, quite a bit of which I have taken (to no avail, but thanks for offering).  It seems like half the world is suffering, so any clues to a solution which I discover will be forthcoming.

Anyway, while Siobhan prowled the store aisles, Parker (Parks) Thompson paged through his book of cures and advised that if worse came to worse, his mother, Jeannette, might be available to offer up her “27 years of experience” in these matters.  “She’s practically a shaman!” said Parker (Parks) Thompson.  I probably needed a shaman.  Before that could occur, however, Parker (Parks) brought out a wonderful and amazing invention which caused us to fall back in wonder.

“This,” he announced is the ZYTO Machine!  We can hook you up to this and it will tell us which nutrients you are deficient in.  Then, we look through our stock, find those supplements and you’re all fixed.”

OF COURSE I am!  This is the greatest thing ever!  Where have you been all my life, Parker (Parks) Thompson?  I could hardly wait.  Parker (Parks) sprayed off the Zyto Machine with some sort of silver spray to divest it of vestiges of the previous analyzee.  Then, I was to place my fingers and the bottom of my hand over the designated area and wait while Parker (Parks) connected the Zyto Machine to the computer.  The machine, itself, was a shiny silver, about the size and shape of an extra extra-large egg.  It had little black lines which you covered with your fingers.  Siobhan looked at me with a delighted smile.  “Oh, this is going to be fun!” she said.  I’m not sure, but I think Siobhan might have been being sarcastic.  At the last minute, she asked Parker (Parks) if there were any safety concerns, any side effects of using the unit.  “Gee, I don’t think so,” he said, “but I can ask.”  Siobhan waited while he called, anxious to speak to the manufacturer to extract further information about the device.

“Hello, Mom?” inquired Parker (Parks) of the person on the other end of the line.  Siobhan broke down in laughter.  Siobhan has a funny sense of humor.

Long story short, the information imparted by the Zyto Machine advised us of what we already knew and suggested answers we had already tried.  Now, Siobhan wanted her turn.  Parker (Parks) dutifully sprayed the Zyto Machine with silver to return it to a pristine state.  Siobhan placed her hand on the critter.  Shortly, she grimaced.  “This thing hurts!” she exclaimed.  The Zyto machine is not unknowing of nonbelievers, Siobhan.  “Gee!” said Parker (Parks).  “That’s only the second time that’s ever happened!”

Siobhan weathered the storm to the end, brave crusader that she is.  When it was over, Parker (Parks) brought up the results.  Siobhan had absolutely nothing which could be improved by any means, except her circulation was a little slow.  “Wow!” said Parker (Parks) Thompson, “That’s only the second time that’s ever happened!”

After the ball was over, Siobhan purchased a small box of Reed’s Ginger Candy.  She had offered me these things in the past, but I had demurred.  I had tried ginger before.  Siobhan buys tons of the yellow, sugar-covered ginger you see in many health stores.  I have tried it with negligible results.  This stuff was different.  It was very strong, felt like a warm ginger bomb going off in your stomach.  Two minutes later, I felt great.  What the hell was this?  I have been going to doctors for years, having stomach ultrasounds, tubes inserted, x-rays monitoring liquid entering my gullet.  I have taken Omeprazole and Dicyclomine and Rinitidine and Gas-X and Beano and God knows what else, all to no avail.  I have tried abandoning various food groups, dairy, gluten, even herbal teas, all to no good consequence.  And NOW, in Parker (Parks) Thompson’s little herb market in Fraser, Colorado, God has finally seen fit to provide me with The Solution?  It must be an anomaly, a temporary tease.  The proof would be success over time.  Meanwhile, Siobhan, bolstered with this new information, decided to reinforce the ginger intake, buying a container of Nature’s Way Ginger Root, 550 mg, which I take three times a day.  Not to mention the non-ginger Synergy Green Chia (other flavors are also acceptable) and Nature’s Harvest Green Whole-Food And Super-Food Instant Beverage Mix, both of which I take shortly after rising in the morning.  I’m in the process of fine-tuning all this stuff, but so far, so good.

If Add Ginger is the first part of the solution, however, the second part is Subtract Sugar.  I have discovered that not only is sugar a problem for me in its more obvious forms like ice-cream, candy bars and McDonald’s Vanilla Iced Coffee, it’s also an issue in supposedly beneficial things like cantaloupe and cherries and gatorade.  I try to avoid anything with more than six or seven grams of sugar and so far—after eight days—it’s working.  Siobhan has a friend, middle-aged veterinarian, who can tolerate almost no sugar and another who is very limited.  We are beginning to discover more people who are negatively affected by modest amounts of the stuff.  The August issue of National Geographic has a cover story on sugar that’s worth reading.

On our visit to Estes Park and environs, we were constantly surrounded by ice-cream and candy stores, dispensing sugar products of every description.  Previously, I’d go into these lovely emporiums and wish to order one of each.  It’s easy to fall under the sweet spell.  Now, unwilling to trade two minutes of bliss for hours of misery, I resist the demons, the trance is lifted.  And the Rocky Mountain vacation moves on.  In the distance, A Chorus Line beckons and I am a transformed sinner, eager to impart my new wisdom evangelistically.  Or am I?  The next exciting episode tells the tale.


On The Trail To Alberta Falls


Hiker Pondering The Meaning Of Life


Between A Rock And A Hard Place


A View From The Balcony, Stonebrook


Son Of “A View From The Balcony”


The Riverwalk, Estes Park.  Nice, Huh?


Dream Lake


Above The Treeline, West Side Of Park


Extracting Lunch At Nymph Lake


The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park


The Stanley Hotel With Legs


Geezer Gazing In Wonderment


Nature Girl


Evil Bakery, Grand Lake


Schmoozing With The Locals


Go West Young Woman.  Or Maybe East.


In Case You Were Wondering….