Ich Liebe Deutschland

May 7th, 2017

Trip Report — Germany 20April -06May 2017 with Jonathan ★★★★★

I felt it necessary to return at least once more to Germany, and this time, to also do a long bike ride. Jon became very interested in doing that with me. The plan was to ride from Benningen am Neckar to Krefeld am Rhein, then take the train to Berlin, then Würzburg to see Katja and Hannes, and then home from Frankfurt. In Benningen, we would spend time with Heinz and Debbie, and in Krefeld, with Herbert.

After arriving at the Seatac airport, we were informed that the Lufthansa computers were shut down, and taking a while to reboot. Thankfully, they got everything ultimately fixed, and we were checked in. It was quite easy to get the bicycle on. There was a group from Moses Lake on the same plane, headed for Nigeria for a medical/dental project, and I was pleased to see an old acquaintance, the retired surgeon Jim Irwin.   After boarding the plane, a brief moment of panic ensued when we realized that Jon left a bag in the terminal; fortunately it was able to retrieve it right as the plane was closing its doors. The plane was a 747 and fully loaded. I can’t really describe the flight because I slept through it, thanks to a sleeping pill. Our arrival in Frankfurt and getting our bags with Jon’s bike was uneventful.

Arrival in Germany

Friday, day 1 Much of what happened the first day we don’t remember. We were able to get the bike box to the bike shop without a problem, and get it reassembled. On checking with the Deutsche Bahn, we were informed that we could not take the train route that I had planned and used before, but had to go through Karlsruhe. They gave us a schedule with a number of transfers. At first things seemed ok, transferring in Weisbaden and then Mainz, but on the way to Karlsruhe, we were informed that there was a problem with the track, and that the train would go no further. No advice regarding what we should do was offered. Thankfully for a young student with a bike next to us, we caught a train in another direction, then transferred again, and after a bit of hassle, finally made it to Karlsruhe. Even then, the train to Karlsruhe stopped at every stop like a bus, and ended short of the Hauptbahnhof, making us figure out what to do from there. We were late with that connection, the transfer in Stuttgart was again late, and 20 phonecalls later to Debbie Fuchs, we finally had Heinz just get us in Ludwigsburg. It was a delightful evening with Heinz and Debbie, but jetlag had us zoned early. Debbie made us a wonderful meal with Spatzele, and the things she wanted from America were dug out, making our bags lighter.

Debbie and Heinz Fuchs

Jon and I ready to roll

Saturday, after breakfast, I realized that the bike was missing its front rack. Thankfully, Heinz was able to find it in the garage and it easily installed. The Neckar Radweg was quite easy to follow, and we rarely had any problems with feeling lost. It was a beautiful ride, passing mostly through wine country. I did not record this 30+ mile segment on Garmin. The weather was overcast and cool, with only a light rain, atarting just becore we got to Heilbronn. The owners of a hotel Die Grüne Krone were most friendly. We took showers, went out to dinner at Die Barfüßer, were they brewed their own beer. Beer never tasted so good! It was nice having real German food again.

Riding the Neckar, with a light rain.

vineyards along the Neckar

Heilbronn Rathaus. Probably seen by grandfather on his way to America

Wonderful hotel, die Grüne Krone.

Sunday 23April —  Today was fairly uneventfkul. There was no tain, but  it was mostly cloudy and cold. The Neckar valley was broader now, with fewer wineyards. There were plentiful castles and ancient structures along the, most of which  could not be nicely photographed. A moderate amount of the trail was gravel, but still easy to ride on. The bikes worked well without problem. Arrival in Heidelberg brought back old memories, and Jon and I stayed at a hotel where Betsy and I stayed, the Tannhauser. Dinner was delicious, and Jon and I crashed early, ready for another day.

Jon in excellent form

Typical Travel

Castles everywhere

Gutenberg house

Jon loved the Spargel

Monday. 24April —Today was absolutely beautiful, riding through both countryside and industrial areas. Starting in Heidelburg, we crossed over the Neckar and rode though fields that flanked the Neckar. It was sunny all day, and reasonably warm. The trail eventually ran close to the Neckar as we came into Mannheim, coming right to the junction of the Neckar and Rhein. We decided to stay on the right side of the Rhein until we got to Worms. The bridge at Worms was a mix of the old brick Niebelung Brüke and modern construction. After quickly finding a hotel, we toured the Luther Denkmal, as well as the cathedral (Wörmer Dom), probably a site for Luther’s trial. After a Wörmer Diät of Schweinemedallions und Spargel, washed down with sufficient beer, we crashed for a bit, then went out for a beer, engaging in conversation with a very nice German software salesman from Northern Germany. Bedtime was a little more normal today.

Niebelung Brücke

Luther Memorial in Worms

Wörmer Dom, possibly where Luther was held for trial

Worms city wall

Tuesday, 25April—Last night, the conversation at the bar strongly advised us to stay in Mainz. Unfortunately, there was a Messe in Mainz (convention) which tied up all the hotel rooms well outside the city. Bike travel went quite well, but it was very cold. We were quite bundled up. When we got about 10 miles past Mainz, we looked for a recommended hotel in Heidesheim but they also fully booked because of the convention in Mainz. The most fascinating thing about Heidesheim was a complex of old historical buildings. A person saw us looking bewildered at the structures, and then came out to explain to us that these buildings were used in 1941-1945 by Hitler to house invalids and Lebensunwertiglebens before they went off to the gas chamber. But, we didn’t (couldn’t) stay there. Therefore, we had to make some hard decisions. It was about 5 pm, and Jon was able to reserve a room on the internet in Bingen. We quickly caught the train from Heidesheim to Bingen. Bingen was a lovely town. We stayed at the Hotel Krone, went out to dinner (no photographs tonight), we had regional dishes and wine, and crashed at a reasonable hour. Jetlag was finally moving behind us.

Real food

One of many castles along the Rhein


Wednesday 26April — Both Jon and I slept well. The weather report said “rain” but it remained mostly sunny with no rain, and not nearly as cold and windy as yesterday. Today gave absolutely no challenges to route finding, and no hills, so travel was smooth. We got to see many castles, as well as the Loreley. I also saw a hint of several Rheinmaidens poking their heads up out of the water. Lunch was in the Roman colony of Boppard, also a part of the Hunsrück region of Germany. Koblenz came soon after. We quickly found a lovely hotel in Koblenz, feeling great about our travels.

Die Loreley

Real food


Thursday 27April — The hotel in Koblenz was a fairly small mom and pop operation of an elderly couple, and very friendly. We found our way back to the Rhein, took note of the Deutsches Eck (where the Mosel flows into the Rhein), and rode on. We stopped for lunch in Remagen, after inspecting the remaining support structures of a famous bridge. Lunch was our first Döner in Germany. After arriving in Bonn, we found our hotel, dumped our stuff, and then hurried to the house where Beethoven was born. It was a small but nice museum, but unfortunately, we were not allowed to have cameras in the museum. We had a late dinner before retreating back to our hotel. Tomorrow means a new phase in our travels, in that we will not be bicycling any more. We had to make a change of plans since Herbert was needing to be in Würzburg on an urgent basis. We will spend two nights in Hamburg and then three nights in Berlin.

Deutsches Eck

Bridge at Remagen

First Döner in Remagen


Friday 28April—today makes it one week in Germany. We woke up a bit late, had breakfast, and then checked out. We had a few hours to spend before the train, so drifted around the downtown area for while before heading to the train station. We got to Hamburg late in the afternoon, it was rainy, and the hotel was a bit removed from the downtown area. It took us about an hour to reach the hotel. It was a Holiday Inn, we were able to stow our bikes in the room, and they upgraded us free to an executive suite room. Nice.

Beethoven birth house in Bonn

Saturday 29th April—Hamburg; the walk back to the train station now took us only 40 minutes, and we spent all day walking the city. We went to the Rathaus, Alster area, and the Brahms museum. Jon was able to actually play on a piano that Brahms played on. We had a Hamburger hamburger in the St. Pauli area, and then went to the Speicherstadt area, hoping to get into the model train museum. The wait would have been over two hours, so we skipped it. We saw the new Elbphilharmonie building, a fairly impressive site. Lastly, we slowly wended our way back to our hotel. All in all, it was a successful day.

Hamburg Rathaus

Entrance to Brahms museum

Jon plays on a piano that Brahms actually played on

Jonny eating a Hamburger hamburger in the Reeperbahn Burger King

Typical train station site

Sunday, 30April—This was a busy day for us. We woke up at 4 am in order to catch the 6 am train to Berlin. This train had almost nobody on it, so were able to catch up on the sleep we lost waking up so early. Berlin was mostly sunny but cold. Even though our bikes were loaded, we were able to work our way around the city, visiting many of the usual sites that are in Berlin, like the Seigesäle, the Gedachniskirke, the Brandenburgertor, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, Hackeschermarkt (where we had lunch), and finally checking into our hotel (Ibis) across from the Hauptbahnhof. I zoned out and hit the sack early. Jon wanted to enjoy a cigar, but it was just a little too cold out for that. We were prepared for a big day tomorrow.

Jon didn’t want this photo with Marx and Engels

Brandenburger Tor

Berliner Dom

Inside the Berliner Dom, the largest Protestant church in Germany. The Beatitudes are displayed in the Dom ceiling.

Jon high on the Dom

Monday 01May—Today was supposed to be museum day. We discovered that only a few of te museums were open owing to today being a holiday. So, we toured the Berliner Dom, an awesome work of reconstruction (see photos above). We walked around town, and then hit on the Naturkunst Museum (natural history museum) which held the worlds tallest dinosaur, a trex recently uncovered in Montana, countless stuffed animals, illustrations on how the animals were prepared, rocks, insects, and slimy creatures in glass bottles of formalin. It was a huge but most fascinating museum. Coming back to the hotel, we discovered the Medicine history museum founded by Virchow, a must to see tomorrow. We did a late dinner at a Bavarian style restaurant, and hit the sack afterwards.

Berlin Döner

Berlin Currywurst

Stuffed Knut in Natural History Museum

Tuesday 02May—This was a little lazier day, but for the best, since the weather was cold and drizzly. Jon and I did some more walking around the city, then visited the Neues museum of Egyptian artifacts, as well as the Pergamon museum, which had some major walls and gates brought back from the mid-east, including the Ishtar gate from Babylon, which Daniel from the Old Testament surely would have frequently walked through. It is incredibly beautiful. We had lunch again in the Hackescher Markt, then hopped the train back to our hotel, freshened up, and ran to the train to meet Marike in the Zoological Garten area. Marike pointed out where the recent terror attack occurred. We had coffee, then all three of us went back to the hotel. I showed her my bike (she really needed a new bike), and she decided to take it. We went out to dinner, and finally had to bid her farewell. It was nice to see Marike again.

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche

Isar Tor

Schweinehaxe

Marike enjoys her new bike

Wednesday03May—no pressure today. We caught the 8 am train to Magdeburg, and had three transfers, all of which went well. The last was a little strange, since the train was marked differently from what was indicated, and it was packed to the brim… Sort of. By the train doors, a large group of young students aggregated, blocking entry and exit for everybody else. Then, the train poorly indicated next stops, making us think we might have been on the wrong train, or gone past our stop. But, we ended up correctly, and met Hannes. I rode the bike up to their home, while Jon went with Hannes and the bags. It was pouring down rain, so I arrived a bit wet. It was nice to see Katja and Hannes again, but we expected Herbert to be here. He wasn’t. A phone call to Herbert suggested that he had never left Krefeld, but would come tomorrow. So, we spent the evening chatting with Katja and Hannes.

Thursday 04 May—today was another lazy day. Originally, the Wagners wished to take us to Bayreuth, but then we heard that Herbert would be coming, so we laid low. After breakfast, we went to an area that was a walking path up in the vineyards above the Main. Gustav came along for exercise. It was a beautiful site overlooking the river valley, and we could also see the Radweg that Peter and I had done a few years ago. Coming down, we went through the old city of Karlstadt, and then spent a quiet afternoon waiting for Herbert to come. No Herbert. So, we went out to a phenomenal restaurant, where we went when Peter and I were with the Wagners. The food was incredibly good, and the ambiance was an arched cellar. Once we got home, we finally found Herbert waiting for us. The Wagners (and I) were not too happy that he showed up so late. But, it was good to see Herbert again, and to talk with him. He did not appear in the best health though he had not had medical encounters of a serious nature. The time with Herbert was all too brief before we needed to hit the sack.

Walking with Hans-Jurgen and Gustav

View of the Main from above

Marienweg

Wege Wein – well marked routes through the vine yards

Old city street, with Hans-Jurgen

The restaurant Keller

Herbert at last!!!!!

Friday 05 May—it was an early wake-up and breakfast, and a quick goodby with Herbert. I rode the bicycle down to the train station, and Jon came with the Wagners. The train ride was smooth, but the bicycle car was loaded with young school students, apparently on an overnight field trip. We didn’t get to sit down for most of the trip to Frankfurt. On arrival in Frankfurt, we first had our last Döner, took the bike again to the bike shop, and then went for a walk around Frankfurt. We were able to check in early to the hotel, leaving us free to roam without luggage. We had a very small dinner, repacked al of our goods, picked up the boxed bike to bring back to the Ramada Inn hotel. Bedtime was early.

Saturday 06May—last day in Germany! Neither Jon or I slept well, as there was too much noise outside. We got up by 6 am, completed packing, and headed to the train station. We decided to make two trips to the airport, since we both had heavy luggage, plus a large bike box. That was successful, though we probably didn’t need to get up quite as early as we did. We were able get checked in very easily, and got some duty free shopping done before boarding the plane. We slept on the plane. The only strange event was the transfer in Chicago. I knew that we only had a little over an hour to accomplish the transfer, so ran like mad, dashing through customs, collecting our bags and bike, re-loading our bags and bike, then dashing through security again, and finally making it to the terminal about 2 minutes before the plane was supposed to leave. At the counter, the man told me that I had an hour to go. I had NO idea where that hour came from, regardless of how many times I rechecked our schedule and timing. Anyway, we got home, lovely Betsy was able to pick us up, and was able to get unpacked that evening. Of course, with jet lag, I couldn’t sleep all night, but that’s another story.

Germany was great and it was so nice seeing wonderful friends. My only regrets were being unable to ride the bike more, see the Kretschmars, and spend more time with Heinz and Debbie and Herbert. I would maybe do it more in the summer or fall with a foldable bike, and spend a month or two again at the Goethe Institute.

Fremont Lookout with Enkelkinder

September 5th, 2016


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Labor Day 05SEPT2016 Hike with Flanagan Boys

The Flanagan kids were under Betsy and my care for Labor Day since Sarah was involved and Andrew had to work. We decided that they needed some excitement, so took them for a hike. The hike started at Sunrise, and we took one false turn onto the Huckleberry Creek trail, which led us about a mile and quite a few 100 feet elevation loss, which we had to retrace. The kids were very reluctant to pursue our goal, but the promise of Snicker bars at the Fremont Lookout Tower spurred them on. We did achieve the Fremont Lookout, as can be seen from the above photo. They were rather tired on return to the car, so we awarded them with a trip (at their choosing) to McDonalds.

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

Here are the Garmin hiking stats and route we traveled, just in case you are curious.

White Pass to Crystal

August 24th, 2016

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White Pass to Crystal Mountain on the PCT, 21-23AUG2016

The last trip report had Pete, Russ and I going from Waptus Lake to White Pass. This is now a continuation with just Russ and I from White Pass to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It was also two nights, and along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Both Russ and I are now packing a bit lighter, and a bit wiser. To coordinate matters, I dropped my car off at Crystal Mountain, and then Kim Andersen drove us to White Pass and left us to our own devices. The start of the trail was a touch obscure, but we were soon on our way. The first day had beautiful weather with a few scattered clouds, but cool, and no bugs. There was much up and down along the trail, but with lighter packs, we seemed to handle it quite well. We passed multiple lakes, and what I thought would be somewhat monotonous scenery (the long green tunnel) was everything but that. We finally set up camp at Snow Lake.

Day 2, we traversed from Snow Lake to Dewey Lake. It was cloudy the entire day, and most the time, we were hiking in the clouds. We would have had views of Mt. Rainier, which were clouded out today. The scenery persisted in being totally spectacular, and much of the trail actually went through Mt. Rainier National Park. During this hike, I am still experimenting with my Garmin eTrex 30t, and was informed at the end of the day that the battery ran out. Thus, I do not have a complete record. We hiked between 16-17 miles, and climbed about 3000 feet.

Wolkenbergwanderung

Wolkenbergwanderung

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

A hike in the clouds

A hike in the clouds

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Day 3, we got a little later start of 7:30, and started immediately with a climb up to highway 410 (Chinook Pass). On the way, we encountered Smiles, and then two girls, Old School and Mama Goose, all thru-hikers from Campo. All were putting in 25-30 mile days, carrying packs under 25 lb, and looking as fresh as the first day on the trail. I’m deeply jealous. Maybe 2018? Past Hwy 410, we had another 1800 ft of climbing, reaching Sheep Lake and then Sourdough gap. At Sourdough gap, Russ took off like a jack rabbit chasing the bunnies, and then took a trail off of the PCT, perhaps thinking it was a short cut to Crystal. Fortunately, I caught him quickly enough to correct our course. We continued on the Bear Gap, where there were several trails that took us back to our car. The Crystal Mountain portion of the hike was a little less enjoyable. We stopped at Wallys on the way home, where Russ was able to experience the Waltimate Burger.

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Heading toward Hwy 410

Heading toward Hwy 410

The never-ending trail

The never-ending trail

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams in the distance.

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks in the distance.

From these two hikes, Russ and I both learned the value of going lighter. We were able to talk to many of the thru-hikers and glean knowledge from them as to the methods of their journeys. The common theme was to go lighter, from the pack, to the food you carry, your tent and sleeping accommodations, to your clothes and food. I remain puzzled how many thru-hikers carried cell phones, and yet kept them charged. I saw only a few carrying solar chargers on their packs.

I’ve used the Halfmile maps, and they were extremely helpful in planning the route, and finding your way once on the journey. I was using two year old maps, and the mile markers for this years maps are slightly different by 10 miles. I never needed the Garmin to determine my location, though I’m sure it might help in the Sierras where the route isn’t as clear.

The first hike this year was into Rachel Lake with Peter Tate, and I forgot to bring my trekking poles. It was a totally miserable hike, and I was unstable, falling a lot, and unsure in any sort of tricking footing, like stream crossing. These last two hikes were now with my hiking poles, and what a difference they make. You can hike faster because you can easily catch yourself when you become unsteady. You can lessen the impact when descending. Stream crossing is still slow, but far less unsure. I will never forget my hiking poles again!

Family Fun Idaho Trip with Patrick Flanagan

July 23rd, 2016

I had signed up to do a bicycle event ride with my oldest grandson Patrick Flanagan last fall. After anxious months of waiting and a few training rides, it is finally coming to fruition. For readers, click on images to see more detailed views.

Day 0 — Sunday 17July — we woke up fairly early, Patrick staying over at our house in order to get a jump on the road. The day before, we did a short ride together on the Orting trail, and Patrick was having a lot of trouble with the bicycle. I was able to determine that a few things went out of adjustment and fix them. We drove out I-90 all the way to Coeur d’Alene and then south to Plummer, which was the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Everything checked out ok, and we were able to meet a broad span of ages for kids doing the ride, with children as young as 7-8 doing the ride independently on their own bikes. That seemed to help Patrick think that perhaps he could also do it. *Nota bene-the ACA considers this to be day 1.

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

The cooks preparing fabulous food

The cooks preparing fabulous food

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Day 1 — Monday 18 July — This was the biggest day, with 43 miles to ride. The trail had a mile downhill grade for about 5 miles, and then remained mostly flat. The morning was quite cool, but it became moderately warm by 11 am. We left about 7:45, and arrived at the campground in Cataldo at 12:30. Patrick was doing quite well, even eager to go swimming, in spite of this being his longest ever ride.

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Approaching the step bridge

Approaching the step bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Flat! Beautiful!

Flat! Beautiful!

On the banks of the Coeur d'Alene.

On the banks of the Coeur d’Alene.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Day 2 — Tuesday 19 July — This was an easy day, with a short 20+ mile ride to Kellogg. Our first stop was the Old Mission, built overlooking the Coeur d’Alene river just outside of Cataldo. The Jesuits were spreading their influence to the indians. The ride was short from there to Kellogg, and Patrick was exceptionally motivated, being that there was a water park in town. He spent four hours in the water park, and had a grand time.

The Cataldo Mission - oldest existing building in Idaho

The Cataldo Mission – oldest existing building in Idaho

The Snake Pit?

The Snake Pit?

Day 3 — Wednesday 20 July — This was another easy day with lots of shuttling. At 08:30, we boarded ourselves and our bicycles, hopped on the bus, and traveled across the Idaho-Montana border on I-90 to the east portal of the Hiawatha Trail. It is an old section of the Milwaukie line that has been turned into rails to trails. We proceeded 14 miles down this trail, which included a 1.7 mile tunnel at the start, which passed from Montana back into Idaho. After lunch at the base of the trail, we we shuttled back up to the tunnel, in order to go through the long tunnel in reverse. We were then shuttled to the town of Wallace, and rode back to camp, 11 miles away.

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

Other riders eager to enter the cave.

Doug and Dane eager to enter the cave.

Trestles on the trail

Trestles on the trail

Day 4 — Thursday 21 July — Ride from Kellogg to Harrison. This was our second longest day, but it seemed like one of the easier days, being almost perfectly flat. The total distance was 38.5 miles, which Patrick did without any difficulty, save for the heat. We arrived in the camp at Harrison by noon, taking some time to get our tents set up, and then enduring temperature well into the 90’s. It was a lazy afternoon, waiting for the map meeting followed by dinner. In the evening a few of the boys (and girls) went out for a beer, bringing the event to a nice close.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Day 5 — Friday 22 July —Harrison to Plummer and then home. This retraced all that we had done the first day for the first 15 miles, going 7 miles to the step bridge across the lake, and then a very gradual 5 mile climb up to Plummer. Though the grade was never over 3%, the persistence became a little challenging for Patrick, who was quite happy to make it to the top and achieve the end of the trail. The drive back home got us to the Seattle/Tacoma area right at rush hour, which took almost as much time exiting I-90 and driving back to Puyallup as the time to drive as the rest of the trip.

Back across the step bridge

Back across the step bridge

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Day 6 — Saturday 23 July — North Bend to Hyak and Back. Wait a minute! This isn’t a part of the Family Fun Idaho trip, and I didn’t do it with Patrick, but I did it with family, my son Jonathan rode this with me. It seemed only natural to do it, since this rail-to-trail on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and John Wayne (Iron Horse) Trail is simply a continuation of the old Milwaukie line, just before it ends in Tacoma, WA. This is the last big pass that the trail must encounter on its journey west, and includes large trestles, a very long tunnel as well as smaller tunnels (east of Snoqualmie Pass), and a grade/appearance very similar to the route of the Hiawatha. In fact, the tunnel is 2.3 miles long, more than ½ mile longer than the long tunnel on the trail of the Hiawathas. I knew that I would be riding the Iron Horse Trail in two weeks for the Courage Classic, all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum, about 64 miles, so did this 56 mile jaunt as a warm-up. We were able ride at a considerably faster pace than with Patrick, and a considerably longer distance, climbing over 2000 ft from North Bend to Hyak, which is just on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel. Oddly, this trip left me a little sore in the buttocks, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I also got my first flat on a mountain bike, though it was quite easy to fix with a spare tube. The bicycles returned home VERY muddy, and with very dirty but happy riders. The Iron Horse trail goes all the way across the state of Washington to the Idaho border, and ends about 20 miles from the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Historical sign in North Bend

Historical sign in North Bend

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

The Milwaukee Line info-board

The Milwaukee Line info-board

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

One of the six large trestles on the route

One of the six large trestles on the route

Trestle view from above

Trestle view from above

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700's.

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700’s.


Summary of the Trip:

  1. The ACA gets an A+. They are an extraordinarily great group to ride with, especially as you get to know the staff.
  2. The people on the trip are awesome. I regret that I could not get to know better more riders. It was a little hard avoiding politics, and didn’t wish to contend with those who wished to make profound political statements which were farther left (and thus much stupider!) than my conservative approach to life, politics, religion, and things of that sort.
  3. The route was superb. I wish there was a better answer to the Hiawatha trail day — too much shuttling, but still not a day to be missed.
  4. Once again, the cooks were awesome
  5. My thanks to Tammy Schurr for making this a wonderful and special event for Patrick.

Columbia River Bicycle Loop with Jonathan

June 20th, 2016

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6/16 (Thursday) — Jon had come down to Puyallup the night before, and we headed off to Portland just before 7 am, arriving in Portland about 9:45. Our bikes were quickly unloaded at Gaylon’s house,  and Gaylon followed us for 15 miles. Our track went down Division St. to the 205 bicycle path. This we took up across the Columbia River to start the Washington portion of our adventure. We started on the old Evergreen highway until we got to Camas. Two miles before Camas, Gaylon left us to go back home. We were following the Washington alternative to the ACA Lewis and Clark bicycle route, which was not terribly clear. We ended up going through downtown Camas. Just before Camas, it began to rain torrentially. With rain gear on, we pushed forward. There was one significant uphill stretch, but other than that, most of the first day was rolling hills. The worst part was the persistent lack of shoulders to the road, and it was a very busy road, with about 30% trucks that would come uncomfortably close to us.  About an hour of heavy rain led to clearing and sunshine, so the decision to push on and camp out was made. Our camp was in the city park of Home Valley. This worked out well, save that the showers did not work, and that it was close to the train tracks. A train passed through about every hour, blaring it’s horn, which was loud enough to wake us. We did not get the best sleep.

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Still fresh, ready to ride

Still fresh, ready to ride

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

6/17 (Friday) — We were up at 5:30, had breakfast, and were on the road by 7 am. The road on the Washington side started to have better shoulders, but it was still uncomfortable in some parts, especially in the seven tunnels that we needed to go through. Eventually, we got to the Dalles bridge, which did not have a bicycle lane, but was not to uncomfortable to get across. The weather was cool and cloudy, making for some good timing on the ride, and we got into the Dalles just before noon. Jon decided that he wanted to stop, so we found a cheap dive of a hotel to stay in. After some walking around town, we went out to dinner and prepared for the next day.

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

6/18 (Saturday) — Taking off on the road a little after 7 am, we were able to get onto the historic old Columbia River highway. Jon and I were now headed westward. Once we arrived in Rowena, we realized that a major bicycle event was occurring to raise money for completing the gorge bicycle trail. The climb up the Rowena curves to the lookout was fairly impressive, and immensely beautiful. The road immediately dropped down to Mosier (pronounced Moe-zure) and then started climbing on a bicycle only trail. There were the Mosier twin tunnels to go through, a bit more climbing, and then a descent into Hood River. Hood River was a rather hilly town, but on the western outskirts, the map put us onto I-84 for 11 miles. Getting off at Wyeth Bench Road, we stopped for lunch at the state park, only to have heavy rains start again. We had some additional and substantial climbing to do on Herman Creek Road, but it nicely dropped us into Cascade Locks. It had only temporarily stopped raining, and so considered seriously a hotel. They were either way too expensive, or full, owing to an event going on in town the night we needed to stay over. So, we stayed in the Marina, along with other cycle tourists, and also a SoBo PCT hiker. We enjoyed dinner with her at the brewery in the Marina, and then crashed early, sleeping well, but with episodes of quite heavy rain. The tent kept us dry, but things were quite wet.

Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

6/19 (Sunday) — We got a slightly later 7:30 start this morning, but there were only a few clouds in the sky, and it was quite beautiful. This section I’ve done a few times before, but never on the touring bike headed in a westward direction. The climb to Crown Point was long but rarely more than 6% grade, and we made it back to Gaylon’s house by slightly after 12 noon. After chatting a bit with Gaylon, we loaded our bicycles and bags and took off back to Puyallup, and Jon back to Arlington.

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

All in all, it was a fantastic ride. I did not like the Washington side, and will never do that side again. The Oregon side was quite impressive. It was a total delight to be able to do this with Jonathan. I look forward to more rides with him.

 

Bike Touring and Bikepacking

November 29th, 2015

BikeTouring

Bike Touring and Bikepacking, A Falcon Guide, by Justin Lichter and Justin Kline ★★★★

I recently reviewed several books that Justin Lichter had written on ultralight backpacking, and so found this book of interest since I also love bicycle touring. It is easy to read, and very well illustrated. The emphasis seems to be mostly on cycle touring off of the pavement, and often in unusual situations, such as through the snow, or in remote foreign countries. The book has helpful advice on food, camping, and how to maintain your bicycle. Much of the advice was repeated from his other hiking textbooks. Though he has several chapters on choices for bicycles and panniers, these are insufficiently detailed to be at all meaningful. I appreciated the book since it is taking bicycle touring to further levels, with off the road or gravel road excursions. I find the book not entirely satisfying since it is very cursory on bicycle details, and the camping aspects could be found in any backpacking book, including his own books.

Four Books on the PCT and backpacking

November 2nd, 2015

After visiting Stehekin and seeing groups of thru-hikers on the last segment of the PCT, a long desire to some day hike the PCT has again resurrected itself. This may be problematic, in that a) I’ll need to find somebody to do it with, b) I’ll need to get Betsy’s support, c) I’ll need to find 5-6 months from April through September to take off to do this. Possible? Yes. Probable? I don’t know. I also wish to do some long-distance bicycling in the near future. There is a bicycle route (called the Sierra Cascades route) that roughly parallels the PCT, which I would do first, and have already talked my kid brother into doing it with me. After that, we’ll have to see if I still have the flame for grand adventures. Let me know if you are interested in joining me!

PCTGray

The Pacific Crest Trail, by William Gray with the National Geographic Society, published in 1975 ★★
This book was read by me mostly out of historical interest in the trail. It was written when the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) was still under development, and many sections of the trail had not been fully carved out. I believe that the entire trail happens to now be intact, and often different from where Gray hiked. From reading the book, it sounds like he did not do a “thru-hike”, that is, a solid hike from Mexico to Canada, but hiked in sections, mostly to glean photographs and stories for the National Geographic Society. He also engages about ¾ of the book in detailing character sketches of people he met on of the trail, or in proximity to the trail. Thus, it fails as a description of the PCT itself, but is typical of the writing and journalism that one would find with National Geographic Society publications. It’s cute to see that the people in the photos are all typical for 1970’s hippies.
Yogi'sPCT

Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook 2016-2017, by Yogi (aka Jackie McDonnell) ★★★★★
This is the best book that I’ve read so far on the PCT, and is much a reference book (the entire last half of the book is intended to be torn out of the book to be taken with you on the hike) as it is a how-to book and book detailing what to expect on the trail. Yogi (her trail name) includes comments from other thru-hikers regarding how they did the PCT. Yogi covers diverse actions as to what to carry in your backpack, what to wear, how to do camp, how to plan, how to resupply, and how to stay out of trouble. Because she includes comments from other hikers, you realize that there will be no one set way to do the PCT. Most importantly, one learns what NOT to do, like overpack, under hydrate, or not be prepared. She writes well, and seems more connected than any of the other PCT advice books that I’ve seen. The reference section is absolutely invaluable, and is exactly what one needs to know. As an example, she has rough maps of the resupply towns, so that one doesn’t need to wander aimlessly to find where the local hotel, restaurant or grocery store might be located. Reading the book is almost like having Yogi actually there, giving you advice about how you might survive and succeed on your first thru-hike. Long-distance through-hiking has a completely different style than a 2-14 day backpacking trip, including what you eat, how you camp, and how you treat yourself. Yogi gives great advice on these differences, and how to have a comfortable and good time while doing that. Hopefully, I will meet Yogi on the PCT. She’s a real inspiration to get out there and just do it!

TrailTestedLichter

Trail Tested, A thru-hiker’s Guide to Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking, by Justin Lichter ★★★★
This book is very similar to a book I reviewed in 2013 by Andrew Skurka on ultralight backpacking. Similar to Skurka, Lichter is a “professional” hiker, i.e., he seems to spend more time hiking than working at a “job”, and has thru-hiked the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and PCT) with repeats of those listed, as well as other long distance hikes, foreign and domestic. Justin (Trail name “Trauma”) details style of thru-hiking, as well as offering equipment recommendations. Many of these recommendations seem to have a sponsor influence, but at least he lets you know that. The book is well written and well illustrated, with many personal anecdotes. I acquired it as a package deal from Yogi.

UltralightLichter

Ultralight Survival Kit, by Justin Lichter ★★★
This book repeated much of what was in the book Trail Tested. It is a small, short book on many of the problems and dangers one can encounter on the trail, and how to deal with them. Hopefully, one is moderately aware of everything in this book before they set out alone on the trail, as I’ve encountered many of the issues that this book brings up. If you own Trail Tested, this book is mildly superfluous. It was also part of the package deal from Yogi.

Wonderland Trail 2015

August 9th, 2015

WonderlandTrail2015-17

Wanderlust 2015

Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen von welchen mir Hilfe kommt.
Meine Hilfe kommt von dem HERRN, der Himmel und Erde gemacht hat.
Er wird deinen Fuß nicht gleiten lassen; und der dich behütet schläft nicht.
Siehe, der Hüter Israels schläft noch schlummert nicht.
Der HERR behütet dich; der HERR ist dein Schatten über deiner rechten Hand, daß dich des Tages die Sonne nicht steche noch der Mond des Nachts.
Der HERR behüte dich vor allem Übel, er behüte deine Seele; der HERR behüte deinen Ausgang und Eingang von nun an bis in Ewigkeit.
Psalm 121

The lead photo is taken from Mirror Lake, in the Indian Henry Hunting Grounds region of Mt. Rainier

Jon and I did the Wonderland Trail about 9 years ago, and even then we discussed the possibility of doing the trail in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction. For those who don’t know, the Wonderland Trail is a hiking trail that circumnavigates around the timberline of Mt. Rainier. It is 93 miles long, with additions that generally make for a 100 mile walk. A few people have run it in a day or two and some killjoys hike it in 4 days, but most will spend 7 – 14 days. A distinct aspect of the trail is that it is typically either going up or down, and rarely is flat, so that by the time one gets all the way around the mountain, they will have climbed at least 20,000 feet in elevation. The trail was built in 1915, and so this year was special in being the centennial year of the trail. The trail has changed much since 1915, and is constantly being revised, as weather and mountain dynamics do not leave for a totally stable walking surface. To do the trail, one must obtain camping permits in order to stay at the camping spots along the trail, and this year, they were particularly challenging to get, in that there were a record number of applicants, and 80% had to be turned down.

We felt blessed in that the weather was near perfect. A week before the trip, the weather was very soggy on the mountain, and the night after we came back, there was heavy rain. We experienced only a few drops on our tent the third night, and had intense fog on the 6th day, coming up the Cowlitz Divide to Indian Bar and over Panhandle Gap. The trail was in exceptionally good condition, with all bridges intact, and no major diversions. Our feet never got blistered, and we got home feeling quite good, with minimal soreness.

On such a long hike, daily routines are necessary. I would usually get up at sunrise (05:30) and Jon soon after. We’d have two cups of coffee and some breakfast bars for breakfast, get the tent down and the packs loaded, and were usually on the trail by 06:30 to 07:00. We would do lunch about 10:00-11:00 in the am, and finish hiking between 13:00 and 15:00. We would quickly set up the tent and unpack our sleeping bags to dry out, pump water for drinking and cook dinner. Several days were special, in that at Mystic Lake and Indian Henry’s, Jon and I took special time to enjoy cigars and wine, while bathing in the beauty around us. At Longmire and Sunrise, we were able to stop into the cafeteria to have real food, which meant a hamburger and Rainier beer at those locations.

One of the delights of such an adventure as this is in meeting people. Now, when you are many miles remote from any road or civilization, the number of people you meet are few and far between. On the Wonderland Trail, there are four types of folk that you encounter, which include…1) the day trip wanderers, many of whom have never set foot in the woods before, and typically found close to the main tourist access points, including Mowich, Sunrise, Paradise, and Longmire. These people tend to be unsociable. 2) Trail runners: these are super-skinny (cachectic) people doing a long distance point to point run, usually 35-50 miles, frequently female, getting picked up distant from where they started, 3) sectional hikers, usually people who are seasoned hikers on a limited time schedule, and 4) complete trail hikers. The complete trail hikers became easy to detect, some of them being on their first day, some on their last, and many in between. The in betweeners were often seen twice if they were going in the opposite direction from us. There were many solo hikers (often female), some quite old hikers (like a solo lady at age 70), and a few large groups. The one large group we saw had a person distinct as a girly-man (man in a Scottish kilt). There was a father-son team consisting of a mainland Chinese man with his 8-10 yo son, a 35-ish female with her 8 year old son, and a 40’ish female with her 20’s daughter, all of them successfully managing the trail. Among the complete trail hikers, there tends to be a fellowship, where you would often stop and chat for while, getting information on the trail, and the best campsites, water spots, etc. for where you were headed. You would concomitantly share advice with your fellow travelers.

The way in which you pack and what you wear on the trail make all the difference in the world. I remember my very first backpack trips as a kid, using backpacks and equipment from a local military surplus store, wearing waffle-stomper shoes, wool coats, and total disregard for weight. We also tended to return home miserable, sore, and with feet heavily blistered. Nowadays, I use an Osprey Atmos 65 pack (to limit how much I can put in), an Osprey hydration unit, summer Feathered Friends down sleeping bag and pillow, a small propane gas stove and titanium pot, high tech jacket and rain coat, and carry nothing that would be frivolous. My boots were Vasque leather boots, the same I used 9 years ago for the Wonderland, and once again, they held up well, with no blisters or foot problems. I did spend much time attending to my feet, using a sock liner underneath REI CoolMax socks, as well as applying an anti-friction ointment to the feet every morning. I used a egg-crate style foam mattress to sleep on, which was a mistake, as the ground was extremely uncomfortable, and will probably go with a Therma-Rest NeoAir pad for future ventures. We used the Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 which was just roomy enough for two people and light. I used REI UL hiking poles, which prevented any falls the whole trip, and was great security for crossing streams and treacherous ground, as well as protecting the knees up and downhill. Things I might do different would be that I would consider bringing a bear vault rather than worrying about hanging your food all the time, and consider bringing an iPad with a lightweight solar charger. I’m tempted to get a Garmin eTrex 35t to record my activities, like I do with bicycling adventures. I would also explore different foods, that would be lightweight, cheap, and efficient, and easy to make on the trail, with minimal dishwashing. Freeze dried foods are popular but not overwhelming filling or tasty. I’ll probably bring more cheese (heavy!!!!) and sausage. Pepperoni sticks oddly don’t last well, but Landjäger (German sort of pepperoni) does quite well in the woods, as well as summer sausage. I’d truly love to find how to bring sauerkraut on backpack trips, but would have to ask my German friends/relatives how well sauerkraut keeps in an unrefrigerated environment after being opened. Gummibären remains the best trail snack food, though Good-and-Plenty’s were easily devoured, slightly different than my impression on cycling trips. It’s odd how tastes differ so radically at home, on the trail, and on the bike.

Day to day events.

Day 1 – Mowich to Golden Lakes. This was a simple downhill, followed by a very long uphill. The campground was next to a beautiful lake where Jon went swimming. There was moderate anxiety still at this time as to the weather, and whether were still capable of a 9 day venture.

Day 2- Golden Lakes to South Puyallup River. Our permit stated that we were to go to Klapatchee Park, which is high up, and unusually beautiful. We were warned that there was no water at Klapatchee Park, so Jon and I both carried about 10 lb extra water up about 3000 ft climb from the North Puyallup River, only to find ourselves before noon at Klapatchee Park. Wishing tomorrow to be a shorter day, we took the risk of going on to the South Puyallup campsite, and stayed in the group camp site, only to be joined in pitch darkness by a solo lady hiker from New Zealand. There was plenty of room in the group site, and it was not problem for us.

Day 3- South Puyallup River to Devil’s Dream. This day took us up yet another very long climb to Emerald Ridge, and then around to the marvelously beautiful Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. We had lunch, wine and cigars at Indian Henry’s, took a short side hike into Mirror Lakes, and then collected water at a lake on the way down to Devil’s Dream. The sky turned cloudy, and so for the first time, we put a fly on our tent, and got about 20 drops of rain that night. The clouds went away the next day.

Day 4 – Devil’s Dream to Paradise River. This was 11 miles but with minimal climbing, making it a very easy day, and wishing we had books along to read. We arrived at Longmire in order to pick up our first cache, had lunch at the Longmire Inn, and headed up to our campsite, which was unusually quiet, with us as the only occupants that night.

Day 5 – Paradise River to Nickel Creek. The was also 11 miles with minimal climbing, and thus quite simple. This took us over the entire south side of the mountain, following the road that goes along the south side of the mountain up to Paradise and then over to Ohanepecosh. There were numerous day hikers and kids on the way.

Day 6 – Nickel Creek to Summerland. This was a hard climb day, first ascending the Cowlitz Divide, running up the Cowlitz Divide to Indian Bar, and then going above the timberline to Panhandle Gap. It was cloudy all morning, and so there was minimal visibility, but very comfortable for a hard climb. The clouds parted at the Panhandle Gap, and we descended into Summerland in beautiful sunshine. During this section, we thought that our friends Russ and Pete would meet us on the trail, but never saw them at all.

Day 7 – Summerland to Sunrise. This was a long low-grade descent to the White River, and then on a trail paralleling the road to the White River campground. Approaching the White River, we saw a search and rescue team going up, thinking they might be going after Russ and Pete. There was a slightly treacherous crossing of the White River, followed by a long steep ascent from the campground to Sunrise. The mountain was spectacular, and we were able to pick up our last cache at Sunrise, as well as have another burger and beer. Being rather high up on the mountain, the night was chilly, with a slightly cold sleep.

Day 8 – Sunrise to Dick Creek. Our original plan was to stay at Mystic Lake, but I knew that the lake was beautiful, but the campsite was quite inconvenient, with a long distance from the lake, and no close sources of water. Dick Creek is a very small campsite, but overlooks the Carbon River Glacier and very beautiful, so, we changed. The hike was with perfect visibility of the mountain, and we were able to spend over an hour having lunch, wine, and cigars at Mystic Lake, while Jon took another swim in the lake. There was still a moderate amount of climbing before we descended onto the Dick Creek campsite.

Day 9 Dick Creek to Mowich. This was our last day, but with probably the second most amount of climbing, since we decided on the Spray Park alternate, which takes one from the Carbon River all the way up to the top of Spray Park, over 3500 ft of elevation gain for the venture. The day started out cloudless, and as we got to the high point of the trail, clouds started moving in, so that by the time we were down through Spray Park, the mountain could no longer be seen. We arrived back at the car completely intact and ready for another adventure.

To end (before the photos), I need to include my favorite wandering songs…

Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen… with Heino.

Joseph von Eichendorff, 1788-1857

Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen,
Den schickt er in die weite Welt,
Dem will er seine Wunder weisen
In Berg und Wald und Strom und Feld.

Die Trägen die zu Hause liegen,
Erquicket nicht das Morgenrot,
Sie wissen nur von Kinderwiegen,
Von Sorgen, Last und Not um Brot.

Die Bächlein von den Bergen springen,
Die Lerchen schwirren hoch vor Lust,
Was soll ich nicht mit ihnen singen
Aus voller Kehl und frischer Brust?

Den lieben Gott laß ich nun walten,
Der Bächlein, Lerchen, Wald und Feld
Und Erd und Himmel will erhalten,
Hat auch mein Sach aufs best bestellt.

and also

Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann

(note: there is an English version which does tragedy to the song)

Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann,
Und mir steckt’s auch im Blut;
Drum wandr’ ich flott, so lang ich kann,
Und schwenke meinen Hut.

Refrain 1:
Faleri, falera, faleri,
Falera ha ha ha ha ha ha
Faleri, falera,
Und schwenke meinen Hut.

Refrain 2&3:
|: Hei-di, hei-da, hei-di, hei-da!
Und schwenke meinen Hut. 😐

Das Wandern schaffet frische Lust,
Erhält das Herz gesund;
Frei atmet draußen meine Brust,
Froh singet stets mein Mund:
Refrain:

Warum singt Dir das Vögelein
So freudevoll sein Lied?
Weil’s nimmer hockt, landaus, landein
Durch and’re Fluren zieht.
Refrain:

Was murmelt’s Bächlein dort und rauscht,
So lustig hin durch’s Rohr,
Weil’s frei sich regt, mit Wonne lauscht
Ihm dein empfänglich Ohr.
Refrain:

D’rum trag ich Ränzlein und den Stab
Weit in die Welt hinein,
Und werde bis an’s kühle Grab
Ein Wanderbursche sein!
Refrain:

Photos

Fresh at the start of the hike

Fresh at the start of the hike

Golden Lakes

Golden Lakes

Typical VERY smelly outhouse

Typical VERY smelly outhouse

Meadow heading out of Golden Lakes

Meadow heading out of Golden Lakes

headwaters of the Puyallup River

headwaters of the Puyallup River

Jon at Klapatche Park

Jon at Klapatche Park

Me at Klapatche Park

Me at Klapatche Park

St. Andrews Lake above Klapatche Park

St. Andrews Lake above Klapatche Park

Stiff climbing out of the North Puyallup Drainage

Stiff climbing out of the North Puyallup Drainage

West side of Mt. Rainier

West side of Mt. Rainier

Jon looking quite fresh

Jon looking quite fresh

Treacherous trail heading up to Emerald Ridge. This trail was being reconstructed.

Treacherous trail heading up to Emerald Ridge. This trail was being reconstructed.

Suspension Bridge across Tahoma Creek

Suspension Bridge across Tahoma Creek

The mountain from Indian Henry's Hunting Ground

The mountain from Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

Jon relaxing at Indian Henry's

Jon relaxing at Indian Henry’s

Most of the wildflowers were gone by now. This is at Indian Henry's

Most of the wildflowers were gone by now. This is at Indian Henry’s

Burger and Rainier Beer at Longmire

Burger and Rainier Beer at Longmire

Reflection Lakes on the south side of Mt. Rainier

Reflection Lakes on the south side of Mt. Rainier

Climbing up the Cowlitz Divide toward Indian Bar

Climbing up the Cowlitz Divide toward Indian Bar

Clouds engulfing us on the Cowlitz Divide

Clouds engulfing us on the Cowlitz Divide

Above Indian Bar headed toward Panhandle Gap

Above Indian Bar headed toward Panhandle Gap

Jon taking a breather at Panhandle Gap.

Jon taking a breather at Panhandle Gap.

Coming off of Panhandle Gap toward Summerland, the Gap kept the clouds back so that we could see the mountain

Coming off of Panhandle Gap toward Summerland, the Gap kept the clouds back so that we could see the mountain

Summerland, in competition for one of the most beautiful places in the world

Summerland, in competition for one of the most beautiful places in the world

Afternoon mountain view from Summerland

Afternoon mountain view from Summerland

Early morning alpenglow at Summerland

Early morning alpenglow at Summerland

View of the mountain ascending toward Sunrise

View of the mountain ascending toward Sunrise

Jon enjoying a burger and beer at Sunrise

Jon enjoying a burger and beer at Sunrise

High on a ridge out of Sunrise on the north side of Rainier

High on a ridge out of Sunrise on the north side of Rainier

The terminus of the Winthrop Glacier

The terminus of the Winthrop Glacier

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake

Meadows below Mystic Lake

Meadows below Mystic Lake

Mt. Rainier above Seattle Park and north of Spray Park, clouds beginning to move in.

Mt. Rainier above Seattle Park and north of Spray Park, clouds beginning to move in.

The end of our journey and ready to do it again.

The end of our journey and ready to do it again.

 

Cougar Lakes 2015

July 6th, 2015

Cougar Lakes-5

Cougar Lakes Backpack – 03-05JUL2015

This is the annual backpack trip that I do with the Flanagan grandchildren. This trip included Patrick and Sammy, as well as Andrew, Jon, and myself. We originally considered doing Rachel Lakes/Ramparts in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but decided instead on Cougar Lakes. I had been here 3-4 times, the first with Aaron Hughes, and afterwards with Tim Schmidt, later with family. It is just outside of Rainier National Park, but demands a lengthy drive to get to the trailhead.

The drive to the trailhead was a bit unnerving. The road was gravel for six miles, and in much worse shape than I ever remember. Andrew’s Corolla barely made it, and probably bottomed a few times. It wasn’t nice. The trail, after ¼ mile, demands that one walk across a shallow, but swift flowing stream, which we accommodated by switching into water shoes. The trail is a total of six miles, with about 1600 feet of climbing. At 4 miles, the trail passes by Swamp Lake, which is actually a beautiful lake surrounded by rocky cliffs and forest. The trail to Cougar Lakes is unmarked and unadvertised. I had trouble finding it on previous backpack trips. There is no mention of this trail in the most recent guidebooks. I guess the forest service would like to limit the number of people visiting this lake. We saw 5-6 other groups, but for the most part, were completely alone, without anybody else in the near vicinity. Cougar Lakes is pleural because it is actually two lakes, separated by a narrow isthmus, a smaller Little Cougar Lake, which you first see, and the most picturesque, as illustrated above. The second lake is larger, where we camped. Both have much fish, and are great for swimming.

Cougar Lake from our campsite

Cougar Lake from our campsite

House Rock from the larger Cougar Lake

House Rock from the larger Cougar Lake

Early morning view from our campsite

Early morning view from our campsite

Happy backpackers

Happy backpackers

The camp

The camp

Dishes out to dry

Dishes out to dry

Little Cougar Lake

Little Cougar Lake

We spent two nights at Cougar Lakes. The intervening day was restful, with the kids going on a short exploratory hike, but mostly spending time skipping rocks, and swimming, or relaxing in the tent. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. Both Patrick and Sam stated that they wished they could have stayed more days.

Frodo and Samwise

Frodo and Samwise

Jon and Andrew

Jon and Andrew

Me with the hobbits

Me with the hobbits

To celebrate our hike, we stopped at Wallys in Buckley, where Samwise got his first Waltimate burger, measuring about 8 inches across, with probably 2 lb of meat. He did get some help eating it. Frodo got his Waltimate burger two weeks before after another hike.

The Waltimate burger

The Waltimate burger

Portland to Puyallup Cycle Tour

June 17th, 2015

Portland to Puyallup-10

 

Day 1 (13JUNE2015)


After a calm morning of knowing that I had packed everything, Betsy and I headed off to the Amtrak station to meet Russ and ride the Amtrak from Tacoma to Portland, where we would begin our grand adventure. We had done much recent roadbiking together, but our last tour was a few years ago. At the train station, I had discovered that I forgot my touring cycle shoes, which are bicycle shoes that had a mountain bike style clip that attaches the foot to the pedal. After a quick decision, I left my bicycle with Betsy and dashed back to Puyallup to get my shoes. I could have easily made it on time, except that this was the first day of the US Open golf tournament in Tacoma, and traffic was suddenly horrid. Finally arriving just five minutes late to the train station, Betsy and I decided we would outrun the train in our car, and catch Russ at the next station. Each station, we were just a few minutes late, and ended up going all the way to Portland to catch Russ. Finally, at 3:30 in the afternoon, we were on our bikes. We decided to skirt Portland by taking the bike route on Marine Drive, which follows the Columbia River. We got to Troutdale by 5:30pm, where we settled in at a cheap hotel, and went out for Chinese food at a very marginal diner.

Russ riding along the Marine Drive Trail, with the Columbia River and Mt. Hood in the distance

Russ riding along the Marine Drive Trail, with the Columbia River and Mt. Hood in the distance

Day 2 (14JUNE2015)


This was our most beautiful day, and we were soon on the Old Historic Columbia River Highway. It was not a challenging ride, but we had not been touring with fully loaded bikes for a while, so it was getting the legs used to this sort of riding. This was a Sunday, and every beautiful spot was over touristed, so we rode on and stopped only briefly at the more popular places like Multnomah Falls. There were quite curious onlookers who had numerous questions about cycle touring. We crossed the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods, a hairy-scary experience riding on a grate high across a large river, with a car right on your tail. We finally decided to go as far as possible that day without having to camp, and to remain in civilization, which led us to the sleepy town of Carson. There was actually a great restaurant- brewery in town for dinner, but the accommodations were a slightly run-down set of cottages next to a golf couse about a half mile off the road. We were actually quite content, as the owner manager was a most friendly and informative fellow, and the accommodations were more than adequate. See http://sandhillcottages.com.

Russ and I posing at the  Women's Forum Viewpoint.

Russ and I posing at the
Women’s Forum Viewpoint.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

Overlook of the Bridge of the Gods from the Washington side

Overlook of the Bridge of the Gods from the Washington side

Our cottage in Carson.

Our cottage in Carson.

Day 3 (15JUNE2015)


We headed out early, and there were no restaurants open for breakfast at 7am in the town of Carson. Russ and I ended up eating breakfast at the local Carson market that had coffee and breakfast sandwiches. This was actually a great deal since it allowed us to chat with more locals. The ride demanded climbing over a 3000 foot high pass, appropriately titled Oldman Pass. It wasn’t too challenging and we arrived in Swift Creek Reservoir right when the temperature was starting to get too hot to ride. It was my first granny gear day. The granny gear is the smallest gear in the chainring, in which are the three gears in front on a triple chainring. It is called the granny gear since you can gear way down for long fatiguing climbs with a heavy loaded touring bike. There was no restaurant in the area, but a convenience store that had cold beer and frozen pizza. The cabins had no electricity and certainly no WiFi or internet. https://www.eaglecliffcamp.com Lighting was with propane gas lamps. We met a couple, George and Megan, who had been on touring bicycles the last three months, riding from Florida in a meandering path through the US, and enjoyed some pizza and brandy with them, accompanied with delightful conversation (sorry, but no photos of them). Note that the Garmin for today and tomorrow are not accurate, since they will understate our time, feet of climbing, and distance. This happened since we were in dense forest with tall mountains on both sides, preventing the Garmin from getting an accurate gps reading.

Old man Andersen at the pass.

Old man Andersen at the pass.

Old man Feucht at the pass.

Old man Feucht at the pass.

The cabin at Swift Creek Reservoir, called Eagle Cliff Store and Campground.

The cabin at Swift Creek Reservoir, called Eagle Cliff Store and Campground.

Day 4 (16JUNE2015)

Today was another early start day, with another significant pass to cross. Elk Pass was more of a grunt than Oldman Pass, but we felt great at the top and continued on. This was another granny gear day. At the summit of Elk Pass, we saw an RV with a guy that was obviously a bicyclist getting out of the RV. We stopped to talk, and he offered us a coke and a large piece of cold watermelon, asked if we would stay for lunch, and explained that today was his day to sag a group of seven cyclists doing the Sierra Cascades route from Canada to Palm Springs. Once we left these folk, the ideas with Russ and I discussed fast and furiously how we could also do such a thing. The ride was spectacular. Russ and I decided to do a variant of the Sierra Cascades route by riding Cline Rd. and avoiding much of route 12. Cline Road was quite spectacular, though a bit more hilly than route 12. Later on route 12 we met a young man, riding without a helmet, heading home to Eugene, Oregon. He had been on the bike for 5 months, going places like to Hanoi, Viet Nam. I was amazed at how long distance cycling has taken off in the US. Later, after we pulled into Packwood, got a hotel, went out to dinner, and then stopped by the grocery store, we again met George and Megan, and talked them into staying at our hotel. It was the same hotel that Russ and I stayed at several years ago when we did a touring loop around Mt. Rainier.

Overlook of Mt. St. Helens, and a valley that was completely wiped out by the volcano. It is now growing back quite nicely.

Overlook of Mt. St. Helens, and a valley that was completely wiped out by the volcano. It is now growing back quite nicely.

A very friendly cyclist pulling duty at manning the SAG wagon, but also being very hospitable to us.

A very friendly cyclist pulling duty at manning the SAG wagon, but also being very hospitable to us.

Deep forest on the ride to Packwood

Deep forest on the ride to Packwood

Russ at a river crossing on Cline Road

Russ at a river crossing on Cline Road

Day 5 (17JUNE2015)


Home. It was a 72+ mile venture. The weather was phenomenal, and we had one pass to go over, 1500 feet of climbing over Skate Creek. The climb was over about double the distance of the other 1500+ foot passes, making it much easier to get over. It still was a long plod, now in entirely familiar territory where we had ridden many times before. We stopped for lunch at the back porch of an abandoned house on Ohop Lake, and rode on. The only disgusting part of our entire ride was that of the last 10 miles through South Hill and Puyallup, with nasty traffic, no bicycle shoulders, and mean drivers. We were glad to get home.

Our view of Ohop Lake

Our view of Ohop Lake

Russ preparing a sandwich on Ohop Lake at an abandoned house.

Russ preparing a sandwich on Ohop Lake at an abandoned house.

After a ride, I immediately unpack everything, and jotted down ideas and thoughts for the next trip. I had no idea how beautiful this trip would be, and the weather was absolutely perfect for our adventure. It’s not only a delight to ride, but also to meet so many other bicycle enthusiasts, as well as hotel managers, local personalities, and people on the road. Bicycling is NOT a lonely sport, though it mostly is just you against the road and hills that it gives you. Each day of the ride, we felt a little bit stronger, and could have kept going, should the journey had demanded it. Neither of us were terribly sore, and we were blessed with no major injuries. Both of us are eager and ready for more adventures. Hopefully, next time, it might be with my brother Gaylon, who is eager to do a cross-country tour. With all the people we met who have been on their bike on the road for over 5 months, it is no longer looking like a highly unusual plan.

 

The Merry Month of May, 2015

June 4th, 2015

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May was a busy month. I had three main activities that consumed my time.

1. Adventure Cycle Association Leadership Course

This course is required by those who wish to lead ACA tours, but is also an excellent source of information for leading one’s own bicycling adventures. The classes were held at Champoeg State Park in Oregon, south of Portland and along the Willamette River. It was three packed days of most classwork, but also with short rides mixed in. Much discussion was held in discussing the ACA philosophy of leadership, being that of allowing tour participants much freedom of individual decisions and responsibility. The ACA regimen of daily cycling activity, and conflict resolution were also discussed. I had a great time, met some delightful people, and hope to be assisting in the leadership of tours soon.

The Willamette River at Champoeg State Park

The Willamette River at Champoeg State Park

Camping at Champoeg State Park; my tent is on the far left

Camping at Champoeg State Park; my tent is on the far left

Classroom discussion with Joyce

Classroom discussion with Joyce

Wally and the staff make dinner

Wally and the staff make dinner

Chowing down

Chowing down

2. Dayton, WA bicycling

It has been several years since Russ A. and I have gone to Dayton, WA for bicycle riding. Another friend of Russ, Pete, also comes with, and is a great complement to the rides. This year, our first ride was loop down to Walla Walla, starting from Howie’s cabin, half way from Dayton up to the Bluewood Ski Resort. The second day was a mountain bike ride up into the Blue Mountains, and a most serious grunt. The third day took us to Starbuck, and north of Dayton. The weather was perfect, and rides were most delightful.

Second day mountain bike ride, just after a beastly climb

Second day mountain bike ride, just after a beastly climb

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers

Russ at home in the Blue Mountains

Russ at home in the Blue Mountains

3. Hikes to Indian Henry’s — two variations

On two consecutive weekends, Jon and I hiked up to Indian Henry’s hunting grounds, a most beautiful spot on the timberline of Mount Rainier. The first hike took the Kautz Creek route, which goes straight up a ridge following Kautz Creek up to Indian Henry’s, wrapping around Mt. Ararat. The top photo is of Mt. Ararat engulfed in clouds. On this hike, the weather was overcast, and we could not see the mountain. Close to Indian Henry’s, we hit much snow, which eventually led us to turn back. The second weekend, we followed the Wonderland Trail going counter-clockwise around the mountain. The weather was spectacular, and most of the snow at Indian Henry’s had since melted. The views of the mountain were awesome.

Flowers

Flowers

More flowers

More flowers

And More flowers

And More flowers

Jon on the Kautz Creek hike

Jon on the Kautz Creek hike

Me on the Kautz Creek hike

Me on the Kautz Creek hike

Approaching Indian Henry's. Lots of flowers and little snow.

Approaching Indian Henry’s. Lots of flowers and little snow.

Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds via the Wonderland Trail

Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds via the Wonderland Trail

Leaving Indian Henry's

Leaving Indian Henry’s

We camped here before on the Wonderland Trail, and will be camping here again in August when we do the Wonderland Trail again.

We camped here before on the Wonderland Trail, and will be camping here again in August when we do the Wonderland Trail again.

 

Israel 2015

February 12th, 2015

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The trip to Israel went from 10-22January. In the aftermath, Betsy and I spent the next 10 days recovering from jet lag, while simultaneously fighting off the crud that grandchildren seem to have given us (or perhaps we gave to them?). This was a trip planned with people from church, and so there were only three people that we did not know on the trip, though they were enjoyable to get to know. This trip was planned to include sites that Betsy and I did not see on our trip with John Delancey. I am not going to do a blow-by-blow account of the travels, since they would be uninteresting, but will mention sites that we did not see previously. There were a considerable number of new places that we went to this time compared to our last trip with John, and the older places had a fresh perspective. Being the down-season, there were far less crowds, especially at the “holy” sites. It added to the ambience to be with people you knew, although the most significant interactions happened when sitting around on the sea of Galilee enjoying cigars and good conversation. John again was a total delight to be with, and a wealth of information. Unfortunately, the stuff I wished most to remember from him I don’t, being somewhat brain-dead from jet lag the first few days. As usual, I took way too few photographs. On this trip, I used my Canon M1 camera. The beauty of the M1 is its lightness. The problems with the M1 are the inability to see the image in bright light and its extreme slowness. So, here are a few photos from this trip.

We saw lots of archeological sites. Unfortunately, they all looked the same!

We saw lots of archeological sites. Unfortunately, they all looked the same!

Flowers in bloom. It was a beautiful time of year to visit.

Flowers in bloom. It was a beautiful time of year to visit.

Valley of David and Goliath, near Gath in the Sephelah

Valley of David and Goliath, near Gath in the Sephelah

Cave at Moresheth, where Micah used to hang out.

Cave at Moresheth, where Micah used to hang out.

Wadi below ancient Be'er Sheba, where Abraham planted his digs.

Wadi below ancient Be’er Sheba, where Abraham planted his digs.

Kamelfahrt

Kamelfahrt

Kamel kopf durch Kamelfahrt

Kamel kopf durch Kamelfahrt

The Judean desert. The green area deep in the valley would be the road from Jericho to Jerusalem

The Judean desert. The green area deep in the valley would be the road from Jericho to Jerusalem

More road to Jerusalem

More road to Jerusalem

Shiloh, where Samuel used to play as a kid.

Shiloh, where Samuel used to play as a kid.

Beth Shean, on the other side of the Jezebel Valley

Beth Shean, on the other side of the Jezebel Valley

Ancient village in the Golan, destroyed by the Romans

Ancient village in the Golan, destroyed by the Romans

Dan at Dan

Dan at Dan

Rob, sitting at the gate in ancient Dan

Rob, sitting at the gate in ancient Dan

The dynamic duo, John and Schlomo, at the altar at Dan

The dynamic duo, John and Schlomo, at the altar at Dan

Rob, fetching baptismal water from the Jordan. Actually, this is the Dan, one of the three sources for the Jordan river, so, Rob might be accused of being Unitarian.

Rob, fetching baptismal water from the Jordan. Actually, this is the Dan, one of the three sources for the Jordan river, so, Rob might be accused of being Unitarian.

Climbing the last scramble to the top of Arbel

Climbing the last scramble to the top of Arbel

The Horns of Hattin from Arbel

The Horns of Hattin from Arbel

The cliffs of Arbel

The cliffs of Arbel

View of Arbel and the Horns of Hattin and the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes

View of Arbel and the Horns of Hattin and the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes

Heulenmauer. Wir Heult! Wailing at the wall.

Heulenmauer. Wir Heulten! Wailing at the wall.

Last view of Jerusalem. Looking at the south end of the Mount of Olives, with the Kidron Valley heading down to the Dead Sea. The mountains in the distance are in Jordan.

Last view of Jerusalem. Looking at the south end of the Mount of Olives, with the Kidron Valley heading down to the Dead Sea. The mountains in the distance are in Jordan.

 

Blitzfahrt nach China

November 13th, 2014

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Who ever heard of going to China for just 2 days? On this trip, Dr. X. Liao and I left from Seattle at 1300 last Friday, and returned home at 1030 this last Monday. It took 3 days for my brain to de-fog to write this blog. The trip was made possible by a generous benefactor Mr. Lu, who covered the entire cost of the trip, loading us with numerous gifts to take home with us. I had provided care to the brother of the person that made this trip possible, the brother having had a very good outcome from with healthcare with Dr. Liao. Thus, he was interested in establishing a stronger American presence in China for healthcare.

The flight each way was 10 hours, but with the crossing of the date line and 10 hour time zone difference, flying Hainan Airline on a direct flight from Seattle to Beijing, and arriving the next day at 1730. Mr. Lu’s oldest son picked us up at the airport, did tea with us at his office and taught me extensively on the proper handling and brewing of Chinese tea (we had pu-er tea, Betsy’s favorite), and then dropped us off at the train station, which  put us on one of the high-speed trains. We rode business class, which gave us reclining seats and shear luxury. These trains are even nicer than the best trains in Europe–they are really nice. In 1.5 hours, we were in the town of Jinan in the Shandong province, located south and east of Beijing, about ⅓ of the way to Shanghai. Jinan is a smaller little village of only 8-10 million people. Mr. Lu picked us up from the train station, took us out to dinner, and then dropped us off at our hotel, a 5 star hotel (that incidentally, the really good rooms cost the equivalent of about $100/night).

The next morning (Sunday), we had breakfast at the hotel, and then hopped in the car for a sight-seeing tour. About 1 hour drive south took us to Qufu, where we were able to see the Confucius temple.  It was a large compound, a little bit like the Forbidden City, though not nearly as large. Most of the buildings were built starting in the early Ming dynasty (about 1300 ad), though it was the site were Confucius was born and lived many hundreds of years ago during the Shang dynasty.  Sitting beside the temple grounds was the Confucius “Mission”, where about 70 or more generations of families lived after Confucius. The Mormons would like to get ahold of that genealogy!

Dr. Liao, Mr. Lu, me at Confucius temple

Dr. Liao, Mr. Lu, me at Confucius temple

Entrance to the temple

Entrance to the temple

Burning incense to Confucius

Burning incense to Confucius

Leaving there, we visited a university of 10,000 students that was built and funded by Mr. Lu. We toured several of the buildings, which he had built after the style of a European mansion, quite luxurious. We were then to meet the doctor in charge of one of the Jinan hospitals that had been talking with Mr. Lu about the development of an American style clinic for cancer patients. There was an hour meeting where Dr. Liao explained his vision, and the 5-6 hospital surgeons and oncologists listened carefully, asking various questions. After that, we had dinner at our hotel with the hospital surgeons and Mr. Lu’s brother, our patient. Somehow, they manage to find very large round tables, and this one had a motor that slowly turned the large central lazy Susan on which multiple dishes sat. One would take small portions of 20 or more different dishes, giving the diner the opportunity to try multiple things. For me, most of the food was quite unrecognizable, but everything tasted very good. The difficulty that I often have with he more exotic Chinese foods is not with the taste so much as with the texture of the food.  In addition, there are flavors that westerners are quite unfamiliar with, such as that of lotus root. I find that my favorite Chinese foods are the cheap foods that are found on the street at inexpensive restaurants. The fancy restaurants are just too exotic, and I don’t care to eat chicken feet or various forms of slime.

University in Jinan

University in Jinan

Inside of the buildings of the university

Inside of the buildings of the university

After breakfast in the hotel the next morning, we did a tour of several other clinic possibilities, including converting a very nice but underused hotel into a large outpatient clinic, and then driving through a very modern and fancy district of Jinan next to the train station for possibilities. Mr. Lu dropped us off at the train station, loaded with massive amounts of gifts, and we hopped the train back to Beijing. In Beijing, a taxi took us to the airport, and a flight home (in which I slept most of the way) left us in Seattle. We left Beijing on Monday at 5 in the evening, and arrived in Seattle at 10:30 on Monday in the morning–it’s like going back in time, and definitely confuses your internal clock. Mr. Lu’s gifts included 12 very expensive discs of pu-er tea, a number of boxes of very expensive finest Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) tea, also one of my absolute favorites, a tea server (I can’t even tell you what it is, and a photo won’t work, you just need to see it in action), as well as oodles of Chinese candy. For all of his kindness, I dearly hope that I could have been of help to Mr. Lu’s vision.

Iowa-Black Hills Bicycle Trip

September 7th, 2014

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This blog is a combination of two activities, the first being a visit of Betsy and I to our daughter Rachel and her husband and two daughters, who live in Sioux Center, Iowa, and the second being a bicycle trip I did with the Adventure Cycle Association in the Black Hills, starting in Rapid City, South Dakota. The bicycle trip begins at the 30AUG spot, so if you are only interested in that, please skip down everything else.

23aug We decided to head to Iowa early in the morning on Saturday, rather than late on Friday. At the very last minute, Betsy and I both decided to take a slightly longer route, which went first to Portland, and then out the Columbia River highway. The alternative would have been to go over Snoqualmie Pass through Yakima and Tri-Cities. We drove down through Pendleton, Baker, Ontario, Boise, and finally settled in for the night at Mountain Home, Idaho. I don’t take photos from the car, so no photos were obtained today.

24aug Today was a long, hard day of driving, never getting on an interstate highway at all until the last five miles. We left Mountain Home on a side road that took us through the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Betsy had never seen this, and it was not a major delay in going this way as compared to simply taking the interstate to Idaho Falls. Once we reached Idaho Falls, we continued on the road that followed the Snake River to the Grand Tetons. I’ve traveled this road before, having gone a number of times to a church associated Labor Day Weekend Youth Rally on this road, located just before the Wyoming border. Driving up through the Tetons, we then entered Yellowstone Park, and left out the east entrance towards Cody. Oddly, I felt that many areas of the Northwest were far more beautiful and spectacular than Yellowstone NP. We then headed north on route 14a through the Bighorn Mountains. I had thought that I did this route before, but apparently not, and must have done the straight route 14. 14a went through Lovell, but then is a ridiculously steep climb for over ten miles, throwing us into snow, and the tops of the mountain peaks. It was most grand, and created dreams of the ultimate challenge bicycle ride. I love the Bighorns, in my estimation one of the most beautiful spots in the Rockies. We then hit a long, steep descent which put us into Sheridan, Wyoming where we spent the night.

25aug today was mostly driving on I-90, with the exception of a bypass the see the Devil’s Tower. Betsy and I took a walk around the tower and then quickly dashed back to I-90 to get to Alex and Rachel. Only a stop in Sturgis to get lunch held us from getting to Sioux Center at about 8 pm, weary and ready for bed. But, what a delight it was to see the children (we include Alex in that) and grandchildren.

26aug Today was a lazy day, with me riding around town with Alex, doing a short bicycle ride with him, and then grilling steaks on the barbeque.

Lily

Lily

Adalyn

Adalyn

27aug Today was another lazy day, with a visit to the foreign candy company, as well another bicycle ride. We had lunch at Culvers in memory of Diane.

28aug Today we went to Lester to visit the relatives. We were invited to Wes and Esther’s for lunch. Also at lunch were Phil and Donna Mogler, Wes’s mother, Alex, Caleb, and Tessa. Uncle Phil has always been a wonderful memory to me as far back as when I was 3-4 years old. Wes and Esther have been  most special cousins to our family, and I always try to see them when I come to Iowa. After a fantastic lunch with the most delicious Iowa corn, we had heavenly apple pie. Esther then took us to see the town of Lester with some brief stops, and then to see Roy and Melissa, as well as Tim and Carissa. Tim and Carissa were homeschooling their 5 children, all of them most wonderful kids, who were living in the original home of Carl and Pauline, where dad and all the aunts and uncles on that side of the family were born. The house was quite remodeled, with walls moved and additions added, but it still felt like the old homestead. The house looked like a school, as the children were being home-schooled. What a delight it was to see old relations. My only regret is that we didn’t have either time or opportunity to see more relatives in the area. Dinner was at Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center, since Alex needed to go to a major fireman’s meeting.

Phil and Donna Mogler

Phil and Donna Mogler

Esther, Wes and Grandma Moser

Esther, Wes and Grandma Moser

Roy Feucht showing off his high heel cowboy boots

Roy Feucht showing off his high heel cowboy boots

Roy and Melissa Feucht

Roy and Melissa Feucht

Tim and Carissa Feucht and family. The house is the original homestead where my father as well as uncles & aunts were born

Tim and Carissa Feucht and family. The house is the original homestead where my father as well as uncles & aunts were born

Tim and Carissa Feucht family

Tim and Carissa Feucht family

29aug This was my last full day in Sioux Center. It was mostly a lazy day, packing and getting ready for the bicycle trip, as I tend to forget things. In the evening, we had dinner at Archies in LeMars, followed by Blue Bunny ice cream at the Blue Bunny fountain. Archies, by the way, is steak to die for, if you didn’t know that already. In the evening, we had a wonderful time with Alex’s parents, as well as with Kurt and Colleen, who came over (Kurt) for a cigar and beer. It was a wonderful way to end my time with Alex and Rachel.

30aug Today was an early rise, and long, six hour drive to Rapid City, where my cycle ride was to begin. We had the usual formalities, including the explanation of the next day’s ride, as well as dinner. I crashed early. That night had some heavy rains, high winds, and thunderstorms, which I haven’t seen in a while. The ole REI tent held up well, and I was able to wake up dry.

Patrick, the bicycle mechanic

Patrick, the bicycle mechanic

Doug, the luggage manager, always the most friendly dude.

Doug, the luggage manager, always the most friendly dude.

The daily board

The daily board

Tony Neaves, a superb leader of the pack.

Tony Neaves, a superb leader of the pack.

Fetching dinner with Tony and Lou

Fetching dinner with Tony and Lou

 

 

31aug This was our first day of riding, and supposedly the hilliest and hardest. There was moderate climbing, but it was fairly straightforward.  I arrived at the campsite just west of Deadwood at about 13:30, so had time to shower, read, and enjoy a cigar. Dinner was based on the Chinese theme, though not like anything we’ve ever had in China. It was another quiet evening, ready for tomorrow.

On the road, ever upwards

On the road, ever upwards

One of the smaller towns in South Dakota

One of the smaller towns in South Dakota

Arriving at last in Deadwood

Arriving at last in Deadwood


01 sept Labor Day! Deadwood to Hill City. Today was almost completely on a non-paved gravel road, the Mikelson Trail. Riding was made a little more complex by the presence of rain, which made the fine gravel act a bit more like mud, the tires sometimes sinking up to a half inch into the trail. There were several climbs that we were told would be no more than 2 percent grade bit were actually between 3-4 percent grade. Compounded by the muddy gravel, it was a bit of work to get over those hills. The ride was gorgeous in spite of the grey clouds and rain. The day ended with cold but beautiful ble skies, which dried out all of our equipment.

On the Mickelson Trail

On the Mickelson Trail

Kathy pausing for a photo opportunity

Kathy pausing for a photo opportunity

Somewhat wet trail in forested area

Somewhat wet trail in forested area

The trail opening up into prairie

The trail opening up into prairie

 

02sept Hill City to Hot Springs. This AM, it was so cold I was freezing. I wore normal clothes for the ride, but had to constantly blow into my hands to warm them up. First stop was Crazy Horse state park. I only went to the entrance to get some photographs. Oddly, I had seen the Crazy Horse monument 35 some years ago, and it didn’t seem to be and further along to completion as 35 years ago. I rode onward. I missed a turn onto Argyle Road, and went about 1.5 miles too far before figuring out what I did.  Argyle Road was off the Mickelson Trail, and was a normal road through the countryside, but gravel. The gravel was very loose in spots, and it was over 10 miles of this stuff. The only good thing about it was that it was mostly downhill, though there was rolling hills, with occasional 8-10 percent grade. This was granny gear country!  The temperature was easing over 90F as I rolled into camp, and there was practically no shade… One time I would have easily settled for a hotel. I finally found a cool, comfortable spot and refused to move. Cold beer never tasted so good.

One of several tunnels on the trail

One of several tunnels on the trail

The trail now following a creek. Gold mining was still happening off of this creek

The trail now following a creek. Gold mining was still happening off of this creek

Verruckter Pferd (Crazy Horse). Not much work on it since I saw it last 35 years ago.

Verruckter Pferd (Crazy Horse). Not much work on it since I saw it last 35 years ago.

Rock formations off the path, awaiting a sculptor.

Rock formations off the path, awaiting a sculptor.

 

03sept Hot Springs to Custer State Park. Today started a bit chilly but soon warmed up, since it was climbing from the get-go. The first stop was at the Wind Caves, but I decided against doing a 1.5 hour tour and rode on. Soon, a group of us riders encountered a herd of buffalo in the road, and needed to wait over forty minutes for them to move off. It was rather crazy being only about five meters from very large buffalo, but they didn’t seem to mind us. We again encountered buffalo at the water stop, where the entire stop was overrun by  buffalo, making it necessary for them to bring in the water jugs, since the buffalo were quite interested in them. Moving into Custer State Park, it was quite woody and mountainous, giving us a very long steep climb over “Heartbreak Hill”. The remainder of the ride was nearly completely downhill into camp.

Bison statues in the town of Custer

Bison statues in the town of Custer

Entering Wind Cave National Park

Entering Wind Cave National Park

Bison in the prairie

Bison in the prairie

Bison obstructing the road. We had to wait 40+ minutes for them to move off the road

Bison obstructing the road. We had to wait 40+ minutes for them to move off the road

Bison raiding the water stop

Bison raiding the water stop

Federal regulations demand you stay a minimum of 25 meters from buffalo. We were within 5-10 meters to them.

Federal regulations demand you stay a minimum of 25 meters from buffalo. We were within 5-10 meters to them.

Buffalo Ken

Buffalo Ken

Custer State Park. I didn't see any buffalo in the state park.

Custer State Park. I didn’t see any buffalo in the state park.

 

04sept. Custer State Park to Hill City  My impression from the sounds of the night was that it had rained. It was darker than usual for my 6am wakeup, and I thought I was going to have a cold drizzly day. The sound of the babbling brook only a few feet from the tent did not help. Instead, I found it to be warm outside, a cloudless sky, and the first (and only) time the tent was totally dry. After breakfast, the ride included a moderate amount of climbing, but nothing difficult, until we arrived at Keystone, the gateway to Mt. Rushmore. A few of my friends decided to bicycle to the top, several later regretting that decision, though I was thoroughly impressed with them, as it is a four mile, 4-10 percent grade, not an easy task. My bicycle and I were shuttled to the Mt. Rushmore visitor center, got the obligatory photos, and then headed down. The last ten miles to Hill City paralleled a historic steam engine that connected Keystone and Hill City, though our time was faster than the train. We then camped in the same Hill City campground as earlier in the tour. That evening, the beer was complementary, and well enjoyed. I also was able to enjoy cigars with Cyndi and Matt.

The Presidents.

The Presidents.

 

05sept Hill City to Rapid City. After a quick breakfast, we discovered everybody usually anxious to get on the trail. Thus, we found that we were among the last to leave camp, though still among the first to arrive in Rapid City. The route was on a beautiful backroad that wrapped around Lake Sheridan, and then took the Sheridan Lake Road into town. There was a moderate amount of climbing, though not enough to work up a sweat, and since it was mostly downhill, we had arrived at the water break site having not yet consumed any water or even digested breakfast. We arrived in Rapid City by 9:30am. After telling new friends goodby, I went to get Betsy. She was staying with Alex, Rachel and family in a Rapid City hotel with a connecting water park. They had also had the opportunity to see much of the Black Hills, though from a car, and not a bicycle. It was hard to tell them goodby, especially Lily and Adalyn, whom Betsy and I have fallen in love with. By evening, we were able to make it to Butte, Montana.

06sept Home…. We headed out from Butte at about 7:15 and arrived home at 3:30 in the afternoon. We quickly unpacked the car, and I then downloaded our photos, and started to write this blog.  The trip was super, but it’s always nice to be home.

How would I rate the Adventure Cycling part of the trip? In my eyes, it was superb. They give you enough freedom to let you ride according to your own personal style. They feed you very well. One always meets new friends that you enjoy riding with. The routes are never terribly challenging, though still demanding. They stick to their name of truly making every trip an adventure. I would rate this trip as highly successful, and a superb way to end up the riding season (for major trips).

Washington Parks I Trip

August 1st, 2014

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Washington Parks 1 trip 7/26 – 7/31 2014 with Jonathan Feucht

Jon and I had planned this trip out for a number of months, and originally planned on a trip that went over Stevens Pass and then back over the North Cascade Highway (ACA Washington Parks II route). A week before our scheduled start date, the Methow Valley caught on fire from Twisp to Pateros and Brewster, in addition to fires along Stevens Pass, closing down both passes. Thus, this choice ended up being a good alternative for a loop week cycle ride in Washington. We planned on starting in Arlington at Jon’s house and ending in Puyallup, following (for the most part) the ACA Washington Parks I route. Jonny and I both had the Washington Parks maps, but mine was an older version. Oddly, they made some very significant changes to the route, some of which were not necessary or helpful.

Day 1- Arlington to Oak Harbor

The start was a little rough. Jonny drove down to get me in Puyallup, and then we drove back to his place in the AM, to get a 10 am start. Somehow, my helmet could not be located, but fortunately Jon had a spare. It did not have a mirror, which I depend heavily on nowadays. It was 28 miles up the Centennial trail and then route 9 to Sedro Wooley, WA, where we intersected the start on the ACA maps. The route followed mostly back roads, though the main highway past Anacortes and on to Deception Pass was brutally busy with tourists, especially Portable Life Support Units (trailers, Winnebagos, RV’s, etc.). Worse, while stopping for lunch just past Anacortes, some jerk stole my Garmin unit. Garmins are invaluable for trip planning, and many decisions are made based on distance and speed travelled, but fortunately, Jon’s unit was intact, allowing us to record our trip. Past Deception Pass I was viciously attacked by an old German Shepard. It was way out in the country, right across from a gun club. That Shepard almost got the delight of eating some lead. We finally made it to Oak Harbor, a little farther than I had planned, only to find that ALL of the hotels were full. Fortunately, the trailer park down on the beach had some bicycle (tent only) spaces, allowing us a place to lay our heads for the night.

Total miles 68.5  Time 8:15  Elevation Gain 2211 ft

Day 2- Oak Harbor to Port Angeles

We got a fairly early star in the morning, and managed to make it just in time for the ferry to Port Townsend – they actually delayed the ferry until we got our bicycles on. The ferry ride was quick, and we then started the slow climb up and down to Sequim and then Port Angeles. contrary to our maps, we noted that the Olympic Discovery Trail started in Blyn, which was a beautiful trail for bicycles, and off of the extremely busy 101. Our only difficulty was that the trail was not the best marked in a few spots, one place leading us to about a mile diversion, before we could find the trail again. It was awesome riding into Port Angeles on the beach, and as soon as we came up to the downtown where the ferry went, we saw a Red Lion Inn. They had first floor vacancies and and so we stayed there.

Total miles 66.2  Time 7:54  Elevation Gain 3008 ft

Day 3- Port Angeles to Forks

This day was our hardest, with lots of hills to climb, we were tired, and it was hot. It was also quite beautiful as the route took us away from 101 and on 112 and 113. The only disadvantage to this route were the massive numbers of logging trucks on a narrow two lane road with no shoulders. We were able to have lunch on the Straits of Juan DeFuca, eating PBJ sandwiches and admiring Mt. Baker and Canada off in the distance. We had wanted to camp, but the camping places on the route were not convenient, which left us in Forks. Even there, the hotels were almost entirely full, but we procured the last hotel room on the edge of town.  Dinner was at a pizza parlor, and we slept quite well after a grunt of a day.

 

PBJs on the beach

PBJs on the beach

Total miles 64.6 Time 8:17  Elevation Gain 3556 ft

Day 4- Forks to Amanda Park

I expected this day to be a real grunt like yesterday, but it wasn’t. The two major climbs went very smoothly, and seemed shorter than the maps suggested. We arrived in the coast section of the Olympic National Park about 10 am, when it was quite sunny. Soon, the clouds rolled in, and we were rather cold, so decided not to spend time freezing on the beach. We had arrived in Amanda Park on Lake Quinalt about 3pm and talked the nice lady that ran the RV park and Inn to let us sleep on the lawn, since there were no available rooms. Once we were about 5 miles from the beach, it became sunny again, and the temperature in Amanda Park was in the low 90s. Our tent site was under some trees, that was cool with a breeze until you left the area of the trees, where the temperature was roasting hot.

Entering the beach section of Olympic National Park

Entering the beach section of Olympic National Park

The Beach

The Beach

Camp at Amanda Park (Lake Quinalt)

Camp at Amanda Park (Lake Quinalt)

Total miles 64.6  Time 6:59  Elevation Gain 2270 ft

Day 5-Amanda Park to Elma

We weren’t sure as to how far we should go today, as Elma was a short distance, but there were no campsites or hotels for a great distance past Elma. There was a short climb out of Amanda Park along 101. After some distance, we encountered a stray dairy cow on the road. It nearly was hit by a truck. Soon afterwards, we got off of 101 and onto a road that would take us into Montesano. It was an excellent choice, though a touch hilly. After lunch in Montesano, we had to detour a bridge out by riding along route 20, which was horrid. By the time we got to Elma, the temperature was in the 80’s and we were cooking. We decided to call it a day. Dinner was at the Rusty Wagon, a rather nice restaurant.

Total miles 61.0  Time 6:08  Elevation Gain 1995 ft

Day 6- Elma to home

We were up early and headed out. Once reaching Tenino, the route was quite familiar to me, as it followed the Yelm Tenino Trail. The temperature was well in the 80’s and we were cooking by the time we reached Pacific Avenue in Parkland. There was a wonderful Dairy Queen there, and Andrew graciously picked us up to avoid 15 more miles of hot busy city riding. It was a wonderful way to spend a week, but am now looking forward to doing Washington Parks II or something else similar.

Total miles 67.02  Time 6:01  Elevation Gain 1008 ft

Gesamt Milage und Zeit

394.1 miles, 42.4 hours, 14,048 ft elevation gain

Summary

It was a delight to have time with Jon. At first, he was complaining about his back, and the bicycle seat. Several days later, I really didn’t hear much about that problem. Not wishing to push Jon too hard, I offered him an “escape” route, which he refused. Soon, he was keeping up and often pushing ahead of me, who held a fairly steady pace throughout the journey. I think he really just needs a different seat, such as the Fizik seat on his road bike.  It was nice to see Jonny making good decisions about our travel.

We followed primarily the ACA maps of the Washington Parks. They were helpful, especially in knowing where we might camp or find lodging, and the ideal routes. Although I’ve spent much time in the Olympics, I have never gone on some of the roads that this route took one through. The route around the Olympics really did not show off the mountain splendor of the Olympics, though that would include a fantastic climb up to Hurricane Ridge, not an easy feat. There were two errors with the ACA maps. The first and most bothersome was with the elevation profiles. This made rivers and towns in the valley sitting on the map profile on the top of climbs. It was about a 3 mile displacement that needs to be corrected, as it made it difficult to estimate exactly where was on a route. The other bothersome item was that grocery/convenience stores and camps were not always in existence any longer. This is not entirely the fault of the ACA map system. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be less supply areas rather than more than the maps indicated. Milage on the  ACA maps was always right on, according to our Garmin maps.

I’m ready for more touring. I’d love to do the Pacific Coast route, Sierra Cascades route, and the trans-America route. This is somewhat a dream for the future, but then, who knows?

 

 

Bicycling in Portland 2014

May 28th, 2014


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Riding in Oregon with friends, family, and self, 21-26MAY2014

I had always wished to return to Portland to do some rides that I had tried as a kid, but which didn’t end so well. I wished to ride the Gorge, do Larch Mountain, and run around a number of the places I used to ride bicycles when I was growing up in Portland.  So, this adventure gave me that opportunity. I started by driving down to Portland after work of Wednesday evening. The next morning, Aaron H. came to meet me at the hotel, and we took off north. Riding across the I-205 bridge, we rode eastward along the Columbia River, following the Washugal River once we reached Camas, WA. A short segment brought us back to the Columbia River highway, where we passed Beacon Rock, crossed the Bridge of the Gods (photo above, with Aaron showing off his banana), and then rode back along the old Columbia River highway. The bicycle trail was now complete all the way out to Cascade Locks, though my cycle instructions did not realize that. The ride up to Crown Point and then back to Gresham and Portland was exhilarating. Here is the Garmin data…

The next day, I touched base with brother Gaylon, and rode a ways out the Springwater Trail to Boring, OR. It was boring, and so we turned around and came back. Garmin data…

On Saturday, I had wanted to ride up Larch Mountain with Aaron, but we decided to do something a little less strenuous, and so I came down to Salem, to do a fantastic and beautiful ride with him in the foothills of the Coast Range, and through the farmland of the Willamette Valley. Here is the Garmin for that…

Sunday was a day to relax. I spent about 4 hours with Lewis, which was much needed. I then spent time later again with Gaylon.  The weather was drizzly, and I was worried about Memorial Day, Monday, where it was supposed to rain heavily. On awakening, the weather was cloudy with sun, so I decided to go for it. On Gaylon’s advice, I headed down the I-205 corridor to Sunnyside Road, over to 152nd, down to the Clackamas River, and then back the Clackamas to Oregon City, crossing the old Oregon city bridge into West Linn, riding up to Terwilliger Blvd, headed up Terwilliger past the medical school,  (seeing the Terwilliger trail which I jogged many times while in medical school), crossing back across the Hawthorne bridge, and then (mostly) up Clinton Avenue back to the hotel on 92nd and Stark St.  I had rode the Hawthorne Bridge many times on my bike, but it was much easier now, as the wooden planks had been replaced with a solid platform. Here’s the Garmin, and a photo while crossing the bridge…

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Hawthorne Bridge Crossing

On returning to the hotel, I threw everything in the car and dashed home. My ole BMC was a wonderful bike to do all of this riding, and it proved immense comfort and efficiency. Someday, I’d like to do the Larch Mountain climb. I’ve already worked out with Aaron to return to Oregon for the Crater Lake loop. I need to do much more riding with Gaylon, getting him into a little longer endurance rides. Altogether, it was a delightful and successful trip. Besides bicycle riding, I got to stop in at Powells Book Store, Bob’s Red Mill, and REI, as well as several bicycle shops. I should be back in Portland at the end of the STP in July, and hopefully one more time this summer for some riding.

China with Liao yisheng

April 29th, 2014

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I have had a flurry of writing at the beginning of the year, but it has now been two months since I’ve written a review or commentary on my life. So, away we go with a trip to China. Together, Betsy and I took over 1200 photos, so, you are seeing only a small sampling.

Dr. Liao invited us to go on a trip with him to China. He had been suggesting this to me for quite a while now, and we have finally gotten around to going. The trip lasted from 10-26APRIL, and we visited 5 cities, representing central China. The weather was cool, with intermittent rain. The atmosphere was not smoggy, but actually quite hazy, making for less than optimal photographs. Click on the individual photographs for a larger view. Here is the blow by blow of our travels…

Friday Diane tok us to the airport, and we met Mike, before getting on the Hainan express to Beijing. The flight went 1 hour shorter than expected, and eleven hours later, 4:50 the next day, we landed in Beijing. After finding our hotel and checking in, we went out for a quick dinner, and crashed.

Sunday: Mike had arranged a guided tour for today, which included first a visit to the Great wall. It was  great. According to Mao, anybody that visits the Great Wall is a hero, so, Betsy and I are now heros. After that,  we visited the tombs of the Ming dynasty emperors, with a focus on the third, Yongle. We then visited a silk factory and purchased a silk comforter, a jade factory, and a tea specialty house for a tea tasting. That evening, we decided to do some Chinese cuisine, which we enjoyed. This was on what was called “bar row”, where we met a friend, XiaoDong, of Mike, who joined us at dinner. This restaurant was on a lake, which we then walked around before heading home. XiaoDong is a biomedical scientist, possibly in line for the nobel prize, but very delightful in personality.

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall - a real hero!

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall – a real hero! 

The tomb area of Yongle

The tomb area of Yongle

The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.

The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.

Out for tea

Out for tea

Monday: first, Tian’nanmen square, which is just a large plaza. We wished to see the Chairman, but his tomb was closed, as well as the Forbidden City. So, we opted for seeing a flower garden next to the Forbidden City, and then going to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was build by the Ming dynasty, but burned by the British, and then again by the British and the French, and each time rebuilt. It was massive, with a very large lake in the center. The Buildings were all over the hillside and very ornate. After dinner, Betsy and I were exhausted and crashed.

The gardens next to the Forbidden City

The gardens next to the Forbidden City

Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.

A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.

Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace

Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace

 

Tuesday:   A quick breakfast first was followed by a trip back to Mao’s grave, and then the Forbidden City.  Mao’s grave was most interesting. There was an hour long line, as roughly 200,000 plus people visit the grave each day. You pass through security, and are not allowed to have bags or cameras, no photos were obtained. You are sold white flowers to leave at his grave. In the building, you enter a large room where his statue is sitting in a friendly pose,  carved in giant white stone, similar to the Lincoln memorial. In the next room, his body lays in state, reasonably well preserved. Mao has had a comeback in China, remembering him not so much for his colossal mistakes (the great leap forward and the cultural revolution)  but for his absence of corruption and for uniting the Chinese people.  We then went to the Forbidden City. Mein Gott! This made any European palace system, including Versailles, look like kid’s stuff. The palace and grounds were huge. There were over 8,000 rooms. There were huge squares. Sadly, Chaing Kai Shek looted most of the treasures of the Forbidden City. Schwein! They now sit in Taiwan, and don’t belong to them. Every building was exquisitely decorated in the most ornate fashion. It all made you feel quite small. The evening was spent having Peking duck, and then cha he pijiu (tea and beer) on a rotating restaurant on top of our hotel.

At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.

At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size

A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size

Wednesday:  Today, we say goodby to Beijing and hello to Xi’an. After breakfast, Mike and I first visited the Beijing Hospital, the best hospital in the country of China. It was a zoo. There were wall-to-wall people lined up various activities, such as waiting to pay for an appointment, waiting for the doctor, etc. There is no such thing as an appointment time as it is first come, first served. The hospital was nice, but just miserably crowded. After that we went to the Beijing Cancer Hospital, the best cancer hospital in the country. We met a doctor friend of Mike’s, and toured the place. It also was a zoo. China needs a better system—they have great doctors but no system. From there, we checked out of our hotel, ran down to the other end of Chang’An Jie (Long Peace Street) caught our high speed train to Xi’an, was picked up by a driver, and delivered to our hotel after having dinner. This hotel would have been a $4-500 hotel in the US, but we paid slightly more than $100. Throughout the travel, including the high sped train, and the hotel, it did not seem like we were in China, as things seemed to be nicer than in the USA. Construction was occurring everywhere you looked.  There was an unbelievable dynamism occurring.

A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital

A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital

Thursday:  this was another hectic day. After a quick breakfast, we headed off to the terra cotta soldiers of Qin She Huangdi. The site was massive and overwhelming. We then went to a site that had the swimming pools of the emperor’s favorite concubine. After a massive lunch, we headed to the museum and burial site of China’s only female emperor, Wu Zetain. Dinner was again held, with a bit of overeating, but meeting some of Dr. Liao’s acquaintances in Xi’an.

Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.

Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.

Terra Cotta soldier wanna be's.

Terra Cotta soldier wanna be’s.

A typical lunch scene.

A typical lunch scene.

Today we got to try duck's feet and duck's heads

Today we got to try duck’s feet and duck’s heads

Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung's office

Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung’s office

Our most gratious host, Mr. Yeung.

Our most gracious host, Mr. Yeung.

Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.

Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.

At the swimming pool of the emporer's concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)

At the swimming pool of the emporer’s concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)

Friday: another quick breakfast, and then we headed off to a local Xi’an hospital. This was a private hospital, and they were in the process of building an entirely new hospital, which we toured in the construction phase. It is 27 floors,  1000 beds, with both in and outpatient facilities in the same structure. They then held a conference to ask our ideas on forming a more American style service to the hospital. The hospital is private, in that it was owned 80% by the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and 20% by other investors. After lunch, we went to a museum of ancient history, where relics from s far back as the Shang dynasty were on exhibit, going up to the Tang dynasty. I was amazed at the exquisite character of the workmanship in the bronze material. Xi’an has the largest complete still existing city wall in the world. It was huge, 15 km in length, and bounded by a river. We looked at the gate which was essentially the starting point for the silk road. There were amazingly no tourists there, but it was an impressive site. After paying a visit to a local Catholic church, where they were having a Bible study, we headed off to dinner.

Part of the 15 km wall of Xi'an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.

Part of the 15 km wall of Xi’an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.

Saturday: We checked out of our hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel that I’ve stayed in ever. There was even a private sauna in our room. We went to breakfast, and then visited the large Buddhist temple in town. Xi’an was one of the main towns that promoted Buddhism early on in its introduction to China, so it was a significant town for Buddhism. The restaurant experience for lunch was most unique, as Betsy and I saw foods that we never dreamt to be possible. Duck feet and duck heads, chicken feet, squid, frog legs, and vegetables that I have never even heard of before. The food was Anhui, which I’d probably avoid in the future.  We later stopped at the largest hospital in Xi’an, and drifted around. It certainly was large enough for over 2000 in-patients. Next stop was the airport. So far, we’ve been in a city of 22 million, and 8 million. We are now heading to Chongqing,a city of 11 million persons. Small towns just are a bit hard to find. Dr. Liao’s two older brothers met us for dinner. Dinner in Chongqing was at a hot pot, where each seat has a hot plate that has a sauce pan with boiling water with spices. You take various items and cook them yourself to eat. The hot pot was first done done in Chongqing.

Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.

Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.

The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.

The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.

Sunday- this was a lazy day. We started out by hitting a McDonalds for Betsy’s sake for breakfast. Mike left us alone to tend to family issues, and we were able to spend a relaxing morning in our hotel room. We took a long walk along the Changjiang (Yangtzi River), while Mike went to help resolve family issues. Later, we met Mike’s brother, who is a physics professor at the University and Susan, who took us to a historical museum in Chongqing where the forces of the Kuomintang slaughtered a large number of Mao supporters who were in prison here. The evening was a family get together, where we met Mike’s parents, and had a large, real Sichuan dinner. Nothing was recognizable except for the kung pao chicken, which was super-hot.

Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.

Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.

Old shopping district in Chongqing.

Old shopping district in Chongqing.

Les Trois Mousquetaires - Two of Mike's three brothers

Les Trois Mousquetaires – Two of Mike’s three brothers

The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.

The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.

Monday- breakfast was at Starbucks! We took a walk again along the Changjiang before checking out of the hotel. Mike’s brother, the physics professor, picked us up from the hotel, and we went down to the center of town, which was a large shopping center with super-rich shops such as would be found in Bellevue, or on the Kö. Lunch included the standard Sichuan cuisine, which was quite hot and spicy, but very flavor-able. Much of the food was unrecognizable to us, and contained very strange creatures. We then dashed to the airport, flew to Hangzhou, and was picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, who taught traditional Chinese medicine at the medical school in town. This includes using acupuncture, herbal medicines and things of the like. Every hospital has traditional medicine doctors, who are used in treating select illnesses. We got to our hotel by 9pm and collapsed. The area of the hotel is called the Xihu Qu, or the Westlake District, the most expense real estate in all of China. I’m told that Hangzhou was an area of the first experiments in capitalism in China, and there was clear success.

Mike's sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake

Mike’s sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake

Pagoda on WestLake

Pagoda on WestLake

Tuesday—after breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, and toured a number of museums and places of interest. The museums in Hangzhou were all free, making it nice. We first went to a silk museum, where they had on display historical silks from many mons ago. They also had a nice display of the silk making process. We went to a large experimental farm established by one of the emperors from several hundred years ago. We toured a ceramic museum, which showed the development of porcelain from ceramics many moons ago. We went to one of the large pagodas on the banks of Xihu. There was lunch, and the took a long walk around Westlake, including a boat ride to one of the islands in the lake. The Xihu (Westlake) area is like one massive park on steroids, very popular and thus very crowded even in slow times, though not often visited by foreigners. It is meticulously cared for, massive flower beds, and most beautiful. We had dinner on the lake. Hangzhou is known for its particular cuisine, which is not hot, but distinctly different from other Chinese cuisines. The food tends to have more fish in it, and tends to have a more slimy character. After dinner we were tired, stuffed, and wanted to crash.

WestLake area

WestLake area

View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda

View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda

Scene on WestLake

Scene on WestLake

Mike searching for directions

Mike searching for directions

Wednesday—This was a slower day for us. We spent much time walking along Xihu, people watching, buying tea and other things, eating at Burger King (not as good as the US), and then drifting on back to the hotel. We then met Dr. liao’s brother-in-law, who is working on a PhD in constitutional law in Beijing. He took Mike and I on an extended tour of our hotel side of the lake (Xihu). We again visited a number of museums, and then tried this famous local dessert made out of the powder of the lotus plant root. It tasted good, but was a bit slimy in texture, but is well liked by Chinese. We had dinner in a very popular restaurant along the shore of Xihu, and the restaurant where Mike was married. Dr. Liao’s nephew Andy was with us, 11 years old, and who will be starting boarding school in Connecticut this August.

Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.

Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.

Mike's brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.

Mike’s brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.

Outside of one of the museums with Mike's brother in law.

Outside of one of the museums with Mike’s brother in law.

Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.

Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.

Scene from the WestLake park.

Scene from the WestLake park.

Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.

Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.

Thursday—today we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law and taken to the train station. The ride was one hour from Hangzhou to Shanghai. In Shanghai, we first found our hotel, and then took a cab ride to the international district. We saw the building where Mao and twelve people wrote the constitution for China, and then we went out to eat at a faux-German restaurant. The beer was good, food very so-so. Afterwards, we walked along the riverfront, looking at the buildings of Shanghai, and slowly drifted home. Hangzhou was a small town of only 3 million people and 8 million in the metropolitan area, but Shanghai had 10 million in the city and 20 million in the whole area, a little bit larger city.

Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I

Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I

Friday—today is a lazy day, with a focus on shopping. We went to two shopping areas, where we focused on buying tea, porcelain, and gifts for the kids. The first shopping district was close to our hotel, anf a very long shopping road, off limits to cars, and with very fancy shops. We then hopped in a taxi, and went to a very large shopping center with a Ming dynasty architecture motive. This place was huge, we spent all of our renminbis, and had an awesome time. We then got ready for dinner, hopped the subway to the other side of the river that runs through Shanghi, and went into a very large shopping center, larger than anything that I’ve ever seen in the US. It was a total of thirteen floors. Before entering, we got an appreciation for the building architecture of the new Shanghi, which is beyond anything found in America. Dinner tonight was with Drs. En and Mrs. Li. He taught biochemistry and did biochemical research at Harvard University, before getting a job working for Novartis, back home in Shanghai. China, because of its burgeoning economic status, is extremely favorable for scientists, and it is very easy for me to see why. Dinner, by the way, was probably the best meal we ever had in China, though entirely Chinese. En has apparently lived long enough in the US to know what the American taste would like.

Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.

Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.

Typical buildings in Shanghai

Typical buildings in Shanghai

More very creative architecture in Shanghai

More very creative architecture in Shanghai

Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups

Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups. Note that Oma cares for the baby.

Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.

Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.

Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

 

Saturday—we are eager to get home, though we have most thoroughly enjoyed China, and it is sad to say goodbye. A cab ride got us to the train station, and the train from Shanghai to Beijing was 5 hours, with 5 stops. It was mostly through very flat farmland. In Beijing, a friend of Mike’s picked us up and shuttled us to the airport, a little over an hour drive, and giving us our last taste of crazy Chinese driving. The flight home was 9 hours. We left Beijing at 4:30 pm and arrived in Seattle the same day at noon. It was two days packed into one. After saying goodbye to our dear friend Mike, Sarah shuttled us home. We unpacked, and noted piles of tea, as well as no broken porcelain. It was good to be home.

Thoughts on China…

Just a few minor observations. Cars… Brother Dennis purchased a Chinese vehicle in Belize, which was a total piece of junk. I anticipated that I would see cities full of junky cars and rickshaws, bicycles, and baby taxis, like in India. Instead, there were no rickshaws or baby taxis, almost no bicycles, and the most popular car was the Mercedes Benz, followed closely by the other German cars, BMW and VW. Chinese cars are reportedly next in popularity, followed by American cars,  and Korean/Japanese cars were the least frequent. I did not see a single Chinese made car until Chongqing, but it was a nice looking sports utility vehicle. Supposedly, they have vastly improved the quality of their vehicles. At the end of two weeks, we saw less than five Chinese built vehicles.

Secondly, the big cities do not have slums. They do have poorer parts of the city, but nothing that I would call a slum. The countryside had some very poor areas, but no worse than found in Belize, Jamaica, Cameroon, or Bangladesh, the “third world countries” that we’ve been to. The dress that people wear is identical to the western world. There was no ability to recognize that you were not in the US or Europe except for the Chinese writing, and that everybody was oriental. There is minimal unemployment in China, as there are no unemployment checks, welfare, food stamps, or anything of that sort. In a strong sense, it is more capitalistic than America! Regardless of your status or education, if out of a job, you will take anything in order to survive. The state will not be your nanny. There are no messy employment laws, and you can fire an employee at will. Employers tend to treat their employees well. One morning, we saw at a clothing store and then at a restaurant all of the employees out in front of the store doing Zumba like exercises. Many larger firms will have a cafeteria for free lunch. Our friend also had a large library at his firm for employees to encourage their continued education.

Thirdly, traffic is absolutely horrid in China. Why most the cars do not have bumps and scrapes is a total mystery to me. An American traffic cop would find violations literally every second. People use the shoulders of expressways as a passing lane. People run red lights. Cars do not yield to pedestrians but vice versa. People will aggressively violate every traffic rule on the books to pass a car in front of them. I watched my taxi driver pull into the on-coming lane of a four-lane road in order to beat a traffic light. I could not ride in the front seat of a car. Historically, I feared the taxi drivers of NYC. Now, China has exceeded that 10-fold. Next time I go to China, I bring mass quantities of Valium if I anticipate an automobile ride.

Fourthly, the Chinese put a very high value on family and relationships. This is a little odd, since their value for human life is less than in the US. Everywhere we went, we saw grandparents with grandchildren. I was surprised to see that the state was not raising the child, but the grandparents. In family relationships, the grandparents are usually asked permission for any major decision, such as marriage.  The eldest son held priority in family decisions. Nursing homes did not exist, as the children were expected to care for their aging parents. I did not expect this.

Fifthly, the language and poetry are important. Everywhere you go, you see poetry. Apparently, the Chinese language lends itself easily to poetic expression. We would see signs not to walk on the grass, and it was written in a poetic fashion (so I am told by Dr. Liao).  The Chinese hold those who are masters at poetry in the highest regard. And, the person in recent history who excelled in poetry was none other than Chairman Mao.

Sixthly, Mao Ren Zi (Chairman Mao) is the most poorly represented person in the west. Before my visit to China, I viewed Mao as nothing but a beast who slaughtered millions of people. That is perhaps true, but it lacks the full impact of who this man was. Why is it that Mao now has a near 100% acceptance rating in China? Why is he generally appreciated everywhere in China, and not because it is forced on the Chinese people? As mentioned above, the Chinese knew that Mao was most brilliant, and had a mastery of the language beyond most intellectuals. His poetry is everywhere, because it was very well done. During the years that Mao was chairman, he changed the Chinese language for the good, like having the symbols simplified. The Chinese now read and write right to left, like we do. Why? They used to write up to down and backwards, but Mao had that changed. Mao not only liberated the farmers, but also women, stopping crazy practices like feet binding, and giving them more rights. Secondly, the greatest problem with all Chinese emporers and rulers was serious corruption. If one faulted Mao for anything, it certainly was not corruption. Chaing Kai Shek was very corrupt, and the peasants knew it well, which is why they flocked in support of Mao. Mao had no love for the privileged elite, and exalted the poor peasants to a better living. That is seen well in China nowadays, with there being many multi-millionaires, but the farmers in the countryside have a reasonably good living in comfortable circumstances, and not as it was before 1949. With the current corruption in government, there is a sense of nostalgia for a leader who could act for everybody’s best interest without corruption. People often cite the fact that Mao murdered millions ruthlessly. Actually, most of the deaths under Mao’s watch were from serious mistakes that he made, and most people in China acknowlege that. I am referring to the great leap forward, and to the cultural revolution, which were truly stupid mistakes, which led to millions of Chinese dying, though not intentionally by Mao. One cannot forget history. China is a somewhat diverse group of people, with 56 ethnic groups, multiple religions, and multiple languages. In my reading of Chinese history, I don’t know of a single emporer that did not have to do a major “purge” to acquire unity and control of the country. Now, perhaps unity in China is not a good thing, but that is not something that I would propose—I don’t wish to be like the French, who felt the a united Germany (back in 1870) was not a good thing, since they would lose control of the weak individual German states. In any case, power was used consistently to achieve unity in the country. Finally, many in China view there to be two major revolutions in the country. The first was with the rise of the Qin dynasty, a very short dynasty from 221 to 206BC, and best known for the terra cotta warriors. What most don’t realize, was that the Qin leaders were quite ruthless at leading to the unity of the country. They also unified the language, and standardized many things, such as the width of wagon wheels. Important? Think about India, that has 5 different gauges for the railroads. That wasn’t to happen in China, because of wise but strong leadership. The second revolution was with Mao. Mao is now gone, and we are able to speak freely about him. There is much wrong with Mao, and I don’t think that the ends ever justifies the means. No doubt, Chairman Mao is a complex person, and my attempt to understand why he has such a pull in Chinese society at this time now has a little better insight.

Finally, what about “communist” China? Are they “communist” only in that the leadership is not necessarily elected, and that they do not permit criticism of the government? In China at this time, that is not bad, because the leaders have been capable of brilliant leadership. What about restrictions of speech? Facebook is not allowed in China, as well as many other forms of social networking. But then, homosexuality and pornography are also not allowed. Is that bad? I wish it were so in the USA. Meanwhile, the USA is far more communistic and socialistic than China. Perhaps we need to re-think the corruption and evil than rules strong in Amerika?

In conclusion, this trip to China was fantastic, and Betsy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourself. The food was sometimes slightly wearisome, but was always quite good – just not what we are used to. The mass crowds were also a little challenging. China was nothing like we expected, and the wealth and immensity was overwhelming. I now have a feel for Marco Polo returning to Italy only to find that nobody could believe his fantastic tales of China. China truly is dazzling, and the people everywhere were friendly. Most signs had English translations, suggesting that we Amerikans are still welcome in China. Hopefully, we don’t create an artificial war that treats China like an enemy. They have no interest in war, as their internal problems are great enough. I would hope that politicians could see China as a friend, understanding the differences that separate our two countries.

Sierra Sampler 2013

September 17th, 2013

SierraSampler-24

Sierra Sampler with the Adventure Cycle Association

(Note – click on individual photos to see larger views of them)

06SEPT2013-Jonny and I were able to leave Puyallup at 1700, arriving in Roseburg, Oregon at 2300. Traffic out of Puyallup was horrid, being stop and go until past Olympia. Portland also had  bad traffic through Wilsonville.

07SEPT2013- we followed Google maps advice, avoiding Sacramento, and arriving at Donner state park at about 2:15. After unloading our stuff, we headed  with our bikes up Donner Pass to the ski area, where we parked our cars and then rode our bikes back to camp, about 7 miles. The view of the lake was fantastic, as well as the  railroad that could be seen with its many tunnels. The Garmin data are below…

Jon on Donner Pass with the rail in the background

Jon on Donner Pass with the rail in the background

On Donner Pass looking down onto Donner Lake

On Donner Pass looking down onto Donner Lake

First day introduction

First day introduction

The food line-at Donner State Park

The food line-at Donner State Park

Jerry showing us how to wash dishes

Jerry showing us how to wash dishes

08SEPT2013 – Truckee to South Lake Tahoe.  This was a little more uppy-downy than I expected, but beautiful. It started out freezing cold, and became quite hot by noon. Fortunately, the ride was completed soon after noon, and all of the riders (33+) all did well and had a great itme. Beer never tasted so good after such a ride. The meals were also catered and were quite delectable. I worried about gaining weight on this venture! The Garmin data are below…

Squaw Valley Ski area

Squaw Valley Ski area

Jon grinning like a hedgehog

Jon grinning like a hedgehog

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Jon taking a very brief rest

Jon taking a very brief rest

Lake Tahoe (again)

Lake Tahoe (again)

The mountains around Lake Tahoe

The mountains around Lake Tahoe

Lunch stop on the ride to South Lake Tahoe

Lunch stop on the ride to South Lake Tahoe

Am Stand bei Tahoe See

Am Stand bei Tahoe See

09SEPT2013- Luther Pass- because of the fire, the decision was made to do only the first pass, then turn around. We were then shuttled to a small resort (Virginia Creek Settlement). The climb to Luther Pass started like the day before, quite chilly at first, with the fingers feeling frozen until about 9:30 am. The ride otherwise went well. The shuttle bus ride took us through Topaz, and then south on 395 down to Bridgeport.

Luther Pass?

Luther Pass?

Übernachten hier. Blick droben am Dach - gibt es einen Mann im Fass so dass  du kannst die Fussen sehen

Übernachten hier. Blick droben am Dach – gibt es einen Mann im Fass so dass du kannst nur die Fussen sehen

10SEPT2013- VCS to Lee Vining via Bodie. We were given three options regarding rides before going down to Lee Vining. Jon and I went to Bodie, which is now a ghost town, but once had a population of 15000.  It is now a state park.  The ride was quite a climb, but three miles before the town of Bodie, the road turned into gravel. Unfortunately, the gravel was loose and irregular, making it very challenging to travel on.  Jon and I got shuttled to the town, but on return, the bicycle rack came loose, so we rode the last 50 meters of gravel. Quite a few people actually rode the gravel. The last 19 miles was a ride south to Lee Vining, a small town just below Mono Lake.   The only obstacle was Conway Pass, made most difficult by roadwork, giving large trucks and bicyclists the same lane to contend with.

Where the road to Bodie turns to gravel

Where the road to Bodie turns to gravel

The church in Bodie - as dead as the town

The church in Bodie – as dead as the town

Main street USA

Main street USA

The mines of Bodie

The mines of Bodie

The upper class part of town

The upper class part of town

Conway Summit

Conway Summit

Mono Lake view

Mono Lake view

Another view of Mono Lake more easterly

Another view of Mono Lake more easterly

11SEPT2013- Tioga Pass. This was a there-and-back experience. The climb was a little over 3000 feet, putting us right at the entrance of Yosemite Park. It took us 2 hours to climb, and a most beautiful experience. It was a steady 6-7% grade with a good road surface and adequate shoulder.  My only regret was that we didn’t continue riding down to Tuolomne Meadows, another 8 miles and 1500 feet of elevation back. Oh well. I had done the Pass from the other side on the Tacx trainer, and remember it more difficult than our experience today. It took only 1/2 hour to get down, also an awesome ride with minimal traffic.

The start of Tioga Pass

The start of Tioga Pass

The summit of Tioga Pass off in the distance

The summit of Tioga Pass off in the distance

A Lake near the top of Tioga Pass

A Lake near the top of Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass Lake

Tioga Pass Lake

Jon and I at the summit of Tioga Pass

Jon and I at the summit of Tioga Pass

The Sedona Kid (Norm) also makes it up Tioga Pass

The Sedona Kid (Norm) also makes it up Tioga Pass

12SEPT2013- Lee Vining to Mammoth. This included an appendage 1200 ft 5 mile climb up to a series of lakes sitting north of Mammoth. We took the scenic route into Mammoth, rather than the highway. Since we arrived in Mammoth early (about 11 am), Jon and I decided to head up to Lake Mary. It started to drizzle once at Lake Mary, and so returned to the RV camp in Mammoth where we were staying.

Lake on the June Lake Bypass

Lake on the June Lake Bypass

Deadman's Pass

Deadman’s Pass

Lake Mary

Lake Mary

13SEPT2013- Today was exploration out of the town of Mammoth.  Our first venture went toward the Devils Postpile, but stopped where one entered the park, where there was a great view of the Minarets. Afterwards, Jon and I decided to return to Lake Mary, and go beyond. Oddly, the climb today now seemed much shorter than yesterday, and we had the wonderful opportunity of Tom S. giving us a guided tour of the entire area around Lake Mary, including Twin Lakes, and Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe Lake was unusual, in that seismic activity has caused carbon dioxide to come up from the ground and kill many of the surrounding trees.

Wandblumen

Wandblumen-Tom, Pete, Norm

Wandblumen at Horseshoe Lake

Wandblumen at Horseshoe Lake

14SEPT2013- The trip home. We were shuttled back to where our cars were parked today. The bus trip was a 4 hour venture. Jon and I promptly loaded our cars and headed home. We arrived in Puyallup at 0130 the next morning, a 13 hour drive through Susanville, Klamath Falls, Bend, Government Camp, and up I-5 to Puyallup. We were tired but had a great time.

Thoughts on the trip:

1. It was a delight to have time with Jon. We need to do this more.

2. The Adventure Cycle Association could not have done a better job at running this tour. The staff were all quite enthused about cycling, and the organization was impeccable. We had to make some unfortunate serious changes to the original route plan. This was in our best interest, and worked out quite well. I can highly recommend this trip (or any trip with the ACA). Special thanks to Melinda, Meredith, Cammie, Jerry, Don, and Bob, you all were fantastic!

3. Camera – The problem with the Canon EOS M camera is that in bright sunlight, it is impossible to see exactly what is being displayed on the screen. I guess I’m too used to looking through a viewfinder. Also, a better variety of lenses is imperative. I’m thinking that this camera is my best option for road biking. Perhaps the new Canon SL1 (super-light slr camera) with 18 mpx and a 18-135 mm zoom would be a lighter option for when I’m on my CoMotion. I’m not going to rush out and buy yet another camera, as I love my Canon 6D, but it is heavy, and best served with a tripod to give the best possible landscape photos.

4. Arriving back in Puyallup, I’m in the rain and again fighting cancer. It’s hard to return to reality. I always rode by bike in the rain and snow when I was a kid, so why is it a problem now?  Does everybody become soft when they become an old fart? This morning, I did the TacX trainer ride up the west side of Tioga Pass and konked out at two hours, drenched in sweat. I think I need another bicycle vacation.

Iron Horse Trail to Snoqualmie Pass

September 17th, 2013

IronHorse-3Iron Horse Trail over Snoqualmie Pass –

The Iron Horse Trail goes across much of Washington state, though it has its interruptions in various spots. The trail is a converted rail track, and is almost entire gravel, thus best meant for mountain bikes or fat tire bicycles. There are a number of tunnels on the trail, including the 2.5 mile tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass.

East side of tunnel

East side of tunnel

West side of tunnel

West side of tunnel

The trail goes over some of the existing railroad bridges. The sights are a beauty. The only problem with the trail is that it parallels I-90, so that one is always able to hear the roar of traffic off in the distance. Except for that, the condition of the trail is excellent, and it never goes over a 3-4% grade. One does need headlights for the tunnel, as it is pitch-black inside. The day that I rode the trail, the weather was good, and so there were many people on the trail. It appeared as though parents would drop groups of children off at the top of the trail (by the tunnel) and then pick them up at the bottom. Those poor children never had the opportunity of what was most enjoyable about the trail, which is the joy of riding UP the trail.

Railroad bridge

Scene of the mountains from the Iron Horse trail

Scene of the mountains from the Iron Horse trail

The Garmin data are as follows…

By the way, I also saw a number of touring bicycles going over the pass. I’m sure they were headed for the distant eastern Washington. I wish them happy trails in their journeys.

Cycling from Salem to Hood River

August 24th, 2013

SalemHoodRCycle-2

 

Salem, Oregon to Hood River, Oregon on bicycles with Aaron Hughes 21-24 August

Day #1 – Salem to Detroit
I stayed overnight with Aaron and Anita, so that Aaron and I could be on the road by 9 am. We took off, following the main highway out of Salem and across Santiam Pass. Our first stop was in Detroit.

The "other" Detroit, which is not going backrupt

The “other” Detroit, which is not going bankrupt

The Garmin map and stats of Day #1 are here…

We stayed in a motel in Detroit, and generally rested up that evening.

Day #2 – Detroit to Timothy Lake
This was the most challenging day, with over 6000 feet of climbing (according to the Garmin). The started at Detroit, heading up the Clackamas River Road past Breitenbush, until the turnoff logging road took us straight up to Timothy Lake. At Timothy Lake, I set up camp, while Anita met us and ran away with Aaron for the night. I camped out at the lake. I did my homework, and learned that the Cove Campground was intended for bicyclists and hikers. When we arrived there, it proved to be anything but that, and the campground hosts rudely informed me that I wasn’t welcome, since everything was full. Fortunately, there were three guys with their kids who immediately offered to let me stay on a corner of their campsite. I had a few beers with them, and offered them cigars. It was a nice evening. The photos were from the lake the evening and morning of my stay.

Riding along the Clackamas River road

Riding along the Clackamas River road

My one man tent and bicycle

My one man tent and bicycle

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

More Timothy Lake

More Timothy Lake

The Garmin data for day 2 are here

Day #3 Timothy Lake to Hood River
Overnight, it had rained quite hard, with thunder and lightning. I stayed dry, but most everything else got wet. I slept in a bit longer than I should have, since I knew I had to meet Aaron and Anita at the junction of highway 26 and 35. Putting away a completely soaked tent, I headed off at about 8 am, saying goodby to my kindly hosts. It was a rather persistent climb to our treffpunkt, but arrived only about 6 minutes late, feeling like dogmeat. I was really tempted to have Anita shuttle me to the top of Bennett Pass, but ultimately decided against that. I had already gone over Blue Box Pass, and we had two more passes to negotiate, that over Barlow and that over Bennett Pass. My legs hung in there, though I did have to walk short distances just to utilize other muscles. Here are photos of the day…

Summit of Blue Box Pass

Summit of Blue Box Pass

Mount Hood from the road

Mount Hood from the road

Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.

Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.

Barlow Pass Summit

Barlow Pass Summit

Aaron showing good form

Aaron showing good form

Mount Hood from White River

Mount Hood from White River

Aaron patiently waiting for the tortoise to catch up

Summit of Bennett Pass

Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley

Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley

The Garmin stats for day 3

Our grand total stats are as follows… total distance 165.89 miles, 12,651 feet of elevation gain, and minimally 7000 calories burned. The road would be rated as five stars from Stayton on, but maybe would have gone backroads out of Salem. The arrival into Hood River was also slightly off of our planned route, putting us into the heart of nasty traffic in Hood River. The entire trip had enormous beauty, and was a superb choice. So, we are already planning a trip for next year. If we could get a SAG vehicle, then Aaron and I will do the Pacific Coast starting in Astoria. We would ride lighter bicycles, and do more distance. We’ll see. In two weeks, I do an ACA tour with Jonathan on the east side of the Sierras, so you’ll be seeing a blog of that trip soon.

Adventures in up-state Michigan

July 7th, 2013

Michigan2013-18

Adventures in up-state Michigan, with Dr. Peter T.

Peter and I had been planning this trip for many moons now, down to minor details. Actually, most of the planning was actually done by Peter, and he did a most masterful job of it, even with the foibles that will be noted below. I had arranged with AirCaddy.com and shipbikes.com to get my Randonee touring bicycle back to Michigan. I didn’t want to take my better bicycle, the CoMotion for fear of anything happening to it untoward. The bicycle arrived in Harbor Springs in mint condition.

I arrived in Harbor Springs in far less than mint condition. Two weeks before I was to fly out to Detroit to meet Peter, I was in a bicycle accident. I went for a bicycle ride along the Orting Trail with Betsy, she riding her new Stromer e-bicycle, and me on another bicycle. She was experiencing some discomfort in her buttocks, as is usual when one climbs on a bicycle and rides for 15+ miles, and so decided to call it quits. I ran ahead to get the car. After coming back to where she was waiting for me, I decided to ride the e-bike home and let her drive the car home. Without thinking, I jumped on the bicycle and started pedaling before I was situated on the bicycle. The bicycle power assist kicked in unexpectedly and threw me quite violently down onto the pavement. I noticed some shoulder pain and pain in the side, but didn’t think much of it. I soon realized that I was a touch more injured that I thought. After a quick shower, Betsy took me to the hospital ER, where they found my shoulder in a subluxed (partially dislocated) posterior position. It was the same shoulder that I had anterior dislocated several times while rock climbing, and subsequently had a Bristow repair. It worked at preventing an anterior dislocation, but did nothing to stop a posterior dislocation, which can be a bit more serious. The ER doc got my shoulder back in, and during the next week, I discovered massive bruising over my entire right side, especially over my thigh and leg. I could barely walk. The ER doc told be to leave my shoulder in a sling, something which actually increased my pain, and so I removed it. When I arrived in Detroit, I was on Oxycodone and in serious enough pain that I was only sleeping 3-4 hours/night. Peter didn’t realize that he was taking a total train wreck on an adventure.

Peter was waiting for me at the airport, and our first stop that evening while driving up to Harbor Springs was at Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth is a little vacation village north of Detroit with a distinctly German theme. We stopped for German food, which was given to us in excess, but fitted the bill of being delectable. Quite late that night we arrived at Summerview, Peter’s vacation home in up-state Michigan. My bicycle arrived intact via FedEx (see shipbikes above) and was easily reassembled.

29JUN – trial run – we rode our bicycles from Harbor Springs to Petosky, and had lunch in Petosky before riding back. The weather was cool, but with very few clouds. The week before was quite rainy. Final preparations were made for our adventure. We did a short paddle kayak ride on the bay to help warm up our feet.

Peter in Petoskey

Peter in Petoskey

Summerview

Summerview

Summerview Inside

Summerview Inside

30JUN – Day #1, Harbor Springs to Beaver Island
The ride initially paralleled our ride yesterday to Petoskey, after which we headed south. After rounding several large lakes and crossing a small ferry, we arrived in Charlevoix in order to catch the ferry to Beaver Island which left at 14:30. Beaver Island by ferry took over 2.5 hours.

Boyne City, on Lake Charlevoix

Boyne City, on Lake Charlevoix

Peter in Boyne City

Peter in Boyne City

Ferry ride #1 of 5

Ferry ride #1 of 5

The Beaver Islander ferry

The Beaver Islander ferry

01JUL – Day #2, Beaver Island to Indian River
Because the ferry didn’t leave the island until until 11:20, Peter and I had some time to explore part of the island by bicycle. Most of the roads on the island are dirt roads, and not very stable, with a lot of loose sand and gravel. Once the ferry  brought us back to Charlevoix, the ride was at first the most beautiful of all along the lower lip of Little Traverse Bay en route to Petoskey. Past Petoskey, it was another story. Pickerel Lake Road was a bit hilly for my traumatized corpse, but then we hit some gravel road, which was truly not nice. Gravel can be fun to ride on, but this wasn’t. It was loose scree and quite unstable, while the last thing I needed was another fall. We finally made it to Indian River, and not having had lunch, had hoped for a restaurant or store close to our reserved cabin. The cabin ended up being five miles out of Indian River. We arrived there about 6 pm, and everything was closed. It was a resort with cabins beside a lake. It looked great on the website, and was quite adequate for us, but not exactly what the webpage pictured it as. Everything was closed, and dinner would have meant a 5 mile ride back into town. So, dinner became a whiskey sour, gummy bears, and a good cigar. We survived.

King Doug's place on Beaver Island

King Doug’s place on Beaver Island

The cycle route to Petoskey

The cycle route to Petoskey

 

Little Traverse Bikepath was well marked

Little Traverse Bikepath was well marked

02JUL – Day #3, Indian River to St. Ignace via Mackinac Island
The ride to Mackinaw City was quite pleasant, being either quiet country roads or well-graveled rails-to-trails paths. Cheboygan was our first stop for breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy. We then stayed on the highway to Mackinaw City, caught the ferry to Mackinac Island, and did the obligatory loop of the island by bicycle. Mackinac Island does not permit automobiles or motorized vehicles, and so there were many bicycles and horse-drawn carraiges on the island. It was a beautiful tourist trap par excellence, but that did not lessen the delights of beer and ice cream on the island. From the island, the ferry took us to St. Ignace, where we stayed at an old historic hotel, the Boardwalk, right across from the ferry terminal.

Breakfast with Bob

Breakfast with Bob

Ferry #4 to Mackinac Island

Ferry #4 to Mackinac Island

 

Mackinac Island street scene

Mackinac Island street scene

Mackinac Island horse carraiges

Mackinac Island horse carraiges

 

Ferry #5 - a fast ferry

Ferry #5 – a fast ferry

03JUL – Day #4, St. Ignace to Harbor Springs

We had breakfast at the hotel and headed off. They do not allow bicycles on the bridge, and so we had to identify an obscure point where one caught the shuttle. The Garmin map shows us doing a few loops in search of a wooded footpath that took us to the toll gate at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge. Back in Mackinaw City, we headed west along upper Lake Michigan to Cross Village. On the way, we encountered some beautiful sand dunes where we stopped for a rest. From Cross Village, the road went inland and hilly, but never steep. It was typical forest and meadow as is seen in upper Michigan.

Awaiting the shuttle to take us across the Mackinac Bridge

Awaiting the shuttle to take us across the Mackinac Bridge

04JUL – rest day, not doing much. I re-packaged my bicycle, as Peter went to pick up Tina. We went into town to watch fireworks. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode, a thing of the past, with lots of American flags, and red, white, and blue banners decorating the homes. There were many families out for the evening, eating ice cream cones and walking the streets.

05JUL – sailing. Peter decided to get out the sail boat and go for a ride. Tina and I haplessly accompanied Peter on an adventure across the lake, having no clue as to how to sail a sailboat. Fortunately, Peter knew what to do, and we had a marvelous as well as very sunny time on Little Traverse Bay. It’s amazing how peaceful it is on a sailboat.

The boat

The boat

Admiral Peter takes the helm

Admiral Peter takes the helm with Tina watching

Full sail into the bay

Full sail into the bay

First mate Ken

First mate Ken

 

06JUL – it’s never easy to say goodby when one has had a great time. I was feeling better, and the bicycle ride actually removed most of my aches. The Detroit area had many boarded up homes, and the airport was rather empty. It was nice to see Betsy again as I hit down at SeaTac Airport.

Total Ride Statistics

Day #1  69.56 km, time 4:38, 467 meters elevation gain, 2265 cal, 15 km/hr average speed

Day #2 85.29 km, time 4:57, 665 meters elevation gain, 2658 cal, 17.3 km/hr average speed

Day #3 74.07 km, time 4:00, 345 meters elevation gain, 2086 cal, 18.8 km/hr average speed

Day #4 69.83 km, time 3:37, 569 meters elevation gain, 2353 cal, 19.9 km/hr average speed

Total 298.75 km  (186 miles), time 17 hours and 12 minutes, 2046 meters climbed (6713 feet), 9362 calories burned up just from riding.

It is interesting that it appeared that our performance seemed to improve day by day, and since I was slowing down Peter, probably suggested that I was recovering from the trauma several weeks ago.

 

Deutschland 2013

June 18th, 2013

Germany2013-107

Germany with Jonny


My first trip to Germany was in 2003, with Rachel and Diane. Now, I am here with Jonny.  We spent the last few months organizing this trip, intending it at first to be oriented around bicycles. That became logistically challenging, and so I needed to change the trip to focus on what I felt to be important. Our focus was on friends, the Reformation, and music, especially JS Bach.

25MAY-26MAY – the plane left fairly early from Seattle, stopping in Chicago for a five hour lay-over. We arrived in Dùsseldorf at 10 am on 26 MAY. We dropped off our luggage at the Schließfach in the Hauptbahnhof, found our way to the Altstadt and Rhein, had a Döner, picked up our bags, and headed to our hotel. We immediately crashed. Later, we walked back to the Altstadt for dinner. Herbert, unfortunately, had recent doggie problems as well as internet problems, and so we were unable to connect with him.

 

27MAY- Kõln – After having breakfast at the hotel, we wandered down to the train station, and hopped the train to Köln. It was a 1/2 hour ride, with the train leaving us right beside the Köln cathedral (Kölner Dom). After touring the church, we tried to go up into the towers, but that was no longer permitted. We spent much time walking the streets of Köln, going to the Minoritenkirche, where the grave of Johannes Duns Scotus lies. Jonny and I had a bier at the Früh Brauerei, and then walked across the Rhein on the rail and foot bridge, After eating, having a bretzen and Berliner, we headed back to Dūsseldorf. We again went for a walk to the Altstadt, stopping for a bier, and later a Döner. It was a full day!

Kölner Dom

Kölner Dom

 

28MAY-Heidelberg- We arrived at 10 am in Heidelberg. The hotel was immediately next to the train station, so I thought we could try to drop our bags off, since it would be a long walk to the city center. They ended checking us in right then. Jon and I then took off to the city. The main street was about 1.5 km from the train station, and is several km long, lined with touristy shops and restaurants. We visited the Heilig Geist Kirche, where Olivianis and Ursinis preached.  After crossing the Alte Brüche, we ascended a steep winding path called the Schlangen Weg, to come to the Philosophen Weg. We sat there for a bit, watching the clouds all disappear into a gorgeous day, philosophized, appreciated gorgeous views of the city, and then returned. The Heidelberg Castle was next on our list, a short climb from the Altstadt, and noting the moderate number of walls destroyed in the numerous wars that the town had to suffer through. After a bit more beer (Heidelberg beer of course), we retreated back to the hotel for a snooze.

 

Schloss Heidelberg

Schloss Heidelberg

29MAY- Leinach/Würzburg. Today was a busy day. After waking up early and hurrying to the train station, Jonny and I got on the train to Würzburg, transferring in Frankfurt. Hannes picked us up in Retzbach-Zellingen, and took us immediately to Festung Marienburg, the large fortress in Würzburg. Würzburg was uniquely controlled by an archbishop that was also a prince, called an Fürst-Erzbischoff. The fortress was immense and quite spectacular, one of the many homes in the Würzburg area for the archbishop. One of the chambers was a prison cell where the famous artist Reimenschneider was incarcerated for nine months for assisting in the peasants’ war. We returned to Leinach, and moaned over the absence of Herbert.  We then took off to dinner. This was at a hospital in Würzburg started in the 16th century by one of the rulers of Würzburg, the hospital being called Juliusspital. It was an amalgam of part of a medical school, the Röntgen institute (where x-rays were discovered, a hospital, and, to fund the entire venture, a massive (and I really mean massive) winery. After dinner, we toured the winery and then had a long wine-tasting session. The wines were completely superb. Arriving back home, we discovered with great delight that Herbert had arrived and was waiting for us. This ended up being a late night, chatting with Herbert and catching up on matters. The day was quite cold and rainy, and my only regret was that I did not bring my camera for the tour of the Juliusspital. It was like nothing you’d ever find in America, a large winery connected to a famous medical institution. Interestingly, the hospital was largely destroyed in WWII, and so the hospital moved down into the wine cellar until the hospital could be rebuilt. It was a most fascinating day.

 

Festung Marienburg in Würzburg

Festung Marienburg in Würzburg

 

Herbert

Herbert

 

Large Riemenschneider carving

Large Riemenschneider carving

 

Katja, Hannes, Herbert

Katja, Hannes, Herbert

30MAY- Today, we first took Gustav for a walk among the wheat and raps fields out in the countryside. We then took a long drive to Rothenburg, an old medieval city that is still fully operational, though entirely for tourists. On the way to Rothenburg, we stopped in a small church that housed one of the spectacular Riemenschneider carvings. We had dinner at Hannes and Katja’s, and enjoyed the Gemütlichkeit of good friends.

 

Rothenberg

Rothenberg

31MAY- Jonny and I took off early to the train depot, And had a comfortable ride from Retzbach to Würzburg to Fulda and finally to Leipzig. Here we met Carsten at the Bahnhof, checked into our hotel, re-connected for coffee, and then spent several hours at the Bach museum. Finally, we went to Carsten and Annett’s house for a barbecue. It was most wonderful, meeting up with the family again. While waiting for Carsten before coffee, we visited the Thomaskirche, where we were able to see a portion of a practice performance of Wachet Auf.

 

Jonny and I with Carsten

Jonny and I with Carsten

 

Rabea lights the bbq

Rabea lights the bbq

01JUN- Today was very busy with Carsten and Annett. We started out at a museum that documented the DDR years in East Germany. It was well done, and portrayed much of both politics and daily life in the DDR. We then went to Carsten’s parents for lunch and had rabbitt. It was very good. A mad dash to the church allowed us to enjoy a service with the Thomanerchor. They performed Jesu meine Freude, as well as Wachet auf. I got to chat briefly with the cantor Georg Christoph Biller afterwards; he is a very kindly humble man. We visited a large artificial lake outside of Leipzig, and then watched some football (FC Munchen v Stuttgart), and finally took a long walk downtown in the rain. It was hard to say goodby.

 

Thomanerchor in the Thomas Kirche

Thomanerchor in the Thomas Kirche

 

Jonny at the top of the Thomas Kirche

Jonny at the top of the Thomas Kirche

02JUN- Eisenach… Boarding the train early from Leipzig, we headed off to Eisenach. On arrival, we first headed to the church where Luther did many of his first sermons, located right at the city gate. We then headed off to the church where Luther also preached, but where JS Bach was baptized. There was a service going on, so we we unable to go into the church. We dashed off to the Bach Haus, where Bach was probably born. They had turned it into a museum, that had an excellent exhibit of his life and compositions. We then strolled on a forest path up to the Wartburg, where we experienced a tour in English. One of the first stops was the Elizabeth Kaminate, where the Saint Elizabeth from Hungary lived, and who Betsy was named after. It was the most beautiful room of the castle. The last stop on the tour was the Lutherstube where Luther translated the New Testament into the German language. We then headed back the forest path to the train station to Erfurt.

 

Bachhaus Eisenach

Bachhaus Eisenach

 

Festung Wartburg

Festung Wartburg

 

Lutherstube

Lutherstube

03JUN- Erfurt and Weimar. After waking up, we headed into the old town where we crossed the Krämer Brucke, the oldest bridge in recorded history in which shops lined the sides of the bridge. We went to the Augustiner Kloster where Luther became a monk, and saw rooms where he lived and prayed. This was a guided tour, though in German, and a little more extensive than the last time I visited with Herbert and Betsy. We then headed to the Erfurter Dom, a huge church, now Catholic again, on the edge of town. This was the largest church in town, though it only seats a few people. Next to it is the smaller but roomier St. Severus church. After having a Thüringer Bratwurst mit Brötchen, and Budweiser beer (the real Budweiser), we headed back to the train station, and went to Weimar. Weimar was a little more relaxed, with lots of Shiller and Goethe sites, the giant Palace that became the headquarters of the Weimar Republic, and a stroll in the park took us to the house where Liszt lived for a few years. We were ultimately exhausted, and headed back to the hotel, stopping for dinner on the way.

 

Erfurt  - the oldest ever built up bridge over a river

Erfurt – the oldest ever built up bridge over a river

 

Jonny sitting in Luther's spot in church

Jonny sitting in Luther’s spot in church

 

Luther's Schlafzimmer

Luther’s Schlafzimmer

 

Erfurter Dom

Erfurter Dom

 

Jonny enjoys a brat and Budweiser outside the Erfurter Dom

Jonny enjoys a brat and Budweiser outside the Erfurter Dom

 

Liszt Haus in Weimar

Liszt Haus in Weimar

04JUN- Lutherstadt Wittemburg. Today predominated in train travel. We got up early, hopped the train to Leipzig, and then transferred to go to Lutherstadt Wittemburg. A long walk into town gave us a nice glimpse at the historical sights of Wittemburg. Lunch was at a potato restaurant, that was surprisingly good. Our only great disappointment was that the castle church was under heavy reconstruction and thus not open. A long trainride into München put us into town fairly late in the evening. We checked into our hotel, did a quick dash into town, and crashed.

City square in Lutherstadt Wittemburg with Luther Denkmal

City square in Lutherstadt Wittemburg with Luther Denkmal

 

05JUN- Today centered on Schloss Nymphenburg. We walked into town in the morning, saw the Hofbrauhaus and Viktualenmarkt, and then headed on a very long walk to Schloss Nymphenburg. It remained a very impressive palace, after the style of Versailles, incredibly decorated and with massive gardens and elaborate grden houses. There is also a museum in the castle with sleds and carriages, that were stunning in their elaborate detail and artistry.

 

Carraiges in Schloss Nymphenburg

Carraiges in Schloss Nymphenburg

 

Schloss Nymphenburg

Schloss Nymphenburg

 

Grounds surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg

Grounds surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg

 

One of the buildings in the Schloss Nymphenburg estate,  intentionally designed to look like a ruined building

One of the buildings in the Schloss Nymphenburg estate, intentionally designed to look like a ruined building

 

Inside of above

Inside of above

06JUN- Salzburg is not in Germany, but right on the border, and I was able to use the Rail Pass to get us to this city. Going there was problematic in that a small portion of the track was under water, requiring a short interlude on the bus. Salzburg was as awesome as ever, with nice sunny weather. We walked by the Mozart Geburtshaus, but did not go in. We then went to the Festung Salzburg, the large castle that was inhabited by the Fürst-Erzbischoff of Salzburg. This gave incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains. We were back in München by 4 pm, and had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.

 

Mozart's Geburtshaus

Mozart’s Geburtshaus

 

Salzburg from the castle

Salzburg from the castle

 

Jonny finds a friend

Jonny finds a friend

07JUN- Our last day in Germany was a relatively lazy day, with much walking but little strenuous exercise. Our first destination was the Alte Pinakotec museum, which held paintings of many of the old Dutch painters, including Rembrandt and a large Rubens collections, as well as many German painters, including Cranich and Dürer. The collection was quite awesome, and this museum is well worth a visit. We then went to the Englische Garten for lunch as the Biergarten close to the Chinesische Turm. It was a lazy walk home. That evening, we hopped the city trains to Rob and Jordan Rayburn’s house, and went out to dinner. It was nice seeing these two again, and glad that all is going well, though he is being deployed to Kuwait and she is due to have a baby in September.

 

Rembrandt painting in the Alte Pinakotek

Rembrandt painting in the Alte Pinakotek

08JUN- Home… unfortunately, we have to come home, and I was sorely missing Betsy. She happens to remain my favorite person in life. We had to wake up at 3:30 am, and then catch the S8 train to the airport. We flew first to Frankfurt, and then home, leaving Frankfurt at 10 am and arriving in Seattle at 11 am.

Next trip… hopefully it will be a bicycle ride. We should spend far less time in München, since it is the most expensive city in Germany. I’d like to explore more Southern Germany, the far North (Bremen, Nordsee, Ostsee), and Southeast, including the Schwarzwald, Trier, and areas around there. Hopefully, next time we can connect with the Fuch’s.

Oklahoma 2013

June 16th, 2013

Oklahoma-100

Oklahoma 11-14 APRIL 2013

This is a terribly late posting of a trip we did in April to Oklahoma. Since then, central Oklahoma, where we visited, has gone through some terrible tornadoes. Fortunately, it did not hit our friends. Our main purpose was to visit some old friends, Mark and Penny H. It was a wonderful trip, and always good to see friends that have been gone for a while. The flight was dreadfully long, needing to go through Houston, and thus us not arriving until late Thursday evening, and needing to leave early Sunday morning in order to get home in time for work on Monday. Our time was entirely focused around Mark and Penny. The first day was spent roaming their land, and going to walks.

The dog

The dog

Lindsey in the kitchen

Lindsey in the kitchen

The next day was spent with Mark and Penny downtown. We went out to dinner, and then toured downtown Oklahoma City. It was wonderful, as we did it in a horse and buggy. We even went to where the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. Nothing was left, as they removed the building and turned the square into a large park.

The buggy

The buggy

 

The horse

The horse

 

Place of the Oklahoma City bombing, with memorials to those who died

Place of the Oklahoma City bombing, with memorials to those who died

 

The presence of big oil in the city

The presence of big oil in the city

It was really nice seeing Mark and Penny again, and they will remain dear in our hearts. It’s nice to see their children growing up well, and maturing into young adults. Thank you, Mark and Penny, for the good time.

Oklahoma-103

 

ACA bicycle tour of Death Valley, March 2013

March 17th, 2013

 

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Adventure Cycle Association bicycle trip to Death Valley, California, 9-15 March 2013

This is a trip in demand so I signed up as soon as it became available. I had never been to Death Valley before, and a bicycle trip seems the best introduction. The leaders were Chuck Penguilly and Arlen Hall. I didn’t realize it, but my good friend from another trip, Pat C, had also signed up. We rode together most the time on this trip, making it quite enjoyable. I knew that one night I would be in a group to do the cooking, and so decided on doing Würst and Sauerkraut. For the vegetarians in our group, Kathy was going to make up her special dish, which was also delectable.

Exercise training for the trip was near impossible. I rode regularly with the bicycle mounted on the trainer in the garage. A few outside trips were cold and wet. The last trip went up to near the Carbon River entrance of Mt. Rainier, and good ride with a lot of 18% grade, but leaving me soggy and miserably cold. Death Valley was going to present the opposite extreme of being too dry and too hot.

Preparing the bicycle took special attention. I wanted thicker tires than my 23 mm tires, but the Neutron Campy rims on my Steelman would not take over 25mm wide tires, so I settled for some all-weather 25 mm Continentals that worked out well. I also needed to mount a rack on the back of the bike, which demanded slight modifications, but worked well.

7,8 March I took two days to drive to Pahrump, and it was definitely under winter conditions as I was in snow country starting with the drive over Mt. Hood in Oregon. I stayed the first night in Altrus, CA, driving down through Klamath Falls. California and Nevada was thick with cops pulling people over. Nevada has the most outrageous speed traps where the speed limit jumps wildly from 25 to 70 mph. Fortunately, I escaped the police by using cruise control and watching for speed traps. I managed to arrive in Pahrump in the early evening of the second day, and stayed at the hotel we would meet in the next day. That morning, I took a short trip into Las Vegas, just to see what the drive was like. There was a fairly demanding pass to cross to accomplish the drive.

 The event

09 March Day zero was a meeting at 4 pm, where we all got to know the group leaders, and planned the events such as meals for the week. I roomed up at the Pahrump Best Western with Berle, and mild-mannered man from Wisconsin.

10 March Day 1-The first day was from Pahrump to Furnace Creek. Our first stop was at Wal-Mart, where we had to purchase all of the provisions for the coming week, and put them into coolers in the trailer that was pulled behind the ACA van. Coming out of Pahrump, there were several hills to climb, but with the cool weather, it was fairly easy to accomplish. After that, it was a marvelous downhill descent into Furnace Creek, which sits 177 ft below sea level and known as the hottest place on earth.  There was a swimming pool at Furnace Creek, which was made use of by myself as well as many in our group. I was in the group scheduled to cook, and made Würst and Sauerkraut. Total 101.5 km (63 miles), 3306 calories burned, 457 m (1449 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:05, temperature ranged from 3.0-27.0 C (37-81 F).

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195878#.UUYDNgloNjg.email

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

The Van

The Van

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Outside of Pahrump

Outside of Pahrump

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Welcome to Cafilornia

Welcome to Cafilornia

Approaching Death Valley

Approaching Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

 

More Hills in Death Valley

More Hills in Death Valley

 

Also Hills in Death Valley

Also Hills in Death Valley

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Pat ready to go under water

Pat ready to go under water

The colors of Death Valley

The colors of Death Valley

 

11 March Day 2- Our journey went from Furnace Creek to Mesquite Springs. This was a grunt, because it wasa long uphill, and the weather was hot. A few people got a little dehydrated. The campsite was very primitive, no showers, no electricity, barely any running water, and no trees to hide under. Total 83.6 km (51.9 miles), 3209 calories burned, 927 m (3041 ft) elevation gained, riding time 4:47, temperature ranged from 6-33 C (43-91 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195837#.UUYKLBk19X0.email

Mesquite Springs survival

Mesquite Springs survival

 

The Van at Mesquite Springs

The Van at Mesquite Springs

12 March Day 3- The ride took us from Mesquite Springs 2 miles back up to the main road, and up to Scotty’s Castle. We did a tour of Scotty’s castle, and then rode back to Furnace Creek. The temperature was beginning to affect many in our group. It is so dry, that you don’t accumulate sweat, and thus don’t realize how hot it really is. A few people SAGed part of this trip. It was great to get back to camp. Total 95.3 km (59.2 miles), 3306 calories burned, 754 m (2474 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:07, temperature ranged from 13-42 C (55-108 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195803#.UUYKoaw76p4.email

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty's Castle

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty’s Castle

 

Burrell and I approaching Scotty's Castle

Burrell and I approaching Scotty’s Castle

Pat showing how it's done.

Pat showing how it’s done.

 

It should have been Pattie's Castle

It should have been Pattie’s Castle

 

Scottie's Castle

Scottie’s Castle

 

Wall flowers

Wall flowers

 

Twins Separated at birth

Twins Separated at birth-Dave and Kathy

 

Inside Scotty's Place

Inside Scotty’s Place

 

Scotty's Music Room

Scotty’s Music Room

 

13 March Day 4- This was a rest day. The two van tours included a trip to Salt Creek to see the guppy fish. The other tour was a trip up to Dante’s Peak. One person in the group, Jim, actually rode his bicycle to the top of Dante’s Peak, a cruel 5-6 K feet climb, and hot. I preferred to van-attack the hill, but would have attempted the climb if I knew that the next day would be a rest.  We also toured the visitor’s center, and laid low.

Salt Creek

Salt Creek

 

Death Valley from Dante's Peak

Death Valley from Dante’s Peak

14 March Day 5- This was the hard day, being long, hot, and lots of climbing. It started at Furnace Creek and took us to the south end of Death Valley, going by Badwater, the lowest place in North America. The climb out of Death Valley was problematic because of the heat making it easy to dehydrate. I went through about 4-5 liters of fluid. Pat SAGed a bit of this ride, so I rode either with Rohe and Mike, or alone. Shoshone was a cool, green town in the desert, a nice coasting ride from the summit of the last pass. We went out to a restaurant that night, so nobody needed to cook. Total 117.7 km (73.1 miles), 4773 calories burned, 1768 m (5800 ft) elevation gained, riding time 7:11, temperature ranged from 9-41 C (48-106 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195758#.UUYK_96ZDcA.email

Pat in a very happy moment

Pat in a very happy moment

 

The water was bad here

The water was bad here

 

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

 

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

15 March Day 6- This was the last day, and the ride went from Shoshone back to Pahrump. Pat and I rode together for this. The first pass was actually harder than the first, having an incline of up to 8% grade at the top, whereas the second pass was a straight, gradual incline rarely exceeding 4% grade. We arrived in Pahrump by 10:15, giving us time to pack for the drive home.  Total  45.2 km (28 miles), 1741 calories burned, 554 m (1818 ft) elevation gained, riding time 2:42, temperature ranged from 7.0- 23 C (45-73 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195720#.UUYLKZ0ufTQ.email

Pat returns to awesome form

Pat returns to awesome form

 

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Total workout for the trip includes 443.3 km (275.5 miles) on the bike, 16335 calories burned (from riding, this does NOT include basal metabolic calories, which averages about 1600 – 2200 calories a day, as well as calories expended to stay cool), elevation gain 4,460 meters (14,630 feet), and 24:52 riding time. The climbing would have been equivalent to going from Badwater to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

The drive home for me went from Pahrump up through Battle Mountain on back roads, to Winnemuca, and then up through Burns, Oregon, where I spent the night, and then on to Bend, across Santiam Pass, and up I-5 back to Puyallup, arriving in Puyallup at 4:05 in the evening. In Nevada, even on the most backward roads, the cops were busy pulling people over. Contrariwise, the Oregon drivers seemed to have no clue as to speed limits, and saw only one ticket being given while on I-5. During the drive, which is designed to go on roads I’ve never been on, or recently been on, there was much thinking about the possibility of bicycle tours on those roads. Maybe I need to retire early, because there are a lot of good roads to bicycle on.

So, my assessment of this tour was A+++. Chuck and Arlen were superb tour leaders, and did everything possible to make the tour go well. I’m not sure I would want to ride Death Valley without a SAG vehicle. This is due to the fact that heat and dehydration could easily ruin a good trip, and it would be hard to carry sufficient water, as well as to anticipate both the cold and hot extremes in weather. The Adventure Cycle Association does a superb job of building in the creature-comforts while allowing one to otherwise model the trip as they wish. One couple stayed in hotels close-by part of the time. Others had minor side-agendas. Nobody seemed to be unhappy, and everybody seemed to have a great time, even when they needed to be SAGed. About the only change I would make would be to omit the canned tour of Scotty’s Castle, as it put us into 108F weather for much of the day, maximizing the SAGed riders. An 8:30-9:00 start on the castle tour would make sense, but not later than that. Catered meals would be nice, but it was also fun serving as cook for a day. My observation suggested that the ladies in the group ended up with a disproportionate share of the kitchen activities, which wasn’t good. Only one other suggestion- the ACA definitely needs to invest in an “Arlen-Chair”. He deserves it as he was a real trooper, riding sweep on the worst days, and always being in a cheery frame of mind.

What did I like about Death Valley? 1) It’s unique, it’s geology and landscape not quite like anything else in the US. Rocks of multiple derivations including volcanic basalt, sedimentary rock, and lots of gravel, colors in layer upon layer and pillow upon pillow giving it a special sense of beauty. 2) Odd things, like a water springs in various unexpected places in the Valley. 3) Animal life. I saw coyotes, a road runner, bugs, a scorpion, and fish in the Valley. 4) The stars – at night, the absence of light pollution allows one to see more stars that generally possible in the city. The milky way was quite apparent. I should have brought my star maps. Next time… .

Thoughts on photography. I used my Canon 6D for the first time in the field, and realized how easy it is to accommodate the camera to the situation. I did not put the camera to its full potential, rarely adjusting the exposure to maximize control of depth of field. I also did not take enough photos, missing many great shots, and not including several participants in our grand event. The best landscape photography utilizes a tripod, which I left back at the car. I also could have used a longer lens at times, especially for wildlife photography. I wanted to use the gps feature on the camera, but that drains the battery even when the camera is off, so I left that function off. The tour schedule was not conducive to great photography, as the best photography finds a scene, and then returns frequently to that scene for the best lighting and optimal conditions. People photos in harsh lighting is near to impossible, and I had to adjust most of the photos to get the faces from being too dark. I wait eagerly for Canon or Nikon to come out with an improved version of the mirrorless camera (eg., the Canon EOS M system), that gives an  ultra-light camera with high definition. The 6D takes 20.2 mPixel full-frame photos, which I captured in RAW format, and utilizes superb lenses, making it ideal for landscapes, but not so good for cycle touring.

So, once more a special thanks to Chuck and Arlen for giving us an awesome time, thanks to Pat C. for being a repeat wonderful and entertaining riding buddy, and to Mike, Rohe, David, Kathy, Jim, Judy, Burrell, Don, Ray, Adele, and Teresa (not in that order), you were all most wonderful to ride with. If you come by my neck of the woods and want to do some riding or touring (or Kathy, sauerkraut consumption), please give me a holler and I’ll take some time off work for it. I’m sure Jim and Judy will attest that the NW, while wet most the time, when dry, is close to paradise for bicyclists.

Jordan-Israel Adventure Part 1

November 26th, 2012

Jordan/Israel Tour

Here is at last a brief summary of our Jordan-Israel tour. We took many photos, over 1300 actually, so only a few will be shown. Because of the length of this, I decided to split it up into three parts, published in reverse chronological order to make it flow normally.

Day 1/2—awoke at 3:30 am to get ready to go. We got to the Seatac airport by 6 am, and was hassle-free getting on the plane. The flight toDulles-Wasghington DC was 4.5 hours, and we then got to meet our companions. We lost three hours from jet-lag. The flight to Wien was overnight, an 8 hour endeavor, with another 5 hour jet-lag loss. The final trip from Wien to Amman was another 4.5 hours, 2 hours more jet-lag loss, and we hit Amman a bit tired, but ready to tour. Our first encounter was with Mo, who would be our guide for the Jordan duration of the tour. He was superb. We had dinner buffet style in the hotel, took a walk around town, and then crashed.

Day 3—awoke at 5:30 for breakfast at 7. We needed to be completely packed for breakfast, since the bus left immediately after breakfast., Our first stop was at the excavasion of  the large Roman Decapolis city of Jaresh, just outside of Amman, it was rather impressive for its size.

Mo

Amphitheater at Jaresh

Part of the group

From there, we went on to Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the promised land, The sky was a bit hazy, so you couldn’t see the best’. Jerico and the plains of the Jordan River stood out. The evening ended with a long ride through the desert in darkness to our hotel at Petra. A few people took a night walk through Petra, but Betsy and i decided to lay low and catch up on Jetlag.

 

Foggy view of Jericho from Mt. Nebo, standing exactly in the spot where Moses stood.

Day 4 Petra—  We were up early for our Petra adventure. They did a light show walk the night before, but Betsy and I turned it down. Petra is much different than I imagined. The Treasury is the most famous building, known to Indiana Jones fans, but the narrow passage is much longer than I thought,, and goes way beyond the Treasury. Betsy and I went beyond, up to the Monastery, where one could see the Negev, and the whole region. I also climbed up to another site, which was called the high place, where the Petra folk would hold sacrifices. It was about 15 miles of walking, and most of that was climbing, but well worth it.

 

Begin of the walk into Petra

Graves on the way into Petra

The walk into Petra, not with Indiana Jones but with Washington Betsy

The Treasury – actually a mortuary site

Camels guarding the Treasury

Trail up to the Monastery

Jon, Betsy, Lynn, Peta, and Ward resting from the climb

Still climbing

A view from higher up the Monastery trail

The Monastery

A marvelously beautiful lady waiting for me on top

Man with Hooka on the trail

Donkey on the Trail

Day 5—Aqaba and the Red Sea.  From Petra, we headed south on the main trade route across the mid-east, headed toward Aqaba. Half-way there, we stopped for a truck ride into the desert at Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. There is actually a mountain there called the seven pillars of wisdom. We stopped to visit some Beduins and buy tea from them. We Finally made it to a fancy Radisson hotel in Aqaba and enjoyed the sunset. We also learned of Obama making it a second term.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum

Desert Jeep ride

Bedoin Tent

The Desert

Betsy loved the camels

 

Aqaba, the Red Sea

Continued in Part 2…

 

Jordan-Israel Adventure Part 2

November 26th, 2012

Day 6—we took off from Aqaba to the Dead Sea by a circuitous route. The crossing into Israel demanded a change in buses. Our first stop was at the southern copper mines, with the pillars of Solomon. They had a mockup of the wilderness tabernacle here. We then traveled northeast to several very large craters south of the Negev. I was fairly overwhelmed by the irregularity of the landscape. I have no idea how Moses with a million plus people could have made it through. We stopped at the grave of Ben-Gurion,and was able to overlook the valley of Zin, where Moses sent out the spies to the land of Canaan. Finally, we made it to Dead Sea just as the sun was going down.

 

Temple mock-up

Overview of tabernacle

Wilderness of Zin

Day 7—An early rise and breakfast was followed by travel along the west coast of the Dead Sea. First, we stopped at the Masada, where in AD73 a group of Jewish zealots were finally brought to an end by the Romans building a massive siege ramp up to the fortress. This was followed by a hike up En-Gedi, where David encountered Saul in a cave. We stopped at Qumram, the site of discovery of the Dea Sea scrolls. Finally, there was a stop at the archeological dig at Jericho, where one could see the fallen walls of the old city. By then, nightfall had hit, and we drove up in darkness to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee for our hotel.

 

Cable car to the top of the Masada

The cliffs off the top of the Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea

The Springs of en-Gedi

Rock Coney, at En-gedi

Jericho ruins

Day 8— This was a busy day. It had started raining, so that everything was quite muddy. We started out by going to the top of Arbel, a peak with a very steep cliff, and a similar adjoining mountain with a narrow canyon between.  It is in this canyon that the road from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee runs. We then went to Yardinit, where they have a commercial production of getting baptised or re-baptised. I was a bit astonished to find that Betsy and I were the only people in our group that said no to this. It is like suggesting to get re-circumcised. It cheapens baptism to a simple show or action that we do. Anyway, from there, we traveled to the town (excavation mostly) was Magda, which used to be one of the larger cities on the Sea of Galilee and from where Mary Magdalene came. Traveling north, we saw a boat which had been discovered in the mud of the sea of Galilee, and showed what a typical fishing boat it Jesus’ time looked like. We went out a short ways on the sea in a wooden boat, a form of crass commercialism that they called the Jesus-boat. We went up to the mount of the beatitudes, and, first avoiding the “church” the Papists built in the 1930s, but rather sat on the slope where Jesus probably gave his sermon. It was interesting that the stony ground of basalt amplified the voice in that area so that one could speak to a large crowd and be heard. Going inside the church was a small comedy that was more an idol to the Papists than a reverential area. We last went to Caperneum on the north side of the sea of Galilee, to see the synagogue where Jesus taught, and to see the alleged house of Peter. The Papists built a giant flying saucer over the home to protect it, which they also called a church. Back to our hotel in Tiberius, we were a little exhausted, enduring many crowds and a constant rain.

On top of Arbel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Tree and beautiful Frau on summit of Arbel

It rained all day, leaving a very wet John

Drei Engeln am Jordan Ufer

Schöne Frau am Jordan Ufer

On the Sea of Galilee looking back at Capernaum and Arbel

Slope where Jesus probably taught the sermon on the Mount

Unmasked caped crusaders at the Beatitudes mount church

Day 9—    And yet another very busy day. I hope I can remember everywhere we went! We started by heading north of Tiberias into the Hula valley. On the right, you could see the hills of Naphthali, which border Lebanon. We visited the archaeological dig at Dan, seeing mostly Old Testament history, notably the high place that Jeroboam created. From there, we headed up into the Golan Heights, stopping at Castle Nimrod, a Crusader era Castle built by the Muslims, and fortress on the Damascus Road. We skirted the side of Mt. Hermon, stopping at a Nature Preserve of one of the three sources of the Jordan River. We drove up to the top of Mt. Bental,  where we were able to look onto Syria. There had been some Syrian fire toward Israel yesterday, and as we left the mountain, we saw two attack helicopters flying over us, only to learn later that there was more fire toward Israel, and that Israel launched a retaliatory return fire. We visited a partially restored Talmudic house from the time of Christ, and then an olive oil factory. Lastly, we stopped by the ruins of Bethsaida, home of Philip and Andrew, and probably where Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.

In the area of Dan, at one of the three sources for the Jordan River

The high place at Dan, built by Jeroboam. The metal frame attempts a reconstruction of the possible form of the high place.

The entrance of the ancient Canaanite city of Dan. Abraham probably walked through this portal.

Schlomo on Mount Bental overlooking Syria

Day 10—  It was sad leaving the peaceful serenity of the Sea of Galilee. We drove through the town of Cana, which is now a fairly large town, and skirted Nazareth, an even larger town. We did not go into Nazareth itself, since nothing there resembled what might have been found in Jesus time. Instead, we went to the precipice outside of town, a very steep cliff that drops off into the Jezreel valley. It gave a great view of Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, and the whole Jezreel plain. You could also see where the town tried to through Jesus off the cliff. We ventured from there to the Archaeological digs at Mediggo, having both Canaanite as well as Solomonic and post-Solomonic findings. The next stop was the top of Mt. Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. Traveling down the coast in the plain of Sharon, we arrived in Caesarea, a town with harbor. Built by Herod, and visited often by Paul, but also where Peter met Cornelius.  We arrived by nightfall in Jerusalem, where we took a walk that evening into the old city, and  visited the wailing wall. We wailed.

 

Mount Tabor and the Jezreel Valley from the precipice

Jezreel valley looking back to Nazareth from Mt. Carmel

Remains of seaport at Caesarea

Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea

Aqueduct which brought water to the city of Caesarea

Continued in Part 3…

 

Jordan-Israel Adventure-Part 3

November 26th, 2012

Day 11— yet another hectic day. We started in the old city of Jerusalem, first visiting the pools of Bethesda, and then wandering through the via dolorosa, visiting the stations of the cross. Unfortunately, much of what we saw were just churches built over sites, or small patches of the real thing underground, and thus not realistic. After lunch, we proceeded first to the Herodian, a massive fortress like the Masada, built by Herod as an escape, and probably in view of Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem. We went to the shepherd’s fields, and then into Bethlehem itself. This was a massive zoo. We skipped the alleged manger site, and visited right next door the church holding the study room and grave of St. Jerome. I have a deep admiration for Jerome. We came home tired but with a rewarding day.

Garden of Gethsemane – old olive tree

Bethlehem from the Herodian

John in the Shepard’s cave – where the angels announced the birth of Christ

Tomb of Jerome

Day 12—More Jerusalem today. We started with the western wall, then took a walk underground where the western wall was being excavated.  We then went to a museum that had a large mock-up of the second temple. In that museum were pieces of the Dead Sea scrolls on display as well as the Aleppo book. The next stop was a holocaust museum, very moving but very Jewish in its sentimentality. The last stop was very notable in that our tour guide, Schlomo, took us to his brother-in-law, who is an orthodox Rabbi and scribe, who demonstrated how he would hand produce the Torah on parchment, which would take him over a year to accomplish. Everything had to be kosher, including the paper, the ink, the writing utensils,  no letter could touch another, and no letter could be either too tall or too short. We arrived back at the hotel happy from a full day.

 

Wailing

More wailing

And more wailing

Tree at Holocaust museum dedicated to Corrie Ten Boom and family

The Scribe

The scribe scribing

Day 13— Our day started with a scheduled tour of the temple mount, only to discover that it was an unexpected Muslim holiday, and thus it was not open. We retreated, toured the old city of David, and watched a 3D movie which made it super-clear where David’s city sat. Over the years and many changes to the city walls, the terrain has become somewhat unrecognizable, and the old Canaanite city of David actually no longer sits in the city. We got to walk through hezekiah’s tunnel, and saw William’s shaft, which it perhaps how Joab’s army got into the city. Our focus then turned to the sewage system of the Tyropean Valley, over which Robinson’s arch stood and where merchants lined the paths. We looked at the southern walls, the stairs leading up to the entrance of the temple in Jesus’ time, and was how Jesus typically entered the temple. We made a mad dash to Gordon’s Golgotha, a convincing site, through Christ was probably crucified below the cliff, and not on the hill. The garden tomb also seemed convincing contrary to the official catholic site. The best archeological evidence still favors the Catholic site, according to Dr. John. We took it easy in the evening, preparing for one last day.

Descent into Hezekiah’s tunnel

Walking Hezekiah’s tunnel

The steps to the pool of Siloam

Bar Mitzvah family at Wailing Wall

The stairs to the southern Gate, where Christ probably entered the temple

A strange couple lurking in the Old City of Jerusalem

Day 14- This was a free day, and we spent our time wandering through the old city. We tried to walk the walls of Jerusalem, but it was off limits since it was Friday. We went up to the top of the Lutheran church (Kirche unser Erlöser) for a great view of the city. The remainder of the time was spent relaxing. That evening, I took a taxi with John and several other people up to the top of the Mount of Olives, and then we walked down, walking past the Eastern Wall and back to the hotel.

Tomb of Jehosaphat and Absalom

The Golden Gate, sealed by the Muslims to prevent the Messiah from entering

The Golden Walls of Jerusalem

Israeli police guarding the temple site from loonies

 

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I would have gathered your children together…and you were not willing. See, your house is left desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Day 15- It was a long flight home. Our plane out of Tel Aviv was a bit hurried when they learned that there was rockets coming in from Gaza. Since we were gaining 10 hours from the flight, it seemed to take forever to get back home. But, all went well and we were grateful to be back in our own comfortable surrounding.

Thoughts on the trip…

The trip was a perfect overview of the Holy Land. John was a super leader, and I would heartily recommend him to anybody considering a trip to Israel, Jordan, or elsewhere in the mideast.

Things that we would have liked on the trip include…

1. A little less busy pace. Some excursions could have been edited out. We barely had time to enjoy the situation. We usually arrived at the hotel after sundown, making enjoyable visits to the Dead Sea and other spots an impossibility. Also, I was interested in just seeing the lay of the land from the bus, but often the travel ended up at the end of the day in darkness, making it impossible to fully appreciate the land.

2. The Israel part of the trip was a little too heavy with the orientation around modern Jewish affairs. Some sites were nice, but there was perhaps too much, with visits to David Ben-Gurion’s grave, Rachel’s grave, the Holocaust museum, etc. Instead, many biblical sites were completely ommitted, including Beer-Sheva and Hebron, the Sheffela, Bethany, the Jericho Road, Shechem and Mt Gerizim/Ebal, etc. It was supposed to be a Bible lands tour, not a modern Israel tour.

3. Egypt. We initially signed up because the trip included Egypt. Then, the Muslim Brotherhood went on the rampage. Oh well. Maybe someday.

What we liked about the tour far exceeded any criticisms. These included…

1. John was very knowledgeable about the land, the archaeology, and the scriptural correlates to what we were seeing. He was a superb teacher. He watched his orientation so as to remain doctrinally neutral on some touchy subjects like eschatology.

2. The hotels and facilities, the bus, the meals, the guides were all first class. It could not have been better planned.

3. John was adept at bringing in biblical lessons to the places we visited. He had a heart for worship while on tour, being able to bring glory to God by pointing to us scriptural correlates in what we saw.

This trip gave me new insights in several ways…

1. It made historical reading of the narratives involving the land of Israel more clear. I could understand the idea of Jesus being led out of Nazareth to be thrown off a cliff. I could understand the sermon on the mount context, the sea of Galilee experiences, the wanderings of David while watching sheep in Bethlehem, the difficulty of Abraham chasing the four Mesopotamian kings from Beer-Sheva to Dan and beyond.

2. I used to read the Bible through every year, but haven’t for several years. This generated interest in again committing the Scriptures to a cover-to-cover read. Historical sections make more sense.

3. Learned more about the Arab-Israel conflict, much from an Israeli viewpoint. I’ll speak more about Jews vs. Arabs in another blog.

4. Insights into the spiritual condition of Israel.

a) Arabs – hard to judge. They have prayer towers virtually everywhere, including throughout the Jewish and Christian quarters of the old city of Jerusalem. You can’t go anywhere in Israel without seeing prayer towers. Having religious control of the temple mount (the Israelis have military control) leaves Arabs in control of the ultimate religious say in the country.

b) Jews – they continue in the sins of the time of Jesus. The reason they remain in their current state reflects their inability to acknowledge their Messiah. Perhaps their religious orientation is even more intense for ritual than ever. Their worship of the old temple wall is disgusting. They remain lost.

c) Christians, including all sects of Christians, pose a new form of idolatry, the idolatry of place. Is there not perhaps a reason why God allowed the sites in Israel where history occurred to be lost? Whether it’s identifying the cave of Machpelah to the site of the crucifiction, we really don’t know. Yet, so many sites are worshipped and venerated, like the “site” of the nativity, the “site” of the burial of Jesus, the “site” of the sermon on the mount, to name just a few. Protestants have the same failing, feeling that a baptism in the Jordan River confers something special. In the end, they make a mockery of the significance of baptism. So one “walked today where Jesus walked”, talked where Jesus talked,  fished today where Jesus fished, or ate today where Jesus ate. The importance is on the person and not the place.

5. Desire to pray for peace in Israel. Every solution proposed fails. Fund Israel more. Quit funding Israel. Exterminate the Palestinians (that’s right, I heard this solution offered by a member of our group). Send the Jews to Antartica. Get both sides talking. Be nice. Etc. Etc. Etc. Virtually every solution is a fantasy land of wishfulness, that everybody would just love each other. Make love, not war. It won’t happen until the prince of Peace returns in the clouds, where every eye will behold him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so, AMEN! (Rev 1:7) For now, we pray for peace in Jerusalem, and that the tribes of Israel will acknowledge their Messiah, the Messiah of Jews, Muslims, Arabs, and even Germans.

TransAm adventure

September 10th, 2012

The Trans-America Bicycle trail adventure from Eugene, Oregon to Grangeville, Idaho, on 30AUG-08SEPT2012

The statistics for the trip were…

Calories Burnt: 36361 KCal
Kilometers (miles) ridden: 820.8 km (510 miles)
Ascent – meters (feet): 9065 m (29741 ft)

Day 0—On 30 August, a friend and I caught the Amtrak train in Tacoma at 3:00pm, and arrived in Eugene at 9 in the evening. We then rode about 2 miles to the Red Lion Inn.

Day 1—31Aug  This was the first day of riding. We went from Eugene to Alder Springs campground, a little over half the climb up McKenzie Pass 5959 cal, 1161 m ascent, 108.8 km, 6:19 riding time. The campground was quite sparse, and even no water, so we borrowed some from a car camper coming through.

Day 2—01Sept Alder Springs Camp to Prineville. Today, we had another 2300 ft of climbing until we reached the summit of McKenzie Pass. The scene was surrealistic with a lava landscape. We then descended to Sisters and Redmond before beginning our climb up to Prineville. The weather was cloudless, and about 80 F but not humid, so that it was quite tolerable. 4054 Cal, 894 meters climbing, 5:33 time, 104.3 km distance.

 

McKenzie Pass with the North and Middle Sister in the background

A close up of two of the Three Sisters

Mt. Washington from McKenzie Pass, the lava flows in the foreground

The Sisters are now in the distance as we head toward Prineville.

Day 3—02SEPT Prineville to Dayville—137.8 km, 7:32 time, 4810 cal, 1332 m ascent. After a long climb over Ochoco Pass, we quickly descended and then did a short ascent into Mitchell. The ride was beautiful, going by Lake Ochoco and up a Ponderosa pine forested pass. Mitchell was a little sparse, where we had lunch, changed a tube on my friend’s bike, and decided to head on. Another climb over Keye’s Pass was a bit more challenging, with a steady 6-8% grade. It was nearly a constant steady descent into Dayville, a beautiful green town on the John Day River, where we set up a tent in an RV park, had showers, and dinner at the local grocery store.

Yet another pass

The terrain in the John Day Fossil Beds Natl. Monument

Close to Dayville, the mighty John Day River

Day 4—Dayville to Prairie City, mostly a gradual uphill climb, 3:49 min, hot!!!, 71.93 km, 2373 cal, 485 m Ascent. This was beautiful country, mostly farming country in river valleys surrounded by mountains.  We stayed in a campground in Prairie City. Almost nothing was open in the town, where almost everything is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Day 5—04 SEPT Prairie City to Baker City. 109.1 km, 6:45 time, 3923 cal, 1302 m ascent total. This was a strenuous day, involving going over three major passes, before dropping down into Baker City. The weather was quite warm but not tortuous. The passes were most beautiful.

Summit of one of the passes

Day 6—Baker City to Oxbow. Super hot day, in the 90’s, one very steep difficult pass out of Richland, OR which had a persistent 7-8% grade. Travel time 6:11, 113.5 km, 954 m ascent, 3575 cal. Richland and Halfway were beautiful green valleys surrounded by mountains. Hell’s canyon is in the low 90’s, and moderately humid, so a bit uncomfortable.

Day 7—Oxbow to Council, 100 km, 6:20 time, 3872 cal, 1252 meters ascent. Today was a rough day, with lots of climbing, and sore muscles. I now know why they have rest days. But, my friend was in a hurry to get the ride over with, so, I persisted. The climb out of Hell’s Canyon was long and hard, going from sagebrush desert to heavily wooded hills. Cambridge to Council was farm country, somewhat hot and humid.

The start of the climb out of Hell’s Canyon

Day 8— Council to Riggins. 95km, 4:53 time, 592 meters elevation, 3295 cal.

Had a rear tire flat about 6 km from Riggins. Finished the ride about 2 pm, it was quite hot at the end, between 95 – 100 F. We ended up at a nice Best Western and went swimming in the hotel pool. One of the restaurants in town offered a superb steak dinner. It was a nice way to spend the last evening of the trip.

Day 9—Riggins to Grangeville, 80.4 km, time 5:39, elevation gain 1093 m, 3348 cal. Beautiful ride in the morning along the Salmon River, then a long persistent climb up Whitebird Hill in the heat of the day. Along the Salmon River, we saw firefighters preparing to stop blazes visible along the highway. There was the smell of burnt wood all along the route. My friend and I were separated when he decided to deviate off of our planned track on “old 95”. Eventually, we met each other in Grangeville. Based on a unilateral decision (not mine) the ride was aborted in Grangeville, and we went home.

Forest fires seen in the hills out of Riggins

The “real” summit of Whitebird Hill. over 2500 ft climb out of the valley of the Salmon River

It was a bit of a sad way to end an otherwise wonderful ride. There was no reason why we couldn’t have made it to Missoula. I did learn some lessons from the ride…

  1. Never go with somebody with expectations different from your own.
  2. Bring your own tent, as well as some survival basics, such as water purification.
  3. Stick with the plan. Don’t go with riding partners who make bizarre decisions on the spur of the moment.

 

Ride the Divide

August 30th, 2012

Ride the Divide ★★★

While exploring the feasability and practicality of doing the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail, I thought it best to see a documentary of this being done. This documentary actually details a race involving 17 people, 10 of who drop out, going from Banff to the Mexican Border. The film showed not only the beauty of this undertaking but also the challenges that the ride presents. Unfortunately, the ride was presented as a race, which in my mind is quite stupid. Why ruin a beautiful ride by forcing yourself to go as fast as possible? The sole girl in the race actually drops out twice, and whines continually, before actually completing the course. The only people who seemed to enjoy the trip were a group of four riders, several from Europe, who rode together, did not come in first, and were not well documented in this film. I was able to grasp from this that it is feasible, that it should probably be ridden in late year (August/Sept) rather than early year when there is much snow, that it should not be done as a race, that it should definitely be ridden with another person, and that one might expect some aches and pains on the way. Most of the path was quite clear, and it didn’t seem like there was much cycling on footpaths, though a modest amount appeared to be on gravel and dirt roads. I doubt if I could talk Russ into doing this one.

Gobblers Knob Bike and Hike

August 4th, 2012

Mt. Rainier from Gobbler’s Knob. The Puyallup River headwaters are in the central canyon in the photo.

Gobbler’s Knob Bike and Hike, 04AUG2012

The Westside Road in Mt. Rainier National Park has been closed for many years now, and so popular hikes have become less popular because of accessibility.  A few weeks ago I had ridden the Westside Road on my mountain bike, and now wanted to combine that with a hike up the Gobbler’s Knob trail to the summit of Gobbler’s Knob. I have no clue why it is called Gobbler’s Knob, but was a fire lookout built in the early 1930’s within Mt Rainier Park, and giving an awesome view of Mt. Rainier.  The road was 6 km, and the hike (each way was 2.5 miles, with an approximately 1400 ft elevation gain for the hiking portion. I talked Russ and Pete into doing it, and we all loved the possibility of combining both biking and hiking. Here are some photos.

View of Mt. Rainier from Gobbler’s Knob

Pete making himself one with the Andesite of Gobbler’s Knob

Russ enjoying his lunch and keeping an eye on Pete and me

Avalanche Lily, found only in the Pacific Northwest, and my favorite flower

The day was beautiful but hot. It allowed us to discover the joy of combining two different activities into one, and surely will be repeated.

Genetically modified Iowa

August 2nd, 2012

Iowa Visit 26JUL-01AUG with Ken and Betsy

Iowa was in the midst of a heat wave, and oddly, the one outdoor activity that we really wanted to do, the waterfight, had to be cancelled because of electric storms. We were able to meet little Lily, a very cute baby. We also got to know the town of Sioux Center much better.

I learned that the overwhelming preponderance of Iowa corn is genetically modified. How terrible. Then I realized that everything in Iowa was genetically modified. Here are some examples…

Genetically modified people smoking genetically modified tobacco and drinking genetically modified beer

Genetically modified Fireman

Genetically modified water was used in this watertight by genetically modified firemen

Genetically modified baby. Notice the blue “thing” growing out of her mouth. The eyes and face are too perfect to be a real kid.

Eagle Creek 2012

July 25th, 2012

Eagle Creek with Andrew and Patrick, 12-13JULY2012

This was Patrick’s first backpack trip. I figured that at 7 years of age, he was worthy of a good hike. So, with Andrew’s help, off we went to the Columbia River Gorge and the start of the Eagle Creek trip. The trail goes up 7.5 miles before diverting into several other trails. I wasn’t sure how far Patrick would be able to go, and so picked a trail that would allow for many possibilities to stop early to 7.5 miles. We made it up to 4.5 miles. Patrick carried a pack, including his sleeping bag and pad, and clothes, so he had proportionally slightly more weight per size that either Andrew or I. That afternoon, we walked another 1.5 miles up to Tunnel Falls, and then turned back. The evening was spent in the tent without a fly, and the weather was absolutely perfect. We decided to hike back the next day, aborting a day early, but spending time at the Punchbowl.

Patrick with Andrew, fresh and ready to start

The trail was created out of dynamite for about 1/3 of the distance. The dynamite used was of the native Indian variety, and not the synthetic stuff used by modern man to destroy nature.

Patrick still fresh

The Three Musketeers

Arrival at camp, 4.5 miles later

Tunnel Falls

Eager to go home

The Punchbowl in HDR

 

After we returned to the car, we drove along the old Columbia River highway to Crown Point and then back to Gresham. We are a few sights.

Crown Point

 

View of Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point/Vista House in HDR

Westside Road 10JUL2012

July 25th, 2012

WestSide Road Mountain Bike adventure 10JUL2012

There is a road along the west side of Mt. Rainier within the National Park itself that has been closed to automobile traffic for many years now, because of road washouts. Actually, the washout is limited to the area across a stream as seen below. This is the first obstacle to the mountain bike adventure, as the road is limited to bicycles and hikers.

The road follows a stream up to a distance, and goes over two major ridges, so that there is much climbing to be done. The final length is a little over 14 km. Along the way are multiple trails that take off to viewpoints, but open only to hikers. It would be wonderful to be able to do a combined bike and hike trip.

Me at the Gobbler’s Knob Trail takeoff

Lester or bust!

July 5th, 2012

The entire population of Lester with the booming town just behind us

My grandfather emigrated from Wittenberg, Germany to Lester, Iowa in the late 1800’s. Several years ago, I learned about a town in the state of Washington named Lester. Thus, my dream to visit the town of Lester. There were several problems with this town. First, it is now a ghost town. Secondly, access to the town is now severely restricted. The only possibility of visiting Lester was going to be via Stampede Pass on a gravel road. All other roads had been closed, since it is close to the water supply to Tacoma. Thus, we decided to go to Lester on mountain bikes.

 

Pete and Russ on the road to Lester, with Mt. Rainier in the background

Russ and me on the road to Lester. Still Mt. Rainier in the hintergrund

Once we were 1.5 miles from Lester, we encountered a gate across the road, absolutely forbidding bicycles from trespassing the gate, and that visits could only occur on foot. Thus, we started walking for the last mile and a half. We were not about to give up on our quest for Lester.

Riff raff on the main street, entering Lester

The town of Lester with the entire temporary population of 3

At one time, Lester used to have a population of over 250. It is now one of the few ghost towns in the state, compliments of the city of Tacoma. At one time, there was a post office, general store, public school, lumber mill, dairy, railway yard, and hotel in the town. Now, there is just us. No buildings remain. One can read about the town on wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester,_Washington ) and the cause of the demise of the town here… ( http://home.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/stampedemp.html) (scroll down a ways).

 

The main road leading into Lester from Stampede Pass on the right.
The city airport is on the left.

Two of the Lester population leaving town, but reminiscing on precious memories had while in Lester.

Unique wildflowers, only found in the Lester vicinity

The ride back up to Stampede Pass was about a 2000 ft elevation gain. The Garmin record can be found here… file://localhost/Users/feucht/Downloads/activity_196151711.kml

I can’t say that I’ll ever return to Lester (Washington), but it was great while it lasted. In a month, I’ll be in Lester, Iowa. Hopefully, Alex will stop the truck in Lester, so that I can get some photos of that town. Hopefully, the other Lester is not yet a ghost town.

RAMRTD 2012

May 27th, 2012

RAMRTD 2012

The RAMROD is a well-known ride held every year in the state of Washington, known as the Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day. Well, we did it in two days, thus RAMRTD. Ramrod riders will use the sleekest and lightest bicycles, light clothing, and utilize supply stations. We utilized larger, heavier touring bicycles, and carried all of our necessities plus with us.

We headed out from our house at 8:30 on Friday morning. Russ was the main pacesetter, with me tagging behind at my own pace. We headed down to the Orting Valley, and then out to Kapowsin and Eatonville. Taking the Eatonville Cutoff Road, we stopped by good friends of mine, B & N Lindsey, who live on the highway going up to Mt. Rainier. They took some photos of us, which they e-mailed to me. Here is the Russ & Ken show!

We then rode through Elbe, stopping at Scale Burgers for the best burgers in the state of Washington, and run by an old patient of mine, whom I always need to say hello to. When in Elbe, there is only one place to eat, and say “hi” to Cora. From there, we rode up to Ashford, got on the Skate Creek Road and dropped down in Packwood. While in Ashford, we visited the Visitor’s Center, and was informed that there was a MAJOR swap meet occurring in Packwood, and that it was unlikely that we would ever find a hotel. The nice lady at the visitor’s center was able to call and find us one last room. The scenery on the way to Packwood was incredible, and one stand of trees really caught my attention.

Here is Russ coming up on me on the summit of the Skate Creek Road…

We made it to a very packed city of Packwood. It was interesting to see how everybody had tattoos, and ate the worst greasy food imaginable. Definitely not our crowd. I was unable to make a connection with AT&T on my iPhone in Packwood, and the hotel had Wi-Fi, but it didn’t work. So, we remained out of communication in Packwood. Packwood was an interesting phenomenon. According to my bicycle computer, we rode 75 miles, burned up 5545 calories, and climbed 2600 feet. We went to sleep early.

The next day, we headed north, aiming for Mt. Rainier Park, and Cayuse pass. It was a lengthy climb. The summit had up to 10-12 feet or more of snow in spots, though the road was clear. From the photo, we don’t look tired, but we were faking it.

The descent was fast, and freezing cold, but fun. We had to stop and get photos at the park entrance.

The remainder of the ride was mostly downhill to the Orting Valley through familiar territory. I had Betsy pick me up at VanLierops not wishing one last awful grunt up to the top of South Hill. Russ did it (to his regret) without his panniers. Saturday was 82 miles, 5800 feet elevation gain, and 6800 calories burned. Was it worth it? Absolutely… I’m ready to do it again. We just need a little more care at limiting the extent of riding when we are mostly climbing, like of Saturday. On multi-day rides, it is perhaps not wise to push yourself too hard on your first few days of riding. We knew that we’d have rest on Sunday and Monday (Memorial Day), so, it didn’t matter.

Bicycling has got to be the best geriatric sport that there is. Jogging beats up the bones. Backpacking is hard on the back. Swimming is flopping around in somebody else’s pee. Cycle touring is adventure, meeting people, seeing the world, and going places you’d otherwise never go at a leisurely pace, slow enough to really see where you are, and feel the environment around you. It’s great exercise, and a nice way to spend time with a friend.

Nach Rome! und dem Vaterland 2011

October 9th, 2011
We decided to go see the Pope. I also wanted to spend some time bicycling in Germany, but that idea fizzled out. I still needed to spend some time working on my bicycle, and touching base with old friends, so a chaotic adventure was started.
22SEPT2011 – Departure

The flight out to Düsseldorf began at 7 am from SeaTac, putting us through Newark, NJ. This wasn’t a bad option, though the Newark airport required one to depart one secure terminal and then re-check in to another terminal. It wasn’t easy, and the airport had minimal food options. We’ll try to go through Chicago or Frankfurt from now on.

23SEPT – Arrival in Düsseldorf

Customs was easy but in our tiredness we walked right out of the terminal looking for our baggage, only to realize that we might have taken the wrong turn, and could not get back into the baggage area. Fortunately, we were able to force our way back through a “Kein Eintritt” door (no entrance) and immediately located our bags. The smallest cash that I had on hand was 20 euro, and the machine would not take that large of bill, and would not take a credit card. This led to great consternation as to how to pay for the train ride. Eventually solved, we ended up in Krefeld Hbf, only to catch the wrong bus to Onkel Herbert. Arriving in Düsseldorf at 6 am, we finally got to Onkel Herbert at 10:30. Oh well. It was a nice day catching up on things, going shopping with Herbert, and going out to eat at Am Vreed, our currywurst restaurant.

24SEPT- Free day with Herbert

I spent time doing repairs on my bicycle, and actually got it working better than ever before. It was quite nice to have had the bicycle repair class. In the evening, Herbert made a barbeque of pork chops and a type of “bacon” that is well liked in Germany. Herbert introduced us to Federweisse and Zwiebelbrot. These are ususally consumed together, the Federweisse being a sweet wine made from young grapes, that is not available all the time. The Zwiebelbrot is onion bread, that Betsy and I did not really care for.

The bicycle now repaired and working better than ever!

At the Biergarten

Onkel Herbert with his new hat

A very rare plant in Herbert's yard. Name????

25SEPT- Bicycle ride

Unfortunately, I was to spend only one day riding my bicycle. I programmed a route from the internet, and was able to put it on my Garmin. With that, off I went. Without hard maps or a guide book, the Garmin is a touch frustrating since it will not be able to five directions when you are not moving. Also, it can be difficult to read when it is sunny or with polarized sunglasses. I did multiple wrong turns, only to be told to make a U-turn and go back. All in all, it was a great experiment, which showed limited utility for serious route finding, but something nice to have available. I was able to ride a little more than 30 km in 2 hours. Hopefully, I can come back and do some lengthy rides.

Herbert introduced us to a German tradition of Federweisse and Zwiebelbrot (onion bread). The Federweisse is a very sweet wine made from young grapes, and I’ve never seen it available in the US.

A Schrebergarten close to Herberts Haus

26SEPT – Abschied von Herbert

we told Herbert goodbye and hopped on die Bahn to Leipzig, with two train changes.  We arrived in Leipzig and found our hotel without difficulty. Betsy and I were a little bit amazed that it was much nicer than I thought, in fact, probably one of the nicer and more modern hotels that I have ever stayed in. We took a walk through the city, observing the Alte Rathaus, Nicholai Kirche, and Thomas Kirche, the two churches where Bach performed and taught. It was here that I discovered that I had a portion of our journey off by exactly one day, so in a panic had to change plans that set everything right. It was decided that we would go straight from Leipzig to Würzburg. A few phone calls later, and all was in order.

Betsy at the Thomas Kirche

Old Building viewed from our hotel room

27SEPT2011 Würzburg

It was quite easy to catch the train to Würzburg, going through the town of Fulda. We were delayed a half hour in Fulda, but arrived nicely to Hannes and Katja’s house. After a bite to eat, they took us out to a portion of the Main (River) that I would have ridden by bicycle. It was also cruel it was so beautiful. We stopped in several small towns. The most fascinating was Miltenberg, where we walked through the town. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. This means that we must return someday to photograph this area. It would be nice to do the entire Main Radweg from Frankfurt to Bayreuth. That will take about two weeks in order to properly enjoy it, but will be difficult to talk any of my friends into doing this with me, and I don’t think Betsy would bite at the opportunity. Hannes and Katja suggested that earlier summer would be a better time to do it.

 

28SEPT2011 Bamberg

The morning started with walking the dog. Hannes then drove us through back roads to Bamberg. It was a very nice sight. I was surprised to see most of the main roads had associated bicycle paths. Franken is truly a cyclist’s paradise. Bamberg was nice, and we went to see the Bamberger Dom, with the Bamberger Ritter statue. Pope Clement II was also buried there.  It was an absolutely gorgeous and fantastic day while we walked through the town, stopping to have Apfelstreudel at a small restaurant. Ausgezeichnet! Returning home, we stopped at a small restaurant to eat dinner. Betsy and I had the Bratkartoffeln, a regional specialty that was out of this world.

Hannes and Gustav

Wieder Nebel im Dorf

Hannes und Katja

In Bamberg

Senf (Mustard) field

Our room at the Wagners

29SEPT2011 Abschied von Hannes and Katja

We needed to make an early start to get to Rome. The train went through München and then Bologna. Everything went okay until we reached München. There, the train to Bologna was delayed by 45 minutes. This meant that we missed our planned train in Bologna to Rome, but was able to find another train quickly. The trains were packed with Americans, and not having seat reservations, Betsy and were occasionally left sitting a distance apart. That didn’t matter too much. The ride across western Austria and Northeast Italy (Dolomite region) was absolutely stupendous, especially Brenner Pass. We made it to Rome, and was able to quickly find our hotel and prepare for a busy day tomorrow.

30SEPT2011 The Vatican

Getting to the Vatican was easy on the Metro. We arrived a bit early and waited at the museum entrance to go in. The first part of the tour was the museums that historically were able to be accessed only by der Papst, until the Vatican needed money. Then they turned it into a tourist facility. The various museums consisted of either statues and artifacts from ancient Rome, tapestries,  and maps of Italy done up in elaborate fresco style. Following the Papal museums, we entered the Sistine Chapel. Its experience was diminished by the massive crowds. The paintings were truly impressive. We then went to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church building in the world, and, unstated by the tour guide, the indirect cause for the reformation. Peter’s bones are supposedly kept in the crypt here. The oddest display was the body of the recent pope John Paul, when it was noted that five years after his burial, the body had not yet shown signs of decay. This was interpreted as a miracle and thus beatified him.

Fortress Vatican

The School of Athens - quite a large fresco painting

Inside the Vatican Museum

The Pieta in St. Peters

Papst John Paul failing to rot - too much liquor?

Central area of St. Peter's - Peter's bones are below

Looking backwards in St. Peter's

St. Peter's Square

After lunch, we went to see the other three basilicas in Rome. First was St. Pauls outside the gate, which reportedly held the bones of St. Paul.  It was rebuilt several times, but was the second largest church in Christendom. The third basilica was St Johns located in the Laterine palace complex, on the southeast side of then the old walls of Rome. This was where the Popes lived until 1377. Again, it was a truly impressive building. The authenticating relics were splinters from the birth crib of Christ. Across the street was a building that housed the steps which Christ had to climb up to the judgment hall of Pontius Pilate. Pilgrims now come from all over the world to go up these stairs, which is only allowed if you go up on your knees saying three prayers on each step. The stairs were packed. You could go up other stairs to the top to notice the “suffers” achieving the last steps, and thus receiving additional blessing from the church. The last basilica was the smallest, but still a grand structure, St. Maria Magiorre, close to our hotel, and built for the “virgin” Mary.  I don’t remember the relic. The interesting thing is that the bones of Benini the architect are buried here. Supposedly the location of the church was identified when snow was identified on this location on 05AUG. many moons ago. It is the only church that hadn’t undergone some sort of destruction over the years.

St. Paul's Basilica

Chair where the Papst speaks ex cathedra in St. John's

Climbing the stairs Jesus climbed - on knees ONLY!

Picture of Jesus painted by God himself!

Inside Maria Magiorre Basilica

This day gave much to reflect. I could imagine Luther and others coming to Rome to see practices which occurred. Recent conservative evangelicals have apparently gone to Rome and come back with enthusiasm about reuniting the branches of Christianity. I came back scared, wondering that I hadn’t seen yet another version of idolatry, and a complete misconception of the church regarding gaining merit. Their fixation on relics, “sainthood”, practices to gain additional merit, the attention to the Pope and pompous splendor all made me quite happy that I was not a Catholic. Perhaps the pope should spend more time reigning in the sex practices of priests, and perhaps they should identify that practices such as touching certain objects or performing certain rituals does absolutely nothing to ones salvation. We need to remind ourselves how correct the Reformers of the church were.

01OCT – Ancient Rome

Betsy and I did a tour of ancient Rome today. First, I’d like to say something about tours. They are a little bit corny, in that you really feel like a tourist. But, there is also a huge advantage. The blessings of tours are 1. You don’t have to wait in lines, 2. Somebody explains things to you so that you see the things that you would otherwise have missed, and 3. The tour is done is a very systematic fashion which most efficiently, yet slowly covers what you would wish to see. There is usually plenty of time for photos. We walked from our hotel to the coliseum, where we got a fairly good tour from top to bottom. We then went to the Roman forum, seeing the senate house, the various buildings (now in ruin) of the forum area, and ending on the Palatine Hill, the location of the former residences of the emperors. It was described the absolute former beauty of these places, including the coliseum, which had luscious marblework everywhere, the ceilings and walls were painted with beautiful designs, the floors were marble, and everything had a splendid sense to it. After the tour, Betsy and I walked back to the hotel a circumlocuitous route, including Gesu (first Jesuit church), The Pantheon, and the Trevi fountain. We were pooped and the weather was hot. We didn’t do much the rest of the day.

Roman gladiators

Inside the Colosseum

The Senate House of ancient Rome

Ruins in the Forum

Gesu - 1st Jesuit Church - for Dennis

Trevi Fountain

02OCT – Der Papst

Today we saw the Papst. We were picked up from our hotel at 08:15, and got on a bus. Originally they thought that the Pope was going to be in his summer villa outside the city and we stopped by St. Peter’s square to buy relics that could be blessed. We picked up several crosses, some rosary beads, and a calendar, that are now blessed. It was then that it was realized that the Pope would be right here in St. Peters. So, the tour bus changed plans, and took us first to Nuova Plaza, followed by a ride up in the hills west of Rome and overlooking the city. It was a gorgeous site, but the bus did not stop for photos. We finally got back to St. Peters at 11:00 and the Papst comes out right at noon. Next to where we were waiting, a German band group came that set up their music stands and started playing German marching music.  The entire St. Peter’s Square soon filled with thousands of people, many actually taking this serious, and  to a good many, this was the highlight or pinnacle of their entire life. To them, they saw a glimpse of God. Soon, the Papst came to the window, and actually spoke for 15 minutes, first in Latin, then French, English, German, Spanish and some other language that I didn’t catch. After we blessed, we walked back to the hotel, crossing the Tiber River, and walking through the small streets of Rome to get a flavor of Sunday Roman life.

Back to St. Peter's to see der Papst

Der Papst giving us a blessing

Bridge across the Tivere (Tiber)

03OCT – Off to Firenze

This was an uneventful day, save for a few events. I was notified on the train that I MUST have reservations for that particular train Nothing said that the particular train that I was on demanded reservations. So, I had to pay up. Then, after recouping from a little GI upset, all went otherwise well. Firenze is a quaint little town, with lots of shops, and old sites. The Duomo is huge and gorgeous.  Tomorrow is the tour…

The Duomo

04OCT2011 Firenze tour

We met on the Vecchio Bridge, which goes across the Alto River. There are multiple shops on the bridge, at one time declared by the Medicis to be only jewelry shops. We walked by the Uffizi Museum, which used to house the Medici family, followed by the City Hall, where the Michelangelo statue of David used to stand. It was the courtyard in front of this building where Savaronola was burned at the stake. The tour continued to see the Mercantile Square, and the little Pig. We then walked through a number of quaint neighborhoods until we arrived at a small Gelato shop where the gelato is made fresh every day. It tasted awesome! The last stop was the Academia Museum, where we were able to see the statue of David by Michelangelo, a quite spectacular edifice of marble. After retreat to the hotel for a few hours we walked off to the Crucis Church, where Dante, Machiavelli and Michelangelo were buried. The guard would not let us in. We again had a late dinner, Betsy with spaghetti, and me with pizza.

Square outside "City Hall" where Savaronola was burned at the stake

Ponto Vecchi

River through Firenze

The killing of Medusa

Inside the Duomo

Crucis church holding Michaelangelo, Dante and Machiavelli

Thoughts on Italian food. It is far better than French food, but I prefer German food. The pizza is very thin crust, with very little topping. The spaghetti has almost no sauce on it. The flavors are great. Chicago remains my favorite place for pizza. Giordanos or Edwardos offers pizza that Italy cannot compete with. Even still, I could survive quite nicely off of Italian food. French food, I’d worry about what sort of slug or snail or animal head they may be serving me to eat.

Thoughts on the train. On this trip, we learned that the train service is not quite as reliable as we thought, and that if you have many connections, they are not to be counted on if the time between connections is tight. The lesson is to not travel so far in a single day and limit connections. The only difficulty would be in finding a hotel in connecting cities, unless you actually planned for it. This means that the idea of using a Eurail Pass and hopping on a train anywhere, going where you please, is not such a great idea. I’ll need to do a costing analysis, but with all the added fees for reservations, etc., it diminishes the value of the Eurail pass. Also, I haven’t seen extremely added value in first class over second class. It doesn’t make too much sense to me, in that the seats are nearly the same, and the first class cabins are usually a bit harder to find.

05OCT2011 Back to Krefeld

So, we had plans to go from Firenze to Krefeld. The plan was for 3 train transfers assuming everything went well. The first train went from Firenze to Milan okay. The next Italian train went from Milan to Zürich, a very beautiful ride, but for no good reason, the train was about a half hour late. We considered a number of choices, but noting a train leaving soon to Basel, we decided to take our chances and hop it. In Basel, we found a train soon after arrival to Frankfurt, and it was then easy to find a train to Düsseldorf. In Düsseldorf, the train transferred to Krefeld, and in Krefeld, we transferred to a bus to Engerstraße and a short walk to Herbert’s house. We arrived at about 10 pm, about an hour later than we had planned with the fewer transfers.

06OCT2011 Rest day in Krefeld

We were able to relax with Herbert, play with Arras, and pack. I was able to go to the store for Gummibåren, sauerkraut, and Düsseldorfer senf. We were going to go to the Zoo, but the rains began and we decided to do nothing. We did go out to eat that evening, and I was able to spend a last chance with Herbert, talking politics, philosophy, etc.

07OCT2011 Home

What a long flight! Not much more to say. It feels good to have your feet back in familiar territory.

 

 

 

Glacier National Park Cycle Road Tour

September 6th, 2011
 

The adventures of Ken and Russ 01SEPT11 to 05SEPT11

Logan Pass

01 SEPT11 Finished call that went overnight, with few calls. I was able to sign out to Sneller Moreller and then take off.  I met Russ at his house and we took off at 8:15am. When we got to Whitefish, we had dinner and then stayed in a total dive of a motel. Drive was 570 miles, taking 9 hours.

Heading toward West Glacier

On the road to Essex

Izaac Walton Inn

 

 

 

 

Train headed to Marias Pass

02 SEPT11 Parked car at Columbia Falls Airport, and took off. Stayed at the Isaac Walton Inn in Essex, MT. 3297 Cal, 719 meters of ascent. 4:24 time 85.5 km. This hotel is a historic building that housed railway workers in yesteryear who maintained the tracks in winter. It is now an elegant hotel, where one could watch the trains go by, just west of Marias Pass.

03SEPT11 Essex to  St. Mary via Looking Glass Hill Time 6:35, Distance 96.7 km, Ascent 1534 meters, cal 3883.

Marias Pass

View from Looking Glass Hill

Marias Pass went quite smooth, about 400 meters of climbing, and we arrived in East Glacier Park at about 11:30, so had lunch there. The route immediately started climbing up Looking Glass Hill. The views were stupendous, but the road had no shoulder, was busy, and persistent 6-7% grade, another 400 meters of climbing. The rest of the trip to St. Mary was three subsequent climbs, finally exhausting me, but Russ was handling all okay. The final 8 km descent was glorious. We stayed in a small budget hotel in town.

04SEPT11 St Mary to West Glacier via Going to the Sun Road across Glacier National Park. 873 meters ascent, 3143 Calories, 4:44 time, 73.5 km. Seven miles of this trip (not counted) was via a mandatory shuttle bus along Lake McDonald. This was moderately strenuous after a very strenuous day. Russ handled it well, but he was performing the first Touring time trial up Logan Pass.

Headed West on Going to the Sun Road

Peak seen from Going to the Sun Road

Near the top of Logan Pass

 
Logan Pass

Peak seen from Logan Pass

 

Logan Pass

Descent from Logan Pass

Western Going to the Sun Road

West end of Going to the Sun Road

05SEPT11 West Glacier back to Airport, and then drive home.  37 km, 1:43 time, 1222 Calories, 169 meters ascent.

We returned by way of route 2, which left a mile of tight canyon road, very suited for photography, except that there was no shoulder on the road so it was impossible to comfortably stop. After returning to the car, we were able to drive home in reasonable time.

 

Alaska 01-07AUG2011

August 14th, 2011


Alaska 01-07AUG2011

This trip had several objectives. The first was to meet with Dr. Lattin and give a breast cancer update talk at his hospital. The second was to achieve a brief rest and relaxation while meeting friends, including not only the Lattins whom we met in Bangladesh, but also the Bankers, who attended Resurrection Presbyterian church with us in the past. We spent 3 nights in Anchorage, followed by three nights in Soldotna with the Lattins.

The first day in Anchorage was to simply settle in. We drove downtown, and shopped for moose hats and other Alaska paraphernalia. Betsy fell in love with the moose.

The second day, we drove up to Wasilla, and then out towards Tok. The mountains were stupendous. In the evening, we met with Jeff and Ellen Banker, and went out to eat. The seafood was incredible! The beer was quite good also.

The third day was mostly resting. I met with Jeff again, still recovering from hand surgery, and ran up to the top of Flattop Mountain. The most distinctive feature of Flattop Mountain is its flat top.

The fourth day, we checked out of our hotel and headed down to Soldotna. The drive is quite beautiful, with the seashore on one side, and immense mountains on the other side.

The fifth day, I gave my cancer talk. Later, we went out to dinner, and then drove to the beach in Kenai. We were able to see Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt.

The sixth day was a walk for life for Betsy and Anna, and a fishing trip for Jason, Nathan and myself. We drove down to Homer, and took off on a chartered boat out into Cook Inlet.

We spent much time with the kids.

Joshua

Noelle

Esther

I let Nathan run around with the camera for a bit, and noted that he wasn’t taking care to compose his shots. To illustrate the importance of adequate view in a photo, I took a photo of him. Included are photos Nathan took of the parents.

Nathan

Dad according to Nathan

Mom, according to Nathan

It was sad for Betsy and I to leave Alaska. It was more enjoyable than our last visit, and suggested returns, especially with friends. I also noted that the roads typically had quite wide shoulders and thus makes it quite conducive to cycle touring. All we need to worry about are moose and bear.

Special thanks to the Bankers and Lattins for making this trip quite special.

Selkirk Loop

June 8th, 2011

The Selkirk Loop Bicycle Ride 02-06JUNE2011

Russ A. and I had been planning this loop for quite a while. We had other loops in mind, such as going to Glacier National Park, but realized that the snow conditions were not permissive of a ride anywhere we wished. There is a website that promotes this loop (www.selkirkloop.org), so we decided that this would be  perfect choice. We drove to the start of the loop in Newport, Washington in a driving rain, hoping that the weather would clear. We stayed in a cheap motel and took off the next morning. Here is a map of the loop, and then our Garmin statistics…

03JUNE – Newport, WA to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, riding time 4:21, 101 km, 295 m ascent, 3755 calories – mostly cloudy weather, no rain; stayed in a hotel in Bonners Ferry

04JUNE- Bonners Ferry to Gray Creek, B.C., riding time 6:29, 125.5 km, 949 m ascent, 4872 calories – perfect weather, stayed in our tent at an RV park at Gray Creek, on Lake Kootenay

05JUNE- Gray Creek to Salmo, B.C., riding time 4:56, 88.54 km, 848 m ascent, 4098 calories  – again, perfect weather. Hard climb noted out of Nelson.

06JUNE- Salmo, B.C., to Newport, WA, riding time 7:33, 147 km, 623 m ascent, 5864 calories, we took the LeClerc Road variant, which was very flat, along the Pend Oreille River. The weather was perfect, but we drove back to Tacoma that evening, noting a very hard rain on the drive from Newport to Spokane, WA.

Total stats: 23:19 hours riding time, 462 km (287 miles), 2715 meters elevation gain (8907 ft), 18,689 calories burned off. We essentially accomplished the loop we wished, though it took us a little less time than anticipated. The only significant plan alteration was that we hoped to go to Kaslo and New Denver on the extended upper loop, but the weather did not look like it was going to stay perfect long enough for us to enjoy an entirely dry trip, and thus gave reason for doing the standard Selkirk Loop rather than a variant. Besides, we needed an excuse to return. Also, Russ had an injury to his thigh on the second day of riding, which suggested that it be best that we not push matters too hard.

In all, it was a delightful ride, and I had a wonderful time with Russ, and am already planning our next touring trip. It would be helpful if we knew what to expect in towns, and maps like the Adventure Cycle Association would be nice to have for all towns. Some towns on the map were essentially ghost towns, others had stores and motels and other provisions, and it was impossible to know what to expect along the route. This made it harder to plan for stops. Here are some photos of the trip…

Russ with the Selkirks in the background

Me on my loaded Co-Motion bicycle

Lake Kooteney in British Columbia

Lake Kooteney scene

The Glass House - built out of embalmers bottles

Lake Kooteney

On the Ferry crossing Lake Kooteney

West Arm of Lake Kooteney looking at the town of Nelson

Our hotel in Salmo, B.C.

Russ humping up a long steep hill out of Salmo

Russ and I in Metaline Falls

Last day - along the Pend D'Oreille River

So, we’re back. Tired, but, it was a wonderful trip.

Spring 2011 Bicycle Trips

May 26th, 2011


28-29APRIL – Amtrak trip to Portland with Russ A.
05-10MAY – Trip to Lexington, KY, and rides with Peter T.
19-22MAY – Trip to Dayton, WA with Russ A. and Pete

The itch to ride continues, but the rains continue unabated. Our Spring started out with a delightful visit by Scott & Lee Pyles, who direct the mission and hospital that we visited in Cameroon.

My first adventure was with Russ. I needed to pick up some furniture at Lew’s house, so decided to take the Amtrak down to Portland, ride the Touring bikes from the Amtrak Station to Oregon City, rent a U-Haul there, pick up the furniture, and ride up the Clackamas the next day. We had a moderate amount of rain on the trip, but our equipment held up quite well.

Russ in front of the Hawthorne Bridge, Portland, Oregon


The next trip was to Lexington, KY. The first day was spent at the hospital, learning about how Peter put together a multispecialty clinic. The next day was a trip from Lexington to his farm in Stanford. Peter figured out a route that took Tate’s Creek road south, crossing the Kentucky River in a Ferry boat, then proceeding along multiple backroads until we reached his farm. Unfortunately, I had to keep my camera in a backpack that I wore on my back, making it difficult to easily take photos. The total ride was 83.7 km, took us 4:36.
Once we reached the farm, the camera came out. I did some mountain biking around the farm. After we returned to Lexington the next day, we did a 25 mile ride up to the Horse Farm north of Lexington.

Attention Walmart Shoppers - here comes Peter. This rig gets him just about everywhere!


The family plot on the farm - completely rebuilt by Peter.


Morning on the farm.
The day before returning home, Peter worked out a loop ride in Northern Kentucky, titled the Ridges of Grant County. That was 32.5 km, taking 1:30. That afternoon, we went canoeing on the Elkhorn River. I did not bring my camera on the canoe trip!
Peter on the ridge.

An old flour mill, still in operation, powered by a water mill


Back home, Russ and I got the itch to return to Dayton. Pete went with us (not Peter), and Howie acted as our SAG vehicle.
19MAY 116.6 km, 4:54, 4483 cal, loop taken from Dayton down to Walla Walla and back via middle and lower Waitsburg road.
20MAY 111.4 km, 5:00, 1078 m elevation gain, 4256 cal burned, riding northward to the Snake River.
21MAY 89.2 km, 4:07 718 m elevation gain, 3054 cal, going from Dayton to Starbuck, and then south. There was much steep climbing, but we had a horrid headwind which ultimately exhausted all of us and we aborted early.

Early green wheatfields, stretching beyond the horizon


Wheat fields as far as you could see


United Bicycle Institute

March 27th, 2011


United Bicycle Institute- Ashland, Oregon 21-25MAR2011
Back to school! This time, it was bicycle repair school. The drive was 7 hours each way. I had heard about the UBI from the General during the Adventure Cycling Association Introduction to Touring class, and wanted to learn more about bicycle repair. This introduction was very well done, the instructors not only very knowledgeable, but very patient and superb at teaching. It was a most enjoyable week of not only getting away from work, but of actually learning something useful.
I drove down to Ashland from Puyallup on Sunday. I stayed about 3 km from the Institute at Cedarwood Inn, an inexpensive but nice motel. Monday was focused on wheels. We first learned how to change a tire, and the different types of tires. We learned about taking the hub apart, removing the gears, re-packing the bearings, and getting everything back together. A short discussion on truing wheels was made, but little hands on.

Nathan (instructor) tells a joke and Dan looses control!


Bryce works on his mountain bike


Tuesday was pedals, cranksets and bottom brackets. I completely disassembled my bottom bracket and put it back together. We also learned about removing, inspecting and changing chains.

Tom was my bench partner


Matt (instructor) helps Jose


Dan the Canadian, not laughing this time


Wednesday was derailleur day, starting with the rear derailleur, and then the front. Oddly, the front derailleur is more touchy to tune up than the rear derailleur. In the evening, I went for a bicycle ride. I went up route 66 headed for Klamath Falls, but got only about 14 km before the weather became a little concerning, and it started to get dark.

Route 66


More Route 66


Lake on Route 66
Gnarly trees on Route 66- Mirkwood
Thursday was brake day. We had to completely dis-assemble caliper brakes, and then re-install them on the bicycle correctly. The instructors were a bit fussy about doing things correctly, since a bad setting for brakes could have serious consequences on the road. The weather was horrible today, with a mixture of rain and snow, so no thought of riding was possible.

Rich helps Tom


Matt shows us how to really wash a bicycle


The framebuilding shop with Robert (student) on right


Friday entailed pulling off the handlebars, headset, and removing the stem from the bike. This was fairly straight forward. We learned the correct method of washing and oiling a bicycle. After getting a tour of the frame building shop, we were handed certificates of completion and “graduated”. There was no test, since the true measure of success was in how well the bicycle worked.Bryce needed a lift up to Portland which provided me a delightful companion to keep me awake on the road, and then I was able to get home by 2300 Friday night.
To Matt, Rich, and Nathan I say “Thank You”. To everybody else who enjoys riding bicycles, this is a class very much worth taking. It’s fun. Matt, Rich and Nate are delightful characters that add a tremendous enthusiasm to not only cycle repair, but to cycle riding in general. A class like this could someday save your life, if you are out and away, with a broken bicycle. It has my highest recommendation.

The workbench


Our class - from top left clockwise - Michael, Bryce, George, Ryan, Jordan, Rico, me, Bridget, Don, Tom, Rebecca and Dan.

San Antonio SSO Meeting

March 12th, 2011


The Society of Surgical Oncology Meeting in San Antonio, 01-06MARCH2011
Dr. Tate is pictured in the photograph trying to remember the Alamo. We remembered it for several minutes, then paused to enjoy a cigar while sitting on park benches just across from the Alamo. We inquired of the status of PeeWee’s bicycle in the basement of the Alamo, and learned that the Alamo actually has two small basements, large enough to hold a bicycle. You can’t believe everything that you see in the movies. The meetings were long and arduous, but we were able to get 34 CME credits for this venture. The conference literally went from dawn until dusk, and so we did not have a lot of time to spend reflecting on the Alamo, but we did get around a little bit. The conference was at the large conference facility just next to the river walk. We’d go down to the river to eat our lunch.


You can see that we were dressed up to the hilt. This is sort of a snobby conference, as most surgical meetings usually occur in more casual attire. The pathologists were having their meeting next door to us, where I was able to encounter one of the Puyallup pathologists. Notice his more casual attire.

We were able to see the San Antonio imitation of the Seattle Space Needle.

It was one of the better conferences that I’ve gone to as of late. Most notably, it was announced that we must stop doing so many axillary dissections, and that while it would have been malpractice a week before to not complete an axillary dissection when the sentinel lymph node was grossly positive, we are now committing malpractice to do the same. The Surgical Oncology gods have spoken and we must obey. NCCN guidelines will be slow to correct the new change in practice recommendations, but we will be patient. So, I return to Puyallup full of vim and vigor, and will be plagiarizing one of the talks I heard in presenting to the other surgeons and oncology doctors the new revelations from the randomized trials.
p.s. too much academia becomes hard to endure…

Trip to Belize — 05-11FEB2011

February 16th, 2011

Saturday 05FEB.   Betsy woke up at 2am and I an hour later in order to catch a 6am plane to Houston and then on to Belize. The flight went well, and the only real abuse was in customs in Belize. It was actually the worst we have ever been treated in going through customs, and even Bangladesh and re-entry into the US were never so bad, with them insisting on looking through our bags and then charging us customs on “suspicious” items, as well as taking away several blocks of cheese that we had with us. We ultimately met Dennis and Jonny and drove in darkness to their home.

Sunday 06FEB.   Day of rest, Dennis gave us a tour of the “colony”. It is impressive to see somebody surviving without public electricity or water. There was a relative drought, and so we had to be careful about water usage.

Monday 07FEB. Today, we rode into Belmopan, which is the capitol of Belize, in order for Jonny to renew his visa. We then toured San Ignacio, which is the largest town close to Dennis and Dottie’s house.

Tuesday 08FEB. It rained, and so plans were changed. Betsy went visiting with Dottie to various neighbors and I stayed home. Betsy and I later had coffee with the Schiemanns, a Geman couple living on Dennis’ land.

Wednesday 09FEB. Dottie toom us to 5 Sisters rezort and waterfall. It was south of Dennis and Dottie’s home and on the way to Caracol. The waterfalls demanded a short hike. Afterwards we went to Blancaneux resort, owned by Francis Ford Coppola and had lunch. This was a truly impressive resort… One that Betsy and I wouldn’t mind returning to some day.

Thursday 10FEB. Today, Dennis drove us to Spanish Lookout, an area of Belize owned by the Mennonites and in appearance like Iowa, though with palm trees. The Mennonites, in trying to escape the world, brought the world with them. Dennis needed to stop at a few hardware stores. Ralf Schiemann was with us, and was able to give me instruction in the German language. I enjoyed him.

Friday 11FEB. This day was a leisurely trip back home, with our plane leaving Belize City at 12:30 and arrival back in Seattle at 8 pm.

So, what did we accomplish? These are NOT in order of importance or significance!

1. We were able to get the slide scanner working for Dottie.

2. We had a wonderful time with Jonny.

3. We had a wonderful time with Dennis and Dottie.

4. We learned a lot about Belize culture and land.

5. We had multiple lectures from Dennis regarding “what’s going on” in the world, as well as theology/history lectures on the virtues of British Israelism.

6. Betsy and I had a nice break together.

7. We explored the possibility of buying land in Belize.

8. We got to meet many wonderful Belizeans, both immigrants as well as native Mayans.

We appreciate all that Dennis and Dotie did to make our trip a comfortable success, and recommend considering making Belize a possible vacation destination. When we return, we’d like to explore more of Belize, perhaps staying on the coast for several days to do some scuba diving, and definitely try to see Corazol, the large Mayan temple at the end the road Dennis and Dottie live on, and much farther south.

Washington D.C. 02-07OCT2010

October 15th, 2010

Washington D.C. 02-07 OCTOBER 2010 — American College of Surgeons Meetings

I don’t especially enjoy going to Washington D.C. It is a large dirty town, expensive, mediocre food, bad beer, and little that interests me. When you have seen the Capitol once, you’ve seen it enough. The building attempts to portray strength. Yet, I continually am befuddled as to which idiot decided on that silly statue on top–probably it’s the same fools that cogitate and ruminate inside. The building sitting behind the Capitol building was even more despairing. To climb the steps of this edifice would best state old Dante’s words “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.

Correct. It is the Supreme Court building. Dennis, for your interest (and yours alone, since only you have read Tupper Saucey), notice the “mark of Cain” in the railing just off of the sidewalk. Needless to say, I did have one remarkably wonderful experience in D.C.

I went to church on Sunday morning to hear Mark Dever preach. This Sunday, Mark broke off from a series in Mark to speak specifically on the nature and doctrine of the church. The sermon was good, though Mark seemed to have a problem (like all Baptists) in seeing the importance of Old Testament in bringing light to the practices of the New Testament, especially in regard to the sacraments and the church. Oh well. It was a delight to hear solid preaching from a conservative scholar, only 3 blocks from the supreme court and capitol building.

Taking a walk to Barry’s house, I noticed that the Smithsonian Museum had a special on evolution. Those of you who know me realize that I contend that evolution is the greatest case of science in a state of dire confusion, just being wrong. I do take slight exception to that rule. While I believe that most people were created by God in God’s image, there are a few rare exceptions to the rule. If you look carefully at the pictures on this sign, you will notice that the “ape” in the lower right hand corner bears a striking resemblance to our current president. Perhaps BHO was a rare exception of the ape to man process?

Barry was a little stand-offish, and would not let me into his house. That’s okay, since I have no interest in visiting him anyway. Little does he know that there is more power in that church down the road (Capitol Hill Baptist) than all the might and military that old B. Hussain O. could ever muster up.

I did not take photos of the American College of Surgeons meeting. It was mostly a dog and pony show, though I learned a bit in the process. Much discussion related to the changing face of surgery. Sadly, most surgeons fail to see that we have brought much trouble on ourselves by letting medicine become a political process. We now are looking to people like BHO to solve our problems and he only makes them worse. Surprise, surprise.

There’s only one thing I really like about Washington, D.C. They have a great subway transportation system. It’s especially helpful when you wish to get out of Washington, D.C. The train takes you straight to the airport, without any hassle. Unfortunately, a moderate number of surgical meetings occur in D.C., meaning that in those years where the meetings take place in D.C., I will probably skip and look for meetings in Florida or Arizona, or Southern Cafilornia (no, that is NOT a mis-spelling!).

Im Vaterland mit Fahrrad

September 2nd, 2010

It was time to go to Germany, and discover the world of bicycle riding in Europe. Dr. Peter Tate was to meet me in Berlin with his bicycle, and I was bringing my Novara Element with the intention of leaving the bicycle with Onkel Herbert. Daughter Diane was able to get away from work and go with us, and she seemed content to take care of herself when Peter and I were out riding. Our plan was for a Blitzreise, spending three days in Berlin, three days in Leipzig with Herr Doktor Kretschmar, and three days in Krefeld with der berühmte Herr Doktor Feucht. Diane left us after Berlin to go see a friend in Frankfurt, and we met again in Krefeld. The trip included much learning about how to survive with a bicycle. It was especially the case with learning how to travel on public transportation with a bicycle, like riding the Bahn. Once arriving in Berlin, the first order of attention was to assembling the bicycle, and then to going out to get some Döner. We were able to take Peter on a walk around Berlin in order to show him the main sites, like the Bandenburger Tor.

21 AUG 20 km ride around Berlin– riding a bicycle around Berlin was easier than expected. Bicycles need to observe the same rules as cars, though they usually have special bicycle paths for bicycles. The rest of the day was spent taking a long walk with all three of us together and Diane as Stadtführerin.

22 AUG 108 km ride to Potsdam from Berlin, with bypass to see Sans Soucci and to loop around several lakes in the Potsdam area. This was a long ride, and the weather was perfect. On this trip, we learned how confusing it could be to try to find your way around, and we often went in circles. Streets are not often clearly marked, and they frequently change name for no good reason. To make matters worse, I was depending on a gps card for my Garmin Edge that would give me streets in Europe. The gps unit refused to accept the card, and so was left without a reasonable means of orientation and poor maps. I couldn’t have been more upset. Needless to say, the ride was awesome, and the palaces around Sans Soucci were overwhelming in their size and grandeur.

24 AUG Dresden. 4:30, 81 km3500 cal, 120 m– Peter and I arrived in Leipzig on 23AUG, and was picked up at the Hauptbahnhof by Dr. Kretschmar, whom I met last year while in Cameroon. He arranged for us to stay at a Ferienwohnhausrun by one of his friends. We were able to meet his parents and to have supper with them. The home-made sauerkraut was awesome. They also took us on a quick tour of Leipzig. On 24 AUG, Karsten, Peter and I were able to take off on our bicycles to the Elberadweg. We drove about 1 hour to our planned start, and off we went. The route was unbelieveably well cared for, and many people were on the road. It was fascinating to see a very large number of quite elderly people out riding their bicycles. We passed through the towns of Meißen, where the famous porcelain comes from, Dresden, and on. As we rode up stream, the canyon walls got steeper, and more impressive. There were multiple castles and elegant palaces along the way…. Nothing like one would ever see in the US. We then stayed in a very large Herberge, which looked like an old castle with a Turm, and nestled on the side of the canyon wall.

Peter and Carsten

Meißen

Peter in Dresden

Frauenkirche

Semper Oper

Our hostel was the upper right white “castle”

25 AUG. Konigstein to Neuhirschstein 90.6 km 5:17  3593 cal, 215 m ascent– the next day, we first rode 10 km up the Elbe to Konigstein, making a fairly steep climb up to the largest fortress (Festungen) in all of Europe. It was overwhelming. The trip back along the Elbe attempted further variations in order to see different things. At the end of the trip, it was very sad for me to have to say goodbye to Carsten, as I really appreciated seeing him and family again. I’ll definitely want to see him again in Cameroon, as well as spend time with him again in Deutschland.

Königstein

Königstein

Summer palace in Dresden

End of the ride in Hirschstein

26-27 AUG — we took the Bahn from Leipzig to Krefeld, and then rode our bicycles from the Krefeld Hauptbahnhof to Herbert’s Haus. The next day, Diane, Peter and I rode the regional transport to Düsseldof. We also spent much time looking for a bicycle box in order to sent Peter’s bibcyle back to the US on the airplane with him. We finally found a box for him at the Rückenwind bicycle shop.

28 AUG Krefeld to Ossenberg and back.   5:42,  100.7 km     3673 cal, 127 m ascent. Today, Peter and I took off on our bicycles to ride up the Rhein. The bicycle path was reasonably well marked, but the road was not in nearly as good of shape as the route along the Elbe. Also, since we were in the  Ruhrgebiet, we saw a huge number of very large factories. At the end, the weather got us, and we were caught in a squall. Peter wanted to stop for a beer, but I just wanted a warm shower and dry clothes.

It’s been hard saying goodbye again to so many friends. Carsten, Herbert, Katja and Hannes and Peter. Having left a bicycle with panniers at Herberts Haus, I now have no excuse not to return to Deutschland for another ride. I’ll either do the upper Rhein, the Schwarzwald, or perhaps something over in the Franken/Spessart area, heading to Prague. Hopefully, the next trip might be a little longer, and focused on just one region, to prevent spending a lot of time just getting from one place to another.

North Cascades Bicycling 26-29JUL2010

July 30th, 2010

26JUL2010   Total travel time 2:49, 68 km, 120 m ascent, 2958 cal.
I finally have been able to break away for a week to do some cycle touring. Russ A and I were dropped off in Darrington by Lucas, who rode about 40 miles with us. We spent the first night in the park lawn of Newhalem, having grabbed dinner at the country store, which closes about 5 pm. We were able to order some cold sandwiches, and even a beer. I was then able to finish Pat Buchanan’s book, and finish writing a review for this book on Betsy’s iPad, which she so graciously let me borrow. I’m beginning to love these little devices, as they are perfect for travel, since all I need is some word processing, and occasional Internet connection on WiFi. It is awesome at holding a charge. I thought that I’d never like the bugger, but I now prefer this over my laptop for travel, which is heavy, an energy monster, and not as versatile in many ways. I especially liked the iBooks option, which is a color improvement over the Kindle. The General (Pat C) had a Kindle on our ACA trip last year, and I was quite interested in it’s ability to provide availability to multiple books.

27JUL2010   Time 8:40 distance 120.3 km 1594 m total ascent, 6680 cal
Today was a most challenging day. We started from Newhalem, WA and rode to Winthrop. In the process, we needed to cross the North Cascades, and the pass is not an easy one. Actually, there are two passes, Rainy and then Washington Pass. After completing Rainy Pass on fully loaded touring bicycles, we were getting pretty beat. By the time we arrived in Winthrop, we were exhausted. It didn’t help that the last ten miles was greeted with a very strong head wind. Russ and I survived, especially owing to the spectacular scenery on the Passes. We might be invalids tomorrow!


28JUL2010   Time 3:11, distance 67 km, ascent 166 m, cal 2259
As one could see, today was an easy day. We needed it after yesterday, and today was also quite hot, especially in the afternoon. So, we rode from Winthrop tp Pateros. I am now looking out on the Columbia River. We went swimming in the hotel pool to cool off, and am able to relax. We’ve encountered a number of foreign cyclists on the route who are hitting the North Cascades, and it is interesting how much this part of the world attracts everybody else, yet this is only the second time I’ve ever been across the North Cascades highway. The cycle ride itself was reasonably flat, but the heat was still oppressive, as we followed the course of the Methow River before it flows into the Columbia River at Pateros.

29JUL2010  Riding time 4:40 distance 93 km, ascent 381 m, 3250 cal.
Travel today was between Pateros and Wenatchee, WA. The route followed the Columbia River all the way, though it was rolling hills, some as much as a persistent (2-3km) 5% grade. We started at 6 am in the morning, but by 10 am the heat was already quite sweltering. I couldn’t have ridden too much longer today because of the heat. The morning was absolutely gorgeous with sun glowing on the sides of the cliffs beside the Columbia River. We passed multiple fruit stands, affording us an opportunity to purchase fruit for the road. Peaches never tasted so good! Finally, in Wenatchee, we were able to catch the Trailway bus back to Tacoma. We wanted to take the train, but they would not allow us to check on our bicycles in Wenatchee, so, we took the bus. At first, Mr. Sourpuss at the checkout counter told us that we could not take our bicycles, but a very nice bus driver let us stick the bicycles In the luggage compartment anyway. So, it was a fantastic cycle trip with a fantastic friend.

I again did not take nearly enough photos. There isn’t much diffent that I’ll need to do for further road trips except to get in better shape. I hope that the issue is simply that of being a novice in cycle touring, and the more I do cycle touring with friends, I’ll be able to plan better, and utilize the time to not force mileage, but to enjoy each mile ridden. This will take time and experience. Further mid-summer trips should be planned for the coast, and not in eastern/central Washington. Maybe we could do part of the Pacific Coast route next summer.

Fahrrad fahren in Ost Washington

July 21st, 2010

Bicycle riding in Eastern Washington, the Palouse-Dayton, Walla Walla Region 15-18JULY2010

Russ, Luke, and I as well as Peter decided to head off to eastern Washington to do some cycle riding.

The above photo includes Pete, Howie, Jake, Lucas, and Russ standing in the Blue Mountains after visiting an old family hunting site.

We stayed with a relative of Russ, Howie, who has a cabin in the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington, next to his charming bruder Jake.

Howie is on the left, Jake on the right. We did short and long rides each day. The weather was gorgeous, though a bit hot for my liking, being up to 33?. The Palouse contains not only the Blue Mountains, but wheat fields as far as the eye could see. You can see our motley crew resting by a wheat field.

Each evening, we cooked up a meal, and Lucas would retreat to study. Study? My goodness, he has forgotten that he graduated from college!

Reality hit, and he had to pack off back home…

Total mileage was

15JUL 24.5 km, 414 m elevation gain

16JUL 120 km, 1173 m elevation gain

17JUL 95 km, 576 m elevation gain

18JUL 38 km, 325 m elevation gain

Bangladesh 2010

July 4th, 2010

07JUN2010 I’m currently sitting in the airport at Muscat, Oman. It is a very nice airport, and thankfully, all have been very helpful to me. I discovered only a few days before leaving that CheapOAir changed my reservations such that I was left with a 28 hour layover in Muscat, the thing that I dreaded most, being stuck in an airport for lengthy periods of time. There was no way that I could correct matters, though there was a glimmer of hope yesterday with Lufthansa suggested that I could be bumped for a day, which would have left me a 4 hour rather than 28 hour layover. Oh well. The trip started in Seattle. The checkout person was German, so we did the entire exchange auf Deutsch. I was pleased to discover that I was also able to fare quite well in the Frankfurt Flughafen, my German ever so slowly improving, though mostly in interpretation, and not in ability to communicate. I’ve been able to read two large books so far in my travel, well as study some German and Bengali. I sadly discovered that I left my light yellow rain jacket on the last airplane, but won’t discover until this evening whether it showed up in lost and found. The airport is quite fascinating, and am surprised at the amount of liquor that could be found here, even though it is a strict Muslim country. I’ll probably pick up some frankincense on my way back from Bangladesh. I wish that Betsy was with me. I miss her, even though she seems to be constantly anxious about any sort of imaginable trivia. I’ve seen only a few spooks so far, and most people seem to be dressed in Indian western dress. I am quite surprised at the prevalence of Western culture, and especially English, in remote parts of the world, such as here in Oman.  Watching Muslim and Hindu families come by, seeing people interact and converse, it amazes me that cultural differences are over-emphasized, and how similar the characteristics of all humankind tend to be.

08JUN2010 Finally in BD. Babil got me at the airport, and we went for lunch at a local Bangladeshi restaurant. I’m eating with my hands again! You don’t use a spoon and fork in BD but pick up your food with your hands. It was wonderful to see old friends here in Chabagong, including Steve K, Steve W., Jason & Anna, John Tripura, Poromil, Uttam, Sujan, and the Collins. They make the trip worth it! Please forgive me if I left your name out…

20JUN2010 A 12 day interlude is now noted. I have been quite busy at the hospital, and enjoying my interactions. Like before, I have spent much of my free time in either talking with friends (of whom are both Americans and Bangladeshis), and reading. A number of books have already been devoured. Several books will not be reported in my website for the sake of Christian charity. Dr. Lattin has also loaned my some old copies of First Things.  I find First Things quite fascinating with a mixture of feelings. About a 1/3 of the articles are delightful and of interest to me. They utilize English at its best, a subject which leaves me rather jealous, because, try as I may, I find it impossible to write well. Every time I re-read what I write, I find grammatical errors, confusing statements, inappropriate use of words, self-manufactured words, and other stupidities. Brother Dennis only points out the most glaring examples. Yet, while reading First Things, I am able to obtain a vicarious joy in the best use of the English language, and the thoughtfulness of the articles. I am less inclined to delight in First Things because of its replete Romish Catholicism, as well as its slightly too liberal stretch of “co-belligerency” to Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, etc. Yet, Neuhaus is a first class writer, and often strikes a cord of agreement with me that I am able to appreciate.  My time is also spent in reflection on life in general. I miss Betsy tremendously. I do not feel complete without her. I’ve reflected much on the nature of missions, especially missions in a Muslim realm. Modern Western sympathies for Muslim culture and religion seem to lack an appreciation of the working of Muslims when found as the predominant cultural or religious group in a community. This has been seen by me both in BD as well as in Cameroon. It is a religion of slavery, joylessness, oppression. It offers minimal respect for women, disguising the depersonalization and subjugation of the female population all in the name of modesty. Yet, devout Muslim men seem to be the most lustful of all of God’s creatures, and the presence of a Burqua doesn’t quench their lusts. Generalizations tend to betray the large amount of quite decent living and courteous Muslim people that I’ve encountered, who have been most helpful in my travels. Like last time in BD, probably the hardest thing to endure is the persistent beggarliness of all Bangladeshis. It’s hard not to respond to that, though agreements with the mission to not give more than meager gifts to the natives must be observed. A typical BD native seems to view the missionary Christian as the equivalent of “wealth”, and I remain perplexed as to how to personally respond. I sometimes feel that my presence in BD is perhaps more a problem than good for the gospel.

27JUN2010 I have just finished my last day of call, and will be wrapping things up this week. Call kept me up both nights, the first to do a D&C, and then next night to answer questions about a patient who decided to go into the dying mode. It is monsoon season, and rain occurs unlike anything in the Northwest. It will rain torrentially for about twenty minutes, and then it will be sunny. Rains occur about 2-3 times a day. I tried going out once in a downpour, with an umbrella, and found that I was soaked from head to toe, as the rain falls horizontally with a small wind. You’re always given a minute or so premonition of coming rain, as the wind begins to blow. You don’t see dark storm clouds, just a wind. I’ve now met with all my friends on the hospital compound, and feel like I’ve been able to spend quality time with them. I haven’t taken enough photographs, and will need to spend one last day running around with my camera. Nurul (his name sounds more like Noodle as the Bengalis do a different sort of “r”) will be taking me up to Chittagong. Meanwhile, only one thing is on the mind of most Bangladeshis—the World Cup in soccer. Oddly, the nation cheers for only two teams, Argentina and Brazil. It will be tragic when both of those teams loose.

02JULY2010 I’m now sitting in the airport in Chittagong. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve been able to access fast internet (and free, also!!!!). A few Taka and the airport assistant was able to shuttle me through to the head of the line, and get me through without a problem. The airport scanner was broken, and so they quickly let me through when I told them that I was a daktar (doctor). The ride to the airport was with Nurul, who drove quite decently, and we arrived in generous time to catch the plane. Although Cameroon roads were the worst I’ve ever encountered, Bangladeshi roads are not exactly super-highways, and more than once, we almost hit a dog, rickshaw, and oncoming bus. I can’t believe that more accidents don’t happen in this country. Later… I’m now in the airport in Muscat, Oman, waiting for my Papa John’s pizza to cook. I happened to be the only white person on the plane from Chittagong to here, and it’s nice to see a few English speaking people around. Bangladeshi behavior is close to hilarious. They are very pushy in line, always trying to get ahead of anybody else. Once the plane hit ground, almost immediately, about half the passengers popped their seatbelts and were standing to fetch their overhead items. Strange. Papa Johns was quite good, not greasy, close to what one would eat at home. I ordered the super Papas, since they didn’t have the Arabian Always special. I presume it was halal. The checkout lady was in black dress, not a full burqua, but had absolutely no personality; no smile, no regard for people, nothing.

Papa Johns in Muscat, Oman

Flowers of Bangladesh

Selling Jackfruit in Chabagong

John and Nimmi with hospital schematic

In the market with Sujan

I now think about the trip summary. I feel that it was a valuable trip, especially being able to meet old friends, and acquire new friends in Malumghat. I was able to give Steve K. free time to work on the design of the new hospital with the architect. I especially enjoyed meeting John M. and his wife Nimmi, who live in North Carolina, though they come from Chennai (formerly Madras) India. What did I forget? 1. Insect repellent. The last four days, the bedbugs came out, and I was covered head to toe. Interestingly, at the same time, I read recently that an Abercrombie and Finch was closed in New York City because of bedbugs. Go figure. 2. Flashlight (headlamp) – the lights go out way too frequently, and I have to ride a very bumpy road on my bike at night to get to the hospital when on call. 3. Voltage converter/adapters- the only thing that wouldn’t work was my beard trimmer, but sticking a three prong plug into the outlets provided tended to put a terrible strain on the plug. It would have been better to have an adapter.

I am considering a return in late January/early February 2011 with Betsy. If we go, I think I will try the oriental route, and maybe stay several days in Bangkok. Jason noted that the town was quite interesting, and fairly modern, worth a visit. We’ll see how the Lord leads.

So, as soon as we arrived home, Betsy and I went out to purchase a new vehicle. Diane needed our RAV4, and we sold it to her since we were considering a pickup. We ended up with a Toyota Tacoma.

Life Update 19APR10

April 19th, 2010

Cannon Beach
It’s been over three months since I’ve posted about events in Betsy’s and my life. A lot has gone by, like, Easter! I had out the Österlamm that Herbert gave me about 6 years ago.

So, here is a quick catchup, mostly with photos…

1. Deutsch Unterricht– I restarted Saturday AM German class. Between reading the Magazine Deutsch Perfekt and going to German class at the Tacoma German Language School, I’ve been able to keep from totally loosing my language skills. Here are some photos of the class, as well as the teacher, Yvonne. She is from Dresden, Germany, and is unbelievably patient with us old farts.

2. Oregon Coast– in early February, Betsy and I took a trip to the Oregon Coast. The lead photo was from Cannon Beach. The Oregon Coast is one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.

3. Cycling & trainer– Betsky now has a new bicycle, named Meggie II, after her first bicycle. We took a brief 10 mile ride recently…

Betsy also let me get a Tacx Virtual Reality Trainer. These are quite nice at being able to cycle train in bad weather or when you only have an hour to spend on a bicycle and need a hard workout. It works by connecting a computer to a gizmo that your back bicycle wheel sets in. When you are going “uphill”, the wheel offers resistance in proportion to the steepness of the hill, and when going downhill, it may actually spin your tire for you. It is close to reality.

You can see that it really chews up your training tire. Meanwhile, you watch a video screen, which you set to a number of rides that you may wish to experience, throughout Europe. As you pedal faster, the scene moves faster, quite comparable to reality.

The screen will also show your power output (in watts), cadence (how fast you’re pedaling), heartrate, bicycle speed, time, and distance. This allows you to monitor closely how well you are improving on your endurance. Here is Jonathan on the bicycle trainer…

4. Bicycle Tour 15-18APRIL2010. This trip was to celebrate tax day, April 15. Russ A. and I drove to Chelan, WA, and took off from there. Our first stop was 52 miles later in Twisp, WA. The road either followed the Columbia River, or tributaries, leaving us at a resort town just east of the North Cascades pass.

The next day went from Twisp to Coulee Dam, a 85+ mile ride, with fully loaded touring bikes, and about 7000 feet elevation gain. Here was our first challenge, that of crossing Loup Loup Pass. We were concerned about the weather since it had snowed on the pass just a week before. It was quite cold, but we were working so hard to cross the pass that we were over-heated anyway.

We then ended up in Omak. We met a kindly elderly gentleman on the street to enquire about our options, and he suggested that we NOT go the way we had planned, but instead take an alternative route that was marked on the map as gravel road, yet in reality was fully paved. He also suggested that there were minimal hills. The route indeed was far less hilly than our planned route, but was persistent in multiple sections of 6-7% grade uphill, and a lengthy 8-9% grade section at the beginning and end of the new route. We were quite pleased to have done this alternative route, since it took us by some absolutely spectacular scenery, like Omak Lake.

We eventually ended up at nightfall quite exhausted but looking at the Grand Coulee Dam. We stayed in a motel that faced the dam.

The next day was 61 miles and another 5000 feet of climbing. From the photo below, the intuition would remark at how flat the terrain was, yet, on a bicycle, it was quite rolling hills, with lots of 6% grade climbing. We were still moderately tired from the previous day, which made it harder to do even simple hills.

Our last memorable scene was from the Columbia plateau, getting ready to descend down to the Columbia River. In the distance, you could see Lake Chelan and the town of Chelan. It was a 8-12% grade descent for about 5 miles. Awesome! I’d sure hate to come up that hill on a loaded touring bike!

5. Future– so much has gone by. A niece, Laura, won a beauty pageant.

Laura, we are so proud of you. It takes not only beauty but true talent and skill to get to Teen Colleyville.  Thankfully, you didn’t have to have uncles dying in the car and brothers spazzing out on you to get into your contest, like in Little Miss Sunshine. We had old friends from many moons ago, Aaron and Anita visit us. They remain quite special. I especially appreciate being able to do outdoor things with Aaron. We plan on seeing Jonny off to Belize for the summer, and perhaps longer, to visit and study with Uncle Dennis. Dennis has been doing well, as is attested by this recent photograph…

Once he gets out of jail and quits playing with poisonwood, he’ll be back to his old self, I’m sure. Dennis is not really in jail; he is just showing us the miracles of Photoshop. I’d really like to visit Dennis some day. Belize is looking increasingly appealing, especially with our Destroyer-in-Chief Obaminator as el Presidente ruining all that we count as precious in our country. He will go down with Woodrow Wilson and FDR as the worst presidents ever of the USA.

I hope to do a few more cycle tours this summer. I also plan on spending the month of June in Bangladesh, and will be in Germany for the last 2 weeks of August, if all works well. More blogs will follow. I haven’t had many book or movie reviews since I’m listening to 2 lengthy Brahms compendiums, which I wish to review together, watching a lengthy tv series with Betsky, and reading a very large and ponderous book. So, more blogs will be in the works in the future. Meanwhile, please stay in touch.

Final Days in Cameroon

November 23rd, 2009

08NOV2009 The photo below shows  the Lutheran church in town, one week ago. It is a much smaller church that the one in Meskine that we usually attend. We did appreciate the service quite a bit, though it was a touch more formal than the other church.

Yesterday I took a bicycle ride from the hospital up to the mountains. This was done with Carsten and Scott. We took off at 6 am, rode for two hours, and went nearly 20 miles. It was over dirt road, and so mountain bikes were imperative.

I think the natives were more puzzled about us than we were about them. You can see their standard home structure, with a cluster of Boukarous and mud walls enclosing the village.

The Meskine missionaries invited a priest from the Anglican church to come give meetings for four days.  He was heavily influenced by the teaching of the Toronto Blessing, which is an form of Pentecostalism. There were many “words from the Lord” and talk about healings. Some basic doctrines of the faith, such as the doctrines of Christology, were brought into question. My feeling was that though the missionaries wished for “revival”, a revival of emotions without revival of the primacy of God’s word is doomed to failure, frustration, and a worse end than if nothing at all occurred. You are left momentarily with the haunting notion that maybe there is a form of Christian faith, a technique or belief structure, that will magically transform you into somebody that can heal on command, read minds, and hear God directly. Unfortunately, there is no magic, but there are the Scriptures, with God speaking about as plainly as imaginable. So, our doubts about missing a “higher blessing” are relieved by knowing that attendance to God’s word alone gives the highest blessing.

That evening everybody went out to dinner, and we had sauerkraut. It wasn’t the best sauerkraut that I’ve ever had.

Today, we attended the main church in Meskine, partially skipping out of the healings and words from the Lord. It is quite a dramatic event, and so I include a short portion of video. The natives here are excellent musicians, and Betsy and I both enjoyed native African beats with Christian songs.

MVI_2014

There is general singing, mostly in Fulfulde, but also in French. Then, various sub-groups will get up to sing in their particular dialect. When it came to the time for us Western folk to sing, it was just Carsten’s family and Betsy and I, so we had Betsy sing “Amazing Grace” as a solo. It was well received. Sermons and more singing occurred. The entire service lasts 2.5-3 hours. As you can see, the worship is quite animated, and there is more body movement than in Western churches (except for the Pentecostals, of course!).

13NOV09 Time is quickly coming to an end. Having felt light-headed soon after arrival in Cameroon, I solved matters by cutting my blood pressure medicine in half. I am already on the lowest dose possible, so now I am just about taking naturopathic doses the last 4 weeks. I measured my blood pressure during the stress of a busy surgical day, and it was 100/60. I am beginning to draw further conclusions as to the probable cause and treatment of my hypertension. I just wonder what my weight and cholesterol levels are doing. We are preparing for a trip to Roumsiki with the Kretzschmar family this weekend. It is a small resort town located on the Cameroun/Nigerian border. There are supposed to be some interesting volcanic formations, and it is known as one of the more beautiful parts of the country. Though it is only 80 miles at most away, it will take us about 4-5 hours to get there, since the road is anything but ideal. More on that later.

I showed up at the operating room this morning, and the techs invited me into their own room for brunch. They were sitting around a bowl of what they called “soup”, and sticks of French bread, which they would break off, dunk in the soup, and then eat. It was quite spicy, and tasted great. I suddenly realized what had occurred at the Lord’s supper, as I joined into the common pot.

The brunch was served with Cameroon tea, which was quite sweet, and tasted just like lal cha from Bangladesh. That will be one of my more memorable experiences, and it really touched me that the techs would honor me like what they did, inviting me to join with them.

17NOV09 We have just returned with the Kretzschmars from Roumsiki, one of the few resort towns of Cameroon.

It actually was very nice. We stayed at a resort that is maintained by a Swiss man and a native Cameroonian lady. The resort has the comforts of a typical Western hotel, including a swimming pool.

The area is known for its volcanic granite rock formations, that are seen throughout the horizon.

We took a hike one day down into the valley enclosed by these formations, and actually entered Nigeria. The path, though steep, is heavily traveled by donkeys bearing large loads of goods from Nigeria, as well as ladies carrying massive volumes on their heads.

The donkeys are essentially the Cameroonian equivalent of large transport trucks. We were also able to step foot into Nigeria. Here is Betsy and I in Nigeria.

The next day, Carsten and I tried to climb Roum, which is the mountain around which the town is made. He did okay, but I was slipping too much from poor shoes, and decided to opt out of the very last few hundred feet. This the mountain to which the Kapsiki speaking people escaped to from the Muslim terrorists-I mean, invaders. You can see caves where they hid out.

We later went to visit a house of an animist. Each of his many wives has their own home, while he has the biggest, close to where the goats are kept.

Afterwards, we realized that Betsy was having a high temperature, and quickly realized that she was having a bout of malaria, so got her going on Co-Artem.

The ride home was a little difficult with sick Betsy and sick children, since, if you look at a map, it looks like a major thoroughfare, but in actuality, it is dirt road of the worst possible condition.

Diane, if you are reading right now, look closely, as it’s not a cow nor a horse, but a donkey.

19NOV09

Over the last few days in Meskine, the morning temperature has dropped as low as 73ºF, and many people, nationals and ex-pats alike, are wearing heavy jackets and wool hats. Babies are bundled in extra sets of thick clothing. It has become very cold for people accustomed to living in 110ºF weather.

Last night, I did prayer rounds with Martin, one of the evangelists at the hospital. 6/8 people we prayed for were Christian. It is amazing how many Christians are in this mostly Muslim area. The missionaries and many of the native Christians will make rounds on every hospital patient each Tuesday evening, and that has been an interesting way for me to see the patients in a totally different light from that as a physician. It is especially delightful to be able to spend time with the Natives. My pre-conceived conception of them as being a tad bit primitive, living in mud huts, etc., is entirely wrong, and I am amazed at their wit, intelligence, and awareness of world events. Most people have cell phones. Most Natives speak at least two languages, many as much as 4-5 languages fluently. It is not loin-cloth jungle savages barely commanding what lays a few yards beyond their existence.

23NOV09 We are finally home, with a moderate case of jet-lag. Yet, we are thankful to see family, and to touch base with our home and surroundings, while sustaining good health. I now have a laundry list of chores to do before I go back to work on 07DEC. Before then, I’ll probably publish some reflections on the past year, which will go unannounced by e-mail. So, stay in touch.

Crazy Days in Cameroon

November 4th, 2009

21OCT2009 – Please also read “First Days in Cameroon”. I tried publishing blog updates from Cameroon, and it would not go through, so, the trip to Cameroon will be a series of several blogs. The above photo shows Sadjo and Carsten in the OR. Sadjo is Muslim, though a most friendly person, and most intelligent. He was one of the first employees at the hospital, brought in when he was a young man, and trying to earn a living as a tailor. He now spends most of his time sewing people.

Today, I did a oophorectomy/hysterectomy on the Pyles cat. This was performed in the quiet of their back porch, using Ketamine as the anesthesia, and Kalabasoo helping with the surgery. It was a bit floundering, but the cat seemed to survive our ordeal. At 1700, Carsten dropped by for our first bicycle ride. He rode out into the fields surrounding Meskine, noting that cotton and Millet were the main crops. Both seemed to be doing well. There are mountains surrounding Meskine, and several have large monkey populations. Our hope is to have a little more time to ride further. Since it gets dark at 1800, we were limited to about 20 km ride today. You must use mountain bikes, since the roads are dirt, and are not in terribly good shape.

I am still doing a lot of operating, and fortunately, able to give Carsten a break more often. This has been good for him. We have also been discussing ways to help Meskine get back into general orthopedics, like bringing the SIGN-nail to Meskine. This is an intramedullary nail that you run down the middle of a long bone in order to stabilize a fracture. They are then able to return to function much quicker. Carsten has been absolutely delightful to be around, and we have been able to work well together. I think that I need to learn better German in order to communicate with him and my other German relatives and friends.

On 23OCT, I did a D&C, today a cystolithotomy (removing a stone from the urinary bladder), as well as herniae repair and abscess drainage. The types of surgery seem to be rapidly expanding. It has been an enjoyable experience in the OR. I am still frustrated by the inability to perfectly communicate with Carsten, but fortunately, he is moderately patient. Simple things are easy, but when trying to describe precise details of an operation or procedure, I don’t have the vocabulary in either French or German to adequately communicate.

27OCT, no changes. It rained yesterday, and the temperature fell to 80ºF. It was the first night here where we slept without the air conditioner running. I’m working feverishly on my French, so that I may communicate a little better.

30OCT, our time seems to be winding down. This AM, I went to the hospital 15 minute prayer service, opening with the songs “How Great Thou Art”, and “To God be the Glory”, in French of course. It was interesting to see how joyful the Africans were, in that they could not even sit down to sing these songs. They tend to be far more animated than Western folk. I compare that to the woeful sound of the call to prayer heard 4-5 times/day over loudspeakers in the village mosque next to the hospital grounds. Islam is such a sad religion compared to Christianity. Later, Scott Pyles and I went to do a reading to a young Muslim man showing some interest in the faith. This is similar to a reading that Betsy went to a week ago, where a missionary will go to a Muslim house, and will have bible stories, that they will read. In this instance, it was a bible story of the tabernacle in the wilderness, written in Arabic script, but using the Fulani language. All in all, it was a very pleasant experience.

The bottom photo shows some of the students of the person we went to read to. They learn to read and write by writing the Koran out on a large wooden board, which they are displaying. Once they have one page memorized, they erase the board, and put on the next page. This person lived in a one room house, inside a large compound of about a city block, housing several hundred people, including 90 some children, many barnyard animals and goats. His wife had just had a child, and the tradition is for the wife to stay with her mother for forty days after the first child, in order to learn how to raise the child.

Diane, it’s not a cow! It’s a goat!

Though missionaries may be chided for trying to “sell” religion, I would remind the dear reader that coercion or force is never used by the Christians like the Muslims, as many Muslims would readily convert if the societal pressure and intimidation was not so great. Also, the missionaries are almost always the first to form languages for remote peoples, and to teach them how to read and write. Contrary to M. Mead who would love to “preserve” ancient cultures, those ancient cultures all desperately wish to move into the 20th century like the rest of mankind, and Islam, unlike Christianity, is doing absolutely nothing to assist in mankind trying to improve their lot. I show a child trying to learn the Koran. Though many children might recite the Koran in Arabic, they have no clue as to what it says or means, as they do not understand Arabic. It would be like Christians insisting that one recite the Scriptures in Latin in order to find favor with God. Fortunately, our God is multi-lingual.

03NOV09 Today, I turned into a Urologist. We had a patient whom was thought to have a vesico-vaginal fistula. We could not find the fistula by instilling blue dye in her bladder, but noted serious urinary incontinence. So, we happened to have some bladder suspension kits, and I had seen it done several times, and went ahead and did it. In spite of that, we still noted a small amount of urine persistently coming into the bladder. So, I suggested we wake her up, do an IVP, and assess the problem. That would be true in the US or Europe, but not here. We proceeded to open her bladder, searched hopelessly for a fistula, but noted that there was absolutely no urine coming out of the left ureter. Again, I suggested a work-up. Sadjo suggested otherwise. We opened her up,  and found a markedly dilated left ureter, and much scarring surrounding the most distal ureter. So, our decision was to simply re-implant the left ureter into the bladder. This we did in a standard fashion, Sadjo paying close attention, since he will not only repeat the surgery someday, but probably do it better next time. It’s quite incredible working with these guys. As mentioned above, Sadjo was nothing but an ambitious young tailor, hired on for the hospital 17 years ago, fluent in Fulfulde, French, English, Arabic, and some German, now in his mid-forties, owning a large cattle ranch, working evening in the tailor business, as well as pursuing his love for surgery. He and Barbar are a total joy to work with.

The weather is cooler now. It was only 85ºF last night, which now seems cool to us. This time of year, winds from the north commence, causing a red dust to fill the atmosphere. The surrounding mountains no longer appear crisp, but a blurry red. This causes the temperature to cool down, but also leaves dust everywhere. I now remain a touch more congested, and am constantly sneezing from the irritation of the dust.

Just a little mention of all those who have made our stay memorable.

Sadjo and Barbar are the two main techs. Sadjo is Muslim, Barbar Christian, and totally opposite personalities, Sadjo being quiet and thoughtful, Barbar expressive and impulsive, alway saying “Ah cha cha”.

Tijani and Walko, quiet workers, Tijani’s uncle is chief of the village, and Walko is a tech that does much of the minor things in the operating room, as well as much of the anesthesia.

Saido,Roger and Falkamo also do anesthesia. It is usually spinal (rachidienne) or ketamine. All are absolutely superb. They can also do general intubation, but the OR is not well set up for that.

Vadera and Wome also do a lot of the minor activities like wound debridements and rapproachments (wound closures).

So now I turn to the missionaries that we have met. We loved all of them. Each one has become special to us in their own way. So, let’s start with Scott and Lee. They, along with Danny and Frances, started this place. It was their vision and hard work that led to the founding of Hopital de Meskine, and it continually shows. Scott is responsible for the main leadership, and possesses an uncanny sense of wit and humor about him. He is always able to break a tense situation with a word or comment that leaves a smile on others. Lee is amazingly hard working, and keeps everything in the surgery end of things running well.

So now I turn to the missionaries that we have met. We loved all of them. Each one has become special to us in their own way. So, let’s start with Scott and Lee. They, along with Danny and Frances, started this place. It was their vision and hard work that led to the founding of Hopital de Meskine, and it continually shows. Scott is responsible for the main leadership, and possesses an uncanny sense of wit and humor about him. He is always able to break a tense situation with a word or comment that leaves a smile on others. Lee is amazingly hard working, and keeps everything in the surgery end of things running well.

David and Patsy have been most special. David runs the informatics side of things, and keeps communications going. They are more quiet workers, but always possess a gentle loving spirit. Their hospitality will always be remembered. One day, Betsy was commenting on her bad back, and the next day, David dropped by a special chair that was very comfortable on her back. That really touched us, just the caring for little things in another person’s life.

Andrew and Kari have had two young adopted children to care for and so we have not had the opportunity to get to know them nearly as well as the other missionaries. They are also a bit newer, and so are working on learning the languages and becoming effective on the mission.

Carsten, Annette, and their children Rabea, Lucas, and Aaron (here, shown with Betsy and Marike in Roumsiki) have become quite well known to us. I have spoken more about Carsten in other places, since I have been working with him in surgery, but their entire family remains special. Carsten and Annette grew up in the former DDR in Leipzig. He and Annette are both very musically enclined, and he happens to like Bach, which makes them very much true friends. I truly hope to visit them in August in Leipzig, if the Lord wills.

Carsten and Annette have a young German girl named Marike (here shown with Rabea) from Baden-Württemberg helping out with teaching the children, and also working in the hospital, since she would like to eventually go into Medicine. She has been very special to us, since she has been able to help us better converse with Carsten and Annette, since she is fluent in German, French, and English. Her maturity and love for the Lord has been especially noticed by us.

Me with Josephine, Melissa with Aisha, Sarah, Kari and Ruth. Josephine is a general practitioner from the Netherlands, Melissa a short-termer from Louisiana, and Sarah a PA from Michigan. I’ve not had much of a chance to interact with Josephine, but have really appreciated getting to know her. She very sweet, is fluent in Dutch, German, English, French, as well as Fulfulde, and also a superb, caring doctor. I don’t know how she does it. Sarah has been wonderful to have. She is a real take-charge person, very industrious, and very capable in the tasks she has at the hospital. She rarely makes bad decisions, and has been a joy to work with. Kari is a physical therapist, whom I haven’t had the ability to get to know well. I appreciate her sweet temperament, as well as her loving demeanor around natives and patients. We had just gotten to know Ruth, who is working mostly in Chad, and quite fluent in Arabic.

First Days in Cameroon

October 17th, 2009

Betsy and I left home on 26SEPT. Dr. King took us to the airport, and we flew out on Air France to Paris, with an eight hour stopover and then on to N’dJemena, Chad. Adama picked us up at the airport, and drove us to the guest house, that had not quite prepared for our arrival. We made do, and was able leave by road to Meskine the next day, driven by Adama. The roads had multiple large potholes, yet Adama still drove at roughly 60-80 mph, the exact speed not known since the speedometer constantly read “0”.  One of our four boxes had not arrived, though we were assured that it would be in in several days, and promptly delivered to us. On 30SEPT, I started working in the OR. It is much different than in Bangladesh, in that the surgeon does very little ward care, but spends most of his time in the OR suite, or seeing consults. It will take me a few days to get used to things. The workers all speak a little English, and I spent much of my time speaking German with the other Surgeon, Carsten, who is from Leipzig.

02OCT, our final box arrived, missing only a few items, such as clorox wipes, which we can survive without. Surgery has been busy, with a few very odd cases. One was a 12 yo boy, gored by a bull, coming in several days later (how many, we don’t know), and his only injury was a complete division of his common bile duct. We did a Roux-en-Y reconstruction, but he died later that night. There are too many other cases to talk about, and I’m sure you’re not interested, so, we’ll let it slide.

10OCT, we had a fairly busy week at the hospital, but able to relax on the weekend. All is going well. I haven’t taken too many photographs, and I am not getting out of the compound too often. The US State Dept. informed us of a cholera epidemic in town, though we will still to go in to eat tonight. It is a bit harder than Bangladesh to acclimatize to the heat, and I’m not sure exactly why. Otherwise, save for a bout of travelers’ diarrhea which resolved quickly in both Betsy and myself, all is going well.  A few days later, we spent with Carsten and Annette on the river flowing through Moroua. This river is now just a stream, but will fill its banks at some times of the year, and in a month, will be completely dry.

The main church in Meskine has about 100 adult members, and though church starts at 8 o’clock and lasts until 10:30 AM, most people arrive between 8 and 9 am, filtering in slowly, and sitting with their own people group. The various groups are then invited sequentially to sing a song for the remainder of the folk, including a time for us white people, who usually sing in French some hymn.

Notice, the Christmas decorations remain, like in Bangladesh. Our house is quite nice, and here are some photos.

Yes. The bed has mosquito netting. No mosquito bites at night. The main crop in this area is Millet, which looks a bit like corn.

Firewood also is in huge demand, as they prefer firewood over natural gas, even though firewood is more expensive than gas!  Getting photos in the community has been a serious problem, because, unlike Bangladesh where everybody fought to have you take their photo, the natives will turn and run if you get out your camera. Both situations below witnessed this happen…

Here is the whole missionary group at Annette’s birthday party, with real ice cream made from powdered milk!!!! …

We’re having a good time, and feeling like we are contributing a bit to the entire effort. More to follow…

P.S. Aren’t you glad I didn’t include any political discussion. Though we’ve stayed in touch with American and World news, and watched the Stalk Market (sic!) and price of gold fluctuate, it seems a touch removed from us, where our patients simply are wondering if they will have food for the next day. We have much to be thankful for, in spite of our national distresses. The next few years are going to be time to re-think the real battles that face us, and hopefully they are not simply battles for peace, security, and prosperity, as the end result will probably be the opposite of what we seek. Fortunately, Betsy and I have had time to read and think (see Bookblog) and talk, and it has helped in keeping us on track together about our goals for the coming few years, as I return to work.

Adventures with Russ and Jon

September 3rd, 2009

Dates 28,29AUG- Mowich, Wonderland Trail Attempt, 31AUG-02SEPT Century Drive, Crater Lake Loop Success

I had planned on 9 days to do the Wonderland loop, starting at Mowich Lake. All looked good at the start. . .

Unfortunately, it started to rain the first night, and we were rather wet by the second day. After lengthy and careful consideration, realizing that the rain was not going to let up, we decided to abandon ship.

Otherwise, we would have never seen the mountain, even when the weather let up a bit. Therefore, we headed home, and decided to do some cycle riding. We decided to do a loop around Mt. Batchelor (Century Loop) as well as a ride I failed last year, from Diamond Lake around Crater Lake, and back to Diamond Lake. The weather was fantastic for both rides. The first (Century Drive) was 54 miles, but only 764 ft. elevation gain. In spite of that, I wasn’t feeling the best the few days before, and seemed to be killed by the hills.

Thus, I was quite worried about the Crater Lake loop, which is nothing but climbing. We drove down to Diamond Lake, and camped there. The next day, we attacked with vigor. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but took up a slow pace, and five hours later, 64 miles, and 6000 ft. elevation gain, arrived back at Diamond Lake with bit grins on our faces. It was wonderful being able to finally complete the loop.

 

My bike again did a fantastic job of keeping us going. Traffic was light, and we met only one other rider, a retired school teacher from Phoenix, AZ with a titanium bicycle. He was getting some end-of-season riding in. Sounds like a great thing to do in retirement. This ride around Crater Lake is a classic that I wouldn’t mind repeating from time to time.

 

Fahrraden im Himmel

August 16th, 2009

The big event of the last few weeks has been the class I took in bicycle touring. It was sponsored by the Adventure Cycling Association (http://www.adventurecycling.org/ ) and lasted for 5-½ days, including a day of instruction, and four days on the road. The riding was really very simple, with very short days, and lots of eating, but the camaraderie was delightful, getting to know a number of very interesting people.  It was also instructive to be with other people to learn in a safe environment how to really do distance cycle touring. It is like driving a Freightliner truck as compared to the Ferrari of Gelbvögel (yellow bird). I find that I can easily mix photography with riding, and will be using the handlebar bag mostly as a camera bag. I need to figure out how to bring along my tripod in order to obtain crisper photographs, plus photographs that include everybody including the photographer in the group. My panniers were always half empty, so, I think I can devise a way to get a tripod on board. I’ve become addicted to my Canon XSi camera. I use  18-55 mm and 55-250 mm lenses, as well as an accessory flash. It is tough lugging that stuff along, but it is worth it. While I learn more about digital photography, I’ve realized the importance of taking primarily RAW photos. I did that on this trip in the RAW+jpeg format, and neither iPhoto, Photoshop, nor Aperture were able to properly handle this format. While experimenting all possible variants, I learned that I need to photograph in the Adobe RGB colorspace, and should only take RAW photos without the jpeg, as all three of the above programs will immediately convert the RAW files to .tif files once I edit them, saving the original .cr2 (raw) file. So, I get the best of all worlds, except that I need to edit all of my photos. All three programs will convert the photo to any size jpeg file that I wish for publishing on the internet or sending to friends and fiends.

Someday, I’d like to be the first person to do “The Box” in one setting, assuming it has not been done already, which is both the Pacific and Atlantic coast, combined with the Southern and Northern Tier routes. It can be done, probably starting from home on the Pacific coast in February, hitting the Southern Tier in March/April, the Atlantic Coast in May/June, and the Northern Tier in July/August/Sept. My guess is that by traveling light (except for my camera), I could average 80-100 miles/day, and still include 1 day/week for rest.

 

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance be revealed.

Blessed is the man who … keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,

and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Isa. 56:1,2

 

That assumes that Betsy will start riding, or that I can talk some looney tune into coming with me. I’d do it alone, but Betsy would throw a fit. But, I need to think short-term first, perhaps doing the Rainier loop next week, and the Washington Parks loop in mid-September. I’m running out of time. My most formidable task that remains is in getting my dear wife to take up cycling, as it would do her much good, and get her away from the house, doing useful activities. I also need to do some bicycle modifications, including revising my front racks, since I cannot remove my front wheel because of the racks. It would make fixing a front flat very difficult.

On another note, I have included the ability to make comments on my other blog pages, including the book, movie, and music blogs. If you have read any of those books, heard any of that music, or saw those movies, please feel free to comment. Also, I welcome comments on the other blogs, including if you have done any of the bike trips that I have done, or hikes, or adventures. And, if you say something really stupid or offensive, I will hold nothing against you that I don’t already hold against you. Also, if you are new to this site, don’t panic! The German that I use is for my Deutsche Freunden. The title means “Bicycling in Heaven”. If anybody receives blog announcements and doesn’t wish to, please e-mail me and I’ll take you off the list.

On yet another note, the countdown until 14DEC at 0700 when I formally restart work…

 

Adventure Cycling Introductory Course

August 15th, 2009

Adventure Cycling Intro to Cycle Touring  09-14AUG2009 ?????

The rating is not intended to rank this ride with the other rides that I have done, but simply to make note that as a course, it deserved five stars. We met in a park just outside of Eugene, and then have 1.5 days of instruction in how to do cycle touring. On 11AUG, we all drove to the Eugene airport, hopped on our cycles, and headed in one giant loop, down to the beach, and back and forth across the Coast range. All in all, it was very negotiable, with quite easy riding, save for a bit of sweat making it up the hill on the first day.

Here we are getting together on the first day. Much of the event was centered around eating, and one of the first chores was to eat. It was fajitas the first day…

 

Then, there were hours of instruction by our fearless professorin, Joyce, with eager students paying close attention…

 

We learned how to pack our bicycles, with Joyce showing us her personal inventory.

 

Here’s our route

Finally, we’re all together and ready to ride…

 

Not even an hour into the ride, we were already stopping for something to eat…

 

I didn’t take any photographs of the hill on the first day. It was the hardest. Here are the first troopers, arriving on the other side of the hill….

Ben  takes a firm command of the road

The General eager for a  break after Heartbreak Hill

Instructor Pete in good form

The Doc not sure where the hill was

 

At the end of the day, our tents went up, and we ate again. The camp host was a little grouchy, so we had to be real nice… Here is Q, happy to be camping, and ready to prepare his garbanzo bean salad…

 

The next day, we hit the beach…

The Doc

The General

 

Sabrina rolls in a bit later, followed by Nancy and Joyce…

 

We learned how to wash our stinky clothes…

 

and had a chance to watch the sunset…

 

The General is off for another day of riding. The ride along the coast through the Cape Perpetua Recreational area from Waldport to Florence was most stunning, and far better appreciated on a bicycle than in a car.

 

We stopped at Mo’s in Florence to eat. You might notice that the only photos are of Pat (the General) and myself. That is because we were a touch ahead of everybody else for most of the trip. The last day, we let Ben lead, and he took off like a jackrabbit.

Heil Hitler??????

 

Here is tent city, the last day. We went out to eat at Franks.

Frank

You might notice that last photo shows some poor soul we found who was starving, so decided to feed him. He was quite happy afterwards! After a misty breakfast and Lisa getting her obligatory coffee, we were off again, today, re-crossing the coast range to back home…

 

 

 

Ben and Ken

Even instructors get happy on summits

Ben and Pat trying to hold up a logging truck

Happy climbers

The ending… here are the four dudes, responsible for setting the pace, and making sure the road was clear for the rest of the cyclists.

 

What did I learn? Joyce would ask if we learned anything. Ja wohl! I learned that I really like bicycle touring. I’m ready to do it again, asap! I learned a lot of do’s and don’ts. It nicer to learn in a group, than out totally on your own. And, Adventure Cycle Association does an awesome job of putting things together for such a venture. My only complaint about the trip is that there is too much emphasis on food. When I am out camping, I like to leave the food as a minimal activity, and not as a major center of activity. Thus, it would have been nice to not have to have somebody preoccupied with the next day’s meals.

Get on their website and sign up for a tour. Loose a little blubber. See the world in a fashion much nicer than in an automobile. Have the time of your life.

 

Total stats for this ride…

10AUG 10 miles, 500 cal, 200 ft ascent, 40 minutes

11AUG 49.4 miles, 3427 cal, 1432 ft ascent 4:10 minutes

12AUG 37.2 miles, 2602 cal, 787 ft ascent, 3:10 minutes

13AUG 46.4 miles 2940 cal, 1288 ft ascent, 3:50 minutes

14AUG 53.6 miles 3500 cal, 1420 ft. ascent, 4:40 minutes

Total  196.6 miles 12969 cal, 5127 ft ascent  15:50 minutes pedaling

 

 

01-03AUG Courage Classic

August 3rd, 2009

I reported on this ride last year, so will save on lengthy details. This time, Jonathan Kamke rode with me, and that was a pleasure.

He was the entertainment committee. The photo shows him at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. This year, the weather was considerably hotter than last year, and so really worked on pushing it a little harder. All of the passes seemed to be a bit easier this year, with no need to stop and rest, save for the scheduled rest stops, which tended to overfeed us. We made sure we had early starts in order to beat the heat each day. Yet, it was rough even hanging around the campsite doing nothing in 90 degree plus weather. We were among the first ten each day to finish, and so were able to pick nice campsites, but still could not beat the heat.

Here I am on top of Blewett and Steven’s Pass. I don’t look tired, do I? Well, I could have kept going both times. The little Yellow Bird was totally delightful to be riding on.

 

Seattle Century 2009

July 27th, 2009

The Seattle Century is put on by the same group that does the Portland Century, Oregon Bike. This is a ride through Seattle and around the east suburbs. It was actually only a total of 94 miles, but that still counts as a century. The weather was hot, in the 80’s, but we even got a touch of welcome rain. The ride was done with Jamin King, as well as Russ & Luc Andersen. Unfortunately, there were no photographs taken, even though I brought my camera. I need to slow down at times, and flash some pictures, since we did some nice views.

 

This century was a little bit problematic because 1) Seattle & Washington streets were in much worse shape than Oregon streets. Even the Burke-Gilman trail was quite awful, with lots of tree root bumps on the trail. I’m a little bit disappointed with the city of Seattle.  2) The route was not well marked, and we made frequent wrong turns, only to discover the error of our ways. It was not unusual to see riders re-tracing their route, to get back on the designated pathway.  3) The published route and the actual route were a touch different. The actual route was really better, with less futile looping around like was done in previous years.  Still, there were multiple turns all the way through the ride, making it a bit confusing. This century was nice because 1) You were very well fed at the rest stops, including the final stop on the route, and 2) It had a moderate amount of hilliness, giving you a good workout at the end of 94 miles. We did the entire trip in well under 6 hours, and at an energy expenditure of roughly 5600 calories, only 1.4 lbs. of fat. Yikes! You need to ride a lot to loose 10 lbs. of fat!

 

The only problem that I had on this ride was that I was a bit sore from a backpack trip, the first of the season, done the last two days before the Seattle Century. It didn’t help that the weather was hot. Still it was an enjoyable ride. In comparison with the Portland Century, the roads were better, there were better hills, the stops were better, and the route was very clearly marked with no obscure turns. I would have no problem repeating the Portland Century, but probably not the Seattle Century.

 

Eagle Creek 23-24JULY2009

July 27th, 2009

This must be my 15th time up Eagle Creek, as it is definitely one of my favorite easy hikes. It was the very first backpack trip I’ve ever done, which almost led to calamity. At that time, when I was about 15 years old, this trail seemed to be a challenging tour de force, demanding only the bravest and the best. Since then, I have brought young kids up the trail, and usually hiked to 7 1/2 mile camp in under 3 hours. The trail is spectacular, much of it created with dynamite. There are multiple waterfalls, the most photogenic being the punchbowl (above) at 2.5 miles in. The most impressive is tunnel falls, at about 6.5 miles in…

You can see how the trail walks behind the falls through a tunnel. It remains truly spectacular. There is also high bridge and low bridge

The first photo above is looking down the very steep canyon wall while on high bridge, at the rushing river.

Here I am with Russ Andersen and Jonathan. Unfortunately, Luc had to take the photo.  All in all, the trip brought back many memories, and because of no physical problems or blisters, made me anxious for more aggressive endeavors this summer.

 

Seattle to Portland One day

July 12th, 2009

This was my second STP, and we decided to do it in one day. It is a double century, with a distance of 202.5 miles. Fourteen hours after a start at 5 am, Luc and I crossed the finish line, still going rather strong.

Here are beginning and ending photos….

 

I rode my yellow bird, which held up wonderfully. I got no back pain nor neck pain, and the pain in my butt was more a chafing than pain from sitting on the saddle for 13 hours with only short breaks. The STP was sunny but cooler this year than last. It also seemed to have less hills. I didn’t understand that, except that I might have gotten a bit stronger on the hills. Luc was still awesome, setting the pace the entire distance. He is really a strong cyclist. Russ did well, but 160 miles into our venture, was having some crampy abdominal pain which made it miserable for him. All of this means that we will have to do it again next year, because I want to see Russ cross the finish line in style. He has better cycle strength than me, so it should not be a problem for him.

 

Cayuse/Chinook Pass

June 26th, 2009

26JUN2009, Starting from Mather Parkway, 62 miles, 5600 feet elevation gain, 4 hours, with Russ and Luc Andersen. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and visibility of the mountain 100%. We couldn’t have picked a better day. It was the debut of my Steelman bicycle, and it was everything I expected; it handled well, the gearing was superb, and the ride comfortable. The only problem that I had was a terrible seat. Fortunately, the seat was on trial, so I am trying out another seat for my next ride. We are getting ready for a one-day STP, and getting as much riding in as possible. Stay in touch.

 

Flying Wheels 2009

June 13th, 2009

I am now trying to prepare for the STP in one day, and so am doing a number of rides. This was my first century of the year, which was a little concerning for me, since I had had a 3 month interlude off of the bicycle while we were in Bangladesh. It felt good to be back on a cycle. The entire event was notable for the hills hitting me a little harder than my last ride, the absence of flats, and that I cut at least an hour off of my riding time, feeling a moderate amount of energy at the conclusion of the ride. Thus, it was a good ride, all in all. Meanwhile, I continue to ride with Russ and Luc anderson, who truly are superb cyclists, learning much about endurance and techniques for better riding.

4-7JUN Trail Skills College, Dee

June 8th, 2009

I needed to take a trip to Portland since I had just purchased a new Apple computer, and had it delivered to Gaylon. Lew seemed to be tied up, and Karen and Steve were in town, but too busy to get together. Delores had invited us to her restaurant in Wilsonville, so, we decided to go. Delores is a cousin, and she married a Moroccan man, whose mom taught Delores how to cook Moroccan. She had asked us many times to come down, but now I finally had the opportunity. This was an absolute feast. I had no clue that mid-eastern food could taste so good, but Dee made it especially well. She gave us a sampling of many items, from appetizers, to her lentil soup, to the main meal (I had lamb with a raisin sauce), and then dessert. It was absolutely unbelievably good. Dee gets 10 stars for incredible cooking. Most of the food was very nutritiously cooked, such as the vegetarian couscous, which tasted like no couscous that I have ever eaten before, but also very spicy, using similar spices to that of Bangladesh. All in all, it was a most sumptuous feast. Thank you, Delores and Abdellah!

I spent the night at Gaylon’s, hooking up an old Airport, and also connecting a hard drive to his Mac Mini. The next day was off to trail college. I was a little doubtful, almost wondering if I should skip out and head home. I slept out in my tent, and relaxed for several days. The first day, we went out to a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, and studied trail maintenance, including how to provide trail rain runoff, so that the trail doesn’t become a highway of a grand mudpuddle. We also learned about how to condition a trail, using McLeod’s and Pulaskis. It was a rainy day, we were all soaked and muddy at the end of the day. The next day was lectures in the morning, and then we went up onto a recently built trail. At first, it looked fairly good, until we began to realize that there were multiple design mistakes. We talked about designing a proper trail, using proper construction techniques to maintain a solid trail base, so that the trail would manage rain water without becoming a mud puddle, and spent time actually punching out a hypothetical new trail. It was a blast. I will forever have a much greater appreciation for trails, and will never look on a trail the same way ever again, knowing how badly a trail could thoughtlessly be constructed.

 

Iowa 28-31 MAY 2009

June 1st, 2009

The trip to Iowa was a whirlwind, intended to accomplish two purposes. First was for me to meet Rachel’s boyfriend, and the second was to touch base with Diane. Here we are having lunch at Culver’s, where Diane used to work. We also met Diane’s boyfriend, and saw her at work.

Diane seems to enjoy work greatly. We met Alex’s family, including his parents…

I think he has the world’s largest hands. Here is his next to mine. His parents and siblings were totally delightful. It was a pleasure meeting them.

 

Bangladesh 16MAR-19MAY MCH-1

May 24th, 2009

The flight to Bangladesh was incredibly long, with a stop first in New York City, then in Doha, Qatar, and finally to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

We then took a flight down from Dhaka to Chittagong, where we were picked up by our friends Stephen and Stephanie Kelley.

 

After a brief stop for lunch in Chittagong, we were on our way to Malumghat Hospital, with a first stop at Moonshine, the equivalent of Costco in Chittagong.

Because we were doped out on sleeping pills to reset our clocks, we remember only a few aspects of this part of our venture. The weather was warm but only mildly muggy. Here are some views of our guest house and the scenes immediately around it.

Betsy and I were soon jumping into  helping at the hospital. It is totally amazing to see the variety and intensity of cases occurring. The general surgeons are performing all of the Urology and Orthopedic cases, including rodding femur fractures, doing TURPs, etc., etc. They are also doing some chemotherapy, and I will be working with the nursing staff at establishing a serious chemotherapy program, while helping them to decide what the best and safest cases for chemotherapy would be. I am quite happy for the training that I received in Chicago, and never thought that my moments writing chemotherapy orders with Linda Wild would ever come useful in the future. Well, it is.

 

Betsy and I are both having a daily language lesson. I love Bengali! Nomoskar! Kaemon achen? Ami bhalo achi. Eckon jay. Pore dekha hObe. The natives are friendly, and while very poor as compared to Amerikans, are rich in spirit. Betsy and I have so far not had too much time to get out into the neighboring villages. Last Saturday 21.MAR2009, I took a motorcycle ride up into the Chittagong Hills Tract. This is just east of the hospital, and sitting between us and Myanmar. It is very rugged country, with lots of rubber tree plantations, and banana plantations.

You are not allowed to go far into the Hills without passing checkpoints. Fortunately, the lead person we were with (Dr. Kelley) was able to explain that we were only going in for tea. This we did, stopping in a cafeteria, that by Western standards would be described as filthy beyond belief. Yet, when you order tea, it is boiled and thus safe. They drink a hot milk tea, which I have not gotten used to, and so usually will drink lal cha (red tea) with a teen-kon-shomasa, which is a small triangular pastry, with a very spicy curry filling in the middle. Again, since these are baked, they are safe, even though they are from restaurants beyond belief in filth.

 

The weeks are a bit unusual. Friday is the Muslim holy day, so, Friday and Saturday are the week-end. Friday is the usual day for Muslim and Christian church services, and Saturday is a day like our Saturday. We would attend the Friday AM church in Chittagong, which was all in Bangla.

Notice how sandals are taken off outside a building. Sunday is a work-day. Clinic is on Sunday and Thursday, and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are operative days. The OR’s are nicer than what we had in Jamaica, but still a touch below average standards in the USA. It is common to loose electricity at least 3-5 times a day, usually while operating, which is one of the only reasons we typically wear battery powered head-lamps. The lights go off. The work goes on.

 

26MAR2009 Today is Bangladesh Independence Day. I worked in the hospital, and then went on a motorcycle ride with Stephen Kelley up into the Chittagong Hills. Afterwards, the hospital threw a large feast for the hospital employees, about 300 people showing up. This was a mixture of expatriate nurses, doctors, and other missionaries, along with a large component of natives. Goat curry, fish and rice were served. It was excellent. Traditional meals are not eaten with a fork or spoon, but with your hands. It is just a little too odd, eating curried rice with your fingers–it’s exactly what we were taught not to do.

 

 

31MAR2009 Today, we went to a Bangladeshi funeral. One of the beloved orthopedic techs, Lawrence Halder passed away unexpectedly early in life, possibly due to mismanagement in Dhaka of a simple eye problem. He had a son and daughter. Funerals occur within 1-2 days of death, as they have no embalming or means of corpse preservation. Lawrence was buried in his back yard, next to his brother and father. The funeral was late at night, since they were waiting for various people to first arrive in town. He was laid in a simple pine box and placed six feet under. It was quite emotional, with family showing a great  amount of wailing.

Unfortunately, in this culture, there is no welfare or social security, and the death of a father can be a serious tragedy in life, his in children in college, and wife with limited earning potential. There was recently one young pregnant lady brought in by her Muslim husband in eclampsia, seizing, and required a c-section for infant delivery. A girl was delivered. The husband promptly abandoned her and was nowhere to be found. The reasons? 1) A c-section means that all other children will require c-sections, which is expensive in Bangladesh. 2) There will be a large hospital bill. 3) An infant girl has absolutely no economic value, since a dowry must be paid to marry her off, and she will have no means of supporting the family. When people speak of how wonderful the Muslim religion is, I just consider the terrible absence of value held for the females in that society, where cows or goats are of more value than females.

 

03APRIL2009 Friday is the equivalent to Sunday in America, which is the day where people either go to church or to Mosque. Saturday is the free day, and Sunday is a usual work day. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and next Sunday is Easter, which are also taken off by Christians as holiday in Bangladesh. Today, we went to the Bengali church, and then afterwards went over to the house Dhirjidon, our language teacher.

He had invited us in for tea and rice pudding, both of which are very good, though I don’t really care for the milk-tea that they drink. They live in a mud-house, but is fairly nice by Bengali standards. They have gardens outside their house, and are attempting to grow some banana trees and mango trees. Dhirjidon has two young daughters and a fairly young wife (long story, but not typical for Bangladesh). They are all very proper, for instance, when you enter their house, they bow, and then touch both your feet. The house kitchen and toilet are out behind the house. It makes sense doing that. Their life is very hard, and family life is completely dependent on the male being able to work. This is why they wish for sons, who could support the family when the parents get too old to work.

 

04APRIL2009 – Boat trip – I wish it was a boat trip down the Rhein, but such was not to be. No Lorelei, no castles, no good German beer. Oh well! We had a great time all the same. Uttam was our connection to some native fishermen. We went out in their wooden boat, powered by a diesel motor, built in Shanghai.

We had to wait for the tide to come in, then walked the plank onto the boat. We saw some people doing a boat repair on shore- the Bangladeshi version of the Krupp-Thiessen boatworks in Hamburg. We then puttered down the river to the farm of a friend of Uttams’. He had multiple shrimp ponds, as well as a salt refinery. We watched them catching shrimp, and one of the men went off for some bird hunting with his shotgun. We had some drinks in the raised hut, which was actually very cool and comfortable. Baba (father) lived out on the farm, keeping an eye out for poachers, which are many. Finally, we climbed back on the boat, and headed back home as the sun was setting.

02MAY09 Several days ago I performed a c-section with Dr. John, and everything went well. Post-operatively, the patient would not stop vaginal bleeding. We took her back to the OR and found an atonic uterus filled with clot. After multiple attempts to stop the bleeding, I finally ended up doing a supracervical hysterectomy. She did well, though she lost quite a bit of blood. Tonight, at 1 am, I was again called to do a c-section on a breech delivery. It went well, but with the anxiety of the complication of my last c-section.

 

Please proceed to Bangladesh -2 & -3. This blog was broken down into three sections to facilitate easier downloading.

 

Bangladesh 16MAR-19MAY MCH-2

May 23rd, 2009

06APRIL2009 – Market visit – Today, Dirjidhon took us on a walk through the market. It was market day, and all the vendors had their vegetables, fruit, chal (uncooked rice), and halud (a yellow spice) out for sale. The only thing that really grossed me out was the fish, some live, and some smoked. These markets are fairly popular, and do provide fresh produce on a regular basis. It also allows the poorest of folk to market their goods.

10APRIL2009 – Today, Dr. Kelley and I were working in the OR, and we discovered that some of our instruments were stripped. We desperately needed several bolt drivers reground, and so called up the maintenance man, Les C, who is spending two years with his wife in Malumghat. We had him scrub in and identify the exact problem, while I scrubbed out to snap photos.

12APRIL2009 –  Easter Sunday, we went to church. The church in Chabigong (where Memorial Christian Hospital is located) is the second or first largest Christian church in the nation of Bangladesh. It was packed. The choir sang first. The service started at 6:30AM, though half the people didn’t show up until 7:00. This is typical of Bangladesh. I had to leave 1/2 way through the service to go round at the hospital. That evening, the mission workers all had a potluck and easter service. It is of note that though Bangladesh is very strongly Muslim, the hospital has been effective at reaching out to  the Muslims and Hindus in this area, as well as the tribal people in the hills, offering them a joy and hope that is missing in the prevailing religions of the land. There is a sense of absence of joy, of death, of gloom, seen on every street corner and in every Mosque and Hindu temple. Then you go into the Christian church, where many young people and elderly alike are happy, joyful, praising God with a giant smile on their face. It was contagious.  We brought with us one of our patients, a Hindu diabetic female, whose husband left her, and required a below-knee amputation by me. It was her first glimpse of hope. Many of these ladies would tend to go home and commit suicide, as life outside of Christ had nothing to offer. The Hindu teacher would not criticize the husband and agree with the wife. The Christian is able to find meaning and community even in tragedy and suffering.

 

14APRIL2009 – Shubho Nobo Borsho (Happy New Year) – today was a regular day at the hospital, but they held a special lunch and other celebrations, since today was the Bengali New Year. For morning tea, someone brought us in a Bengali treat, which was the rice equivalent of popcorn. It was a little like puffed rice, but tasted much better. Then there was another type of popped rice, made by heating sand up to very high temperatures, and then throwing chal (uncooked rice) onto the sand and letting it pop. I have seen so many incredible new foods, that are also reasonably healthy for you, that I suggested that a Bengali restaurant open up in the Northwest. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it would sell well.

 

16-18APRIL2009 – It’s raining. Reportedly, a cyclone is coming through. Cool. It will be our first cyclone. We shouldn’t be hit with the brunt of the storm, so nobody is evacuating, but it is raining quite hard. Today, Dr. Kelley was working on advancing the renewal project, and was out running a chainsaw in order to remove trees, so that ground preparations could begin for the new hospital. Surgeon Lumberjack Steve worked feverishly with “Doc” Collins to take a number of trees down. As he was sawing through one trunk, he realized that somebody had climbed the tree, and that he was still up in the tree! Wild. 17APR – on call, doing massive amounts of Ob. I’m learning how to manage a 22 week pregnancy with vaginal bleeding, we presume is either placenta previa or abruptio placenta. Suddenly, I need to read massive amounts of basic obstetric literature. It continues to rain cats and dogs. This evening, we have started to get very forceful winds. The cell phone connections no longer work, and power lines are down. We drove into the hospital to board up all the windows, and to check on the sicker patients. On the way back to the guest house, power lines were across the road, causing us to have to walk the rest of the way back home. Unfortunately, photographs were impossible. Maybe tomorrow…   18APR – The brunt of the storm was expected to hit us today, but actually ended up hitting us last night. Today, there was no rain, but debris and power lines everywhere. By noon, most everything was cleaned up. The cattle were eating the downed leaves, and villagers gathering the downed wood to sell as firewood. Unfortunately, the internet remains down for now. I’m on call for the hospital the last few days. Saturday is a usual day off, so only emergencies come in. I had to start a central line on a 4 yo child (actually, older, but size of a 4 yo) and then calculate out chemotherapy doses, as he is being treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma, and the first doses weren’t quite right.

Rounds on 30+ patients. Rice poisoning patient came in this afternoon, oxygen sats. of 70%. He died. Two Ob patients bleeding, demanding me to relearn Ob. I recheck the child getting chemo, and all the hospital patients. It’s quiet. All the hospital missionaries were invited over to Lucky’s house for dinner. Just awesome. Bhat ar dhal (rice and dhal), quite spicy, with vegetables, chicken and shrimp. Khub tasty (very tasty). Also, quite spicy. We ate it with our hands (no spoons or forks). It would be almost an insult to ask for an eating utensil. Back home, we hear a motorcycle drive up. It’s another rice poisoning. Rice poisoning is quite common here. They are not poisoned by rice. They eat the insecticides, which are organophospates, and come in with dilated pupils and a racing pulse. Supposedly, it is usually a suicide attempt. We do our best. I think this person will make it. Much of the hospital is run by techs that are trained in highly specific things. We are now training a young male tech to give chemo. Other techs in outpatient department are very good at managing rice poisoning, and many of the problems that come in. Usually, there isn’t much that us doc’s need to do except to check the techs and make sure they aren’t messing up when something unusual comes in. There is a diabetic with heart disease, and her blood sugar is 57. I tell the tech to give her some sugar by mouth, and he brings in a vial of Calcium. Remember, many of these techs have never seen college, and I have no idea if they’ve even made it through high school. It’s now 11:20 at night. I was called in to see a 52 yo tribal lady (which means she’s come many miles to see us). She fell off of a baby taxi this morning, landing on her head. She was okay until she went in to get a forehead laceration sewn up. They used a large silk to repair the wound (a no-no), and also gave her an injection of who-knows-what. She became semi-conscious since then. I can’t find anything on her that suggests a bleed or serious brain injury, so admitted her for observation. This lady is an example of how there is a moderate amount of health care in Bangladesh, some of it in very nice facilities, but the care is very often detrimental to health. I thought American health care was bad! When brother Dennis tells me how terrible the American Health care system is, I’ll tell him to go to Bangladesh to get treated there the next time he needs a doctor! We spend much of our time rescuing people from injuries induced by the local “professional” or local alternative care providers. Unfortunately, even though care is much better in Dhaka or Kolkota (Calcutta), mortality rates are still prohibitively high as compared to the US and other western countries. It’s now raining out, and I have only my bicycle and a climbing headlamp to ride 1/2 mile home in the dark. All I could think about is how I wished I had a CT scanner. Anybody care to donate for a used CT machine?

 

 

19APR09 – Today was a busy clinic, seeing many unusual cases. The worst was a 7 yo child from southwest Bangladesh who was flown in by a charity organization for care. She had phocomelia, with absolutely no arms. Her right leg was also just a stump. She was able to write by picking up a pen with her toes and writing. Both her hips showed hip dislocation, not being treated right at birth. We needed to explore options with her. I had never seen a case of phocomelia, and had never seen an old case of bilateral hip dislocation from birth, since they are always treated in the US before the problem becomes irreversible. She was the most cheerful child. Some charitable institution in the US apparently heard of this poor girl, and (correctly) realized that Dr. Kelley was probably the best surgeon in Bangladesh to handle this problem. Result? An e-mail to the world’s expert in unusual orthopedics, Dr. Bullock, who was the orthopedist at Malumghat Hospital for many years. There may not be much that we could do, and the charitable institution will have spent a whole lot of money for little gain. I am learning that indiscrete altruism may placate a conscience, but result in mostly wasted sweat and funds.

 

20APR09 – Thomas Kühn – I was running through clinic yesterday, and here comes a white guy. Strange. He was bringing a child to the hospital for repair of contractures of a burnt hand. Thomas grew up in east Germany, migrated to the west before the downfall of the Wall, and developed a heart for missions. He met his wife from Rapid City, South Dakota in Germany, was married, and moved to Chittagong to run an orphanage. They have 3 children, and about 62 kids in their orphanage. I will save a lengthy discussion of Thomas, but felt a strong kinship from our first encounters. Please visit his website athttp://www.holbangladesh.com see what he is doing in Bangladesh. He brought in one of his orphan children, who received an insect bite to his hand many years ago, and through a series of serious mishaps using local medical lore techniques, the hand went from bad to worse. He lost three and 1/2 fingers, and the wrist went 180 degrees extended. We started a two stage reconstruction, today releasing the skin, and flexing the hand as far as it would go, with transfer of unused third digit extensor tendon to a taught second digit extensor tendon. We will now weight out the hand in order to get it straight, and then go back and skin graft a large vacant area.

21APR09 – I did a 40 yo male with a large left retroperitoneal tumor. It was about 18 cm diameter, and highly vascular, thus, a very tedious dissection. We needed to transfuse blood. In order to do that, relatives come in with the same blood type and donate at the moment the blood is needed. It is then given straight to the patient as whole blood. It works well, and you don’t need the units and units of blood that you might require if you were giving component blood. The patient did well, with 1500 cc blood loss, but with 2 units of transfusion.

 

23APR09 – Today, we ran up to Chokoria to go shopping. Dr. Lattin, Dr. Welch, and myself purchased our first lungis. What is a lungi? It’s what all the natives wear, and virtually everybody in Bangladesh owns at least one lungi. It looks a little bit like a dress, but is the most versatile piece of cloth that a person could ever wear. Lungis would typically be considered by the elite as casual wear, so that we would never wear our lungi into the hospital. But sitting around the house, or working in the back yard, it’s the most comfortable thing one could ever own.

I also wanted a Fotua, which is like a Neru shirt, but couldn’t find a short sleeve one that I liked. So, oh well, Uttam said that I could get one in Cox’s Bazar this Saturday. The Mayor of Cox’s Bazar was at the hospital today, and he invited me to come visit him. His wife was in the pregnancy care. He is Muslim, and there are large hospitals in Cox’s Bazar, but people from all over Bangladesh that have the money prefer the care at Malumghat Christian Hospital. So, we are often operating on somewhat wealthy people coming down from Dhaka. The mayor was running around on his Honda motorcycle, with his father-in-law and brother-in-law sitting behind him. I wish I could have gotten a picture.

 

24-25APR09 – Uttam Mollick, Cox’s Bazar. The 24th was Friday, which is the day they have off from the hospital, and is celebrated like western Christians would celebrate Sunday, with church, and going over to people’s houses, etc. We went over to Uttam’s house, and was served a meal that was like top Ramen with an egg in, but very spicy. It was quite good. Uttam will be taking us on our trip to Cox’s Bazar tomorrow.  So, we meet Uttam at 7 in the morning, and hop on one of the public busses. This is a bus with people on the roof and hanging out the door. We go to Ramu, to visit a friend of Uttam, whom he calls the professor. She teaches biology lab in the college, and her husband is an IT man in Dhakha.

They serve us breakfast. She has a newborn baby. Even though she is Buddhist, and Malumghat Christian Hospital is many miles away, many of the elite (like the Cox’s mayor above) with go to MCH for their delivery, since it is the only place around where doctors actually make an appearance, and things are to be trusted. We then visited several Buddhist temples, including a very large temple, where Buddha actually lived and some of his bones are buried there.

Every day they placed out food for a very hungry Buddha, who refused to eat it. The tree is where Buddha used to meditate. The monk on the left is actually taking Bible classes at MCH.  Next to the temple was an orphanage that was built by the Italians. The children were all girls, and very polite and cute, all of them knowing a moderate amount of English. After that, we went back to the professor where they served us lunch, and then hopped a bus to Cox’s Bazar. I bought several more lungis, as well as several fatuas, and Betsy bought some gifts, so, we are set to return home. We stopped to walk the beach, which is the longest sandy beach in the world, 70 miles long.

The ride home was in darkness on the public bus. Though I don’t have photos, we stopped on the way for someone to load several crates of chickens onto the roof, then climbed on top to hold them down for the trip to Chittagong. It was a tremendous time with Uttam, especially since he is able to give us a real Bangladesh experience, and not just a tourist view of the country.

 

07MAY09 The Mangos and Lychees were ripening on the trees. I had no interest in either of those fruits in the US, as they both tasted rather disgusting. But, tree ripened mangos and lychees are the most incredibly tasty, delightful fruit you could ever savor. We finished clinic a touch early, so Jason (Dr. Lattin) suggest we grab the bucket truck and go lychee picking. The problem is, the ripe lychees and mangos are quite high up in the tree, as they ripen from the top down. The natives simply run up to trees with their bare feet and lungis pulled up, and pick the top fruit. That, by the way, creates many of the fractures we see at the hospital. The bucket truck, like you would see being used by the electric companies to repair power lines, was our perfect solution. We found a ripening lychee tree in from of the Archibalds’ house, so pulled the truck off under the tree.

We did have a problem starting the truck, requiring a jump. I went up first and got a large bucket of lychees. We then moved the truck, and Jason went up with his young 3 year old son, Nathan. Once he got half way up, two events occurred. First, the motor to the bucket stopped. Minutes later, a belt on the truck motor disintegrates. Then, we discover there is no safety release to the bucket hydraulics. So, we grab a rope, and Jason lets Nathan down, followed by him climbing down the rope hand over hand. The lychees were awesome, sweet, succulent, slightly tarty.

 

 

Please proceed to Bangladesh -3!

 

Bangladesh 16MAR-19MAY MCH-3

May 22nd, 2009

Please also read Bangladesh -1 & -2 first…

 

08MAY09- Medical Trip into the Chittagong Hills Tract. I was invited to go along for a medical trip into one of the trips deep into the Chittagong Hills. My ID doc warned me to absolutely do not go into the Chittagong Hills, as there are dangerous diseases. So, off we go. The plan was to go to a tribe which was completely removed from civilization, and truly, they ended up at the literal end of the road. We drove for four hours. First, we went through a check-point that most westerners are not allowed to pass. Since our group was favorable to the government and going for medical reasons, they let us through.

We then had to stop in the town of Lama to obtain the presence of armed escorts–the Bengalis are always afraid of insurgency. We proceeded on, first on paved road, then very bad, very narrow paved road, then dirt road beyond comprehension, and then we arrived at a river, across which the village of our destination stood. Almost nobody spoke Bangla, so we had to use two translators, the first to go from English to Bangla, and the second to go from Bangla to their tribal tongue.

 

We set up several stations to examine patients, and saw over 110 patients. We did stop for lunch. Most to patients had vague symptoms, such as abdominal pain for years, or knee pain, but we did see some real pathology. Almost all the kids have helminthic diseases, and so lots of anti-worm medicine was given. The main economic revenue was from growing tobacco, which we could see in various stages of processing. The photos also show us having lunch (quite tasty), and important crop, tobacco, that the Brits are pushing on the Bengalis. Nancie also gave mid-wife lessons, and a little kid demonstrated that the birth-control pundits had already come through (those were not balloons). Also, note what the ladies have in their ears … large bells, plus flowers, plus, rolled up taka notes. This was a sign of affluence. All in all, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that few Westerners could ever imagine experiencing.

 

09MAY09- Safari Park  There is a “zoo” about 2 km south of Chabigang, which is a large open Safari that animal are kept in mostly natural surroundings. A relative of the head of the OR at MCH (Satindra, or Shoti) is an assistant to the veterinarian at the Park, so, we are able to get in for free and ride on the roof of our vehicle around the park. The Bengal tigers could be seen, but we moderately concealed, and thus could not be photographed. Also, there were numerous monkeys all over the park, some in cages, and some outside.

The top attraction was the ability to ride an elephant. They aren’t very comfortable, bareback. At the end, the zookeeper had a refreshment prepared for us, which is a coconut with a small square cut in it, and straw inserted for drinking the coconut water. Coconut water grows on you, and is totally perfect when you are extremely thirsty for quenching your thirst.

By the way, this sign was NOT in the zoo. Elephant crossings can be quite damaging to automobiles, especially on the main interstate, as this road is.

11MAY09 – A ferocious windstorm occurred this morning, requiring maintenance to turn off all the generators. This meant doing rounds at the hospital with backpacking headlamps, and in total darkness. The electricity goes off quite frequently, about 10-12 times a day, usually only for 15-90 seconds, though it could occasionally last longer. It is quite often to be operating and the electricity goes off, because not only do the lights go off, but the electrocautery and everything else goes off.

 

13MAY09- I did my first c-section under local and ketamine, with Dr. John. Kind of a freeky experience. We couldn’t give the mom a spinal as she was being a bit too theatrical. She had cervical-pelvic disproportion (the nurse mid-wives figure that out), and we needed to get the baby out. The baby boy had a bit of meconium, but did well. It’s a nice technique to know how to do, as you must get the baby out before the ketamine gets to it.

 

15-17MAY09- The evening of 15MAY, Uttam invited me to speak with a group of young men and women which get together regularly at church. The topic was unity. I spoke to them mostly about the need for love, moral purity, and delight in getting together with fellow believers. The next day, Les and Deb Collins headed out with me and Betsy to Chittagong. We flew into Chittagong, but we were so dopy, we didn’t remember much of it. On the 16th, I went shopping to get a few more lungis for all the people who asked me for one, including Onkel Herbert and Hannes. I also picked up a load of spices. This area (BD) of greater India was the source for most of the spices of Europe, and we were able to take home many bags of the best spices, as well as one of our favorite treats, Chanachur, which is this hot, spicy finger treat you eat, sort of like the Pub Mix that you would get at Costco, but much tastier, and less fattening. We settled in at the Chittagong Guest House, then, Betsy and I had the honor of meeting Jim and MaryLou Long. Jim is the general director of ABWE in our area, and MaryLou was the director of the William Carey Academy. Both of them had the sweetest and most attractive personalities.

The next day, Betsy and I toured the William Carey Academy. It is a grade K-12 school, and probably among the top several best schools in BD. Thus, many of the wealthier families send their children to this academy. It has a mix of Muslim and Christian students, and provides an avenue for the missionaries to approach the Muslims in Chittagong. Next to the school is the free academy, also run by the ABWE, but for the hopelessly poor children in Chittagong. It is with deepest regret that Peni H. was gone, and that we could not tour the free school. Lunch is served every day, and children are given an education they would otherwise never get in BD. After this, we did some more shopping, stopped at Moonshine for groceries, where a local beggar girl always gets a nutritious piece of candy from one of us.

Driving to and from Chittagong is another matter. The map shows no towns. That is because it is practically continuous town. It was ceaseless mayhem. If one didn’t have a strong constitution, they would get a heart attack in 5 minutes on the road. It is 10 times worse than Jamaica, and 100 times worse than NYC. Chittagong has about 5 million people, yet we saw only one traffic light, which everybody ignored. Combine that with innumerable rickshaws and baby taxis, and you end up with pure mayhem. It is surprising we were able to get anywhere. For food, on the 16th, we had lunch at Bonanza, which serves BD national food. It is distinct from Thai, Chinese or Indian food, and unbelievably good. Why BD food hasn’t made it in the USA is a mystery to me. The next day, we had lunch at Pizza Hut. The pizza was not greasy, and tasted quite good. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food in Chittagong. Then, there is Chanachur. It is the most awesome snack in the world; sweet, devilishly hot, low fat, wonderful to eat. Pick some up, if you find it anywhere.

 

18MAY09- The Operating room threw a good-bye party for us. We smiled a lot, but our hearts were in tears. Betsy and I will truly miss the many people, ex-pat and national, that we have met here. Many people have asked us if they could pray for us, as we return to America. We ask now, that you would specifically ask God to bring us back to Bangladesh.

19-20MAY09- The Trip Home. We actually left the night of 18MAY on the night bus, Green Line. It was a top-class bus, but a bottom-class road. The inability to sleep on busses and the insane way people drive in Bangladesh led to a very restless night. It was only by God’s grace that we arrived in Dhaka, now so tired, that when we got to the Baptist guest house, we had breakfast and collapsed, sleeping all day. For devotional reading that day, our Psalm was 65. Please read it. It was a perfect description of Bangladesh. First, it suggested that our only hope was in the Lord, which is true though rejected by most Bengalis. Then, it spoke about how the Lord makes the earth bring forth massive abundance for us. This was true in every small village, and in the large cities. Everywhere you looked, you would see rickshaws to large trucks laden with fruits, vegetables, and other edible produce, or animal for market. The fruit variety was tremendous, including things I’ve never heard of, but the mangos, papaya, bananas, watermelon, Jackfruit, cucumbers, coconuts, and many other products were quite abundant. We will always remember Psalm 65 as our Bengali Psalm. That evening, we had an even more insane drive to the airport, with the driver acting though he was possessed of the devil. The airport was rather quiet. I found another Bengali cookbook which also had English and purchased it. It was a reflection of the superb food we had gotten in Bangladesh. I would have thought that the food would have been rather unremarkable, but it was everything but that. Even when we ate in the distant tribal village, the food was quite excellent. It is very spicy, again, reflective that Bangladesh was the area of India where most of the spices in the past centuries originated. It is no wonder that Bangladeshi cooking demands multiple complex spices. I purchased a number of packages of spice, but realized from the cookbook that there were many others that I could have picked up, in order to make an original meal. The cookbook also calls for many types of rice. In Bangladesh, so Dr. Kelley tells me, there are at least thirty types of rice, each a bit different from the others. I have never seen the type of rice that we typically ate in Bangladesh here in the US. Even the way they cook it is slightly different as there are flecks of spice seen in the rice (I hope that they weren’t actually insects that got into the rice!) There was even a black rice, that is often used for dessert. There is a type of rice that smells (and tastes?) like excrement. Most the rice types we had were quite good, but were of a non-sticky variety. They would never eat the rice plain, but mix in the halud (yellow) seasoning sauce with their hand, making a sticky ball that they then could eat with their fingers. I’d really like a copy of the recipes, but could not find them. Meanwhile, back at the airport… There were a huge number of young men in the aiport, together with large groups all wearing a similar piece of clothing. These were men going to Arabic countries for work. We forget that the largest export of Bangladesh is human workers. The flight to Doha went well, and we arrived in Doha at 11:30 pm, and due back at the airport at 6:00 am, so we cancelled our hotel and slept a few hours in the airport. It felt good getting on the airplane, at last to set foot on US soil. Except for a minor hassle where a female angry official at the baggage screen confiscated some of my AA batteries (Gottlosen Schwein!), we got on ok.

 

Trip People that we have met… I especially am overwhelmed by my friend Steve, a man who has earned the favor of God and man, and blessed beyond measure. He is the most multi-talented person I have ever met, skilled in broad aspects of surgery and medicine, deft in the Bengali language, brilliant as an administrator, and single-minded in his Christian faith. I have never met a more brilliant, multi-tasking, innovative person in my life. As an example, one of our patients had the port catheter break off and lodge in the right atrium. There was not a single procedural radiologist in the country that had ever retrieved such a catheter. So Steve did it in the OR. The snare would not grasp it properly, so he sterilized a colonoscopic grasper, ran it up the vein, and successfully retrieved the catheter. I was amazed. He and his family will remain forever in our fondest memories of an example of true giants.

Nancie is one of the most faithful nurses I have ever met, blessed with multi-talented skills as a nurse, but also a sense of honesty of encounter and practical saintliness that would offer any of the greatest saints a hard run for first in the kingdom. She would never fit the Hollywood image of a saint. She is the opposite of Mother Theresa. Dynamic, spunky, speaks her mind, no display of fake religiosity. Yet, as you get to know her, you realize that every drop of blood in her is of the sincerest Christian love. She oozes Christ. I’d vote for Nancy over Mother Theresa any day for “sainthood”. Yet, she can do anything and everything, including run anesthesia, pass chemotherapy, resuscitate babies and run a neonatal ICU, organize field medical clinics, and I’m sure I’m missing many other things. I have never met a nurse ever as competent as her in so many things, and yet so sweet and loving as a person. Equal with Nancy are the other nurses with whom I have developed the deepest appreciation, including Mary, Ruth, and Gail. Mary was the quiet but competent counterpart to Nancy. They lived (sort of) together, and richly complemented each other in personality, talent, and sweetness. Also, hyper-competent beyond any nurse I’ve ever met in the US, Mary never seemed to complain, but always maintained a delightful joyful countenance that exuded genuine concern for everybody she interacted with. All the nurses deserve a similar commendation for their selfless devotion to the mission, yet I realize that whatever I say will be matched infinitely greater by the God whom we give ourselves.

Nathan the holy man – I first met Nathan, when I was trying to resolve Mac connection problems. I have encountered one other MAC user besides Nathan, leaving only three Mac users in the entire country of Bangladesh. Real men use Macs. (Actually, real women also use Macs). Nathan finished a year of language study in Chittagong, and is now honing his language skills, especially the Chittagonian dialect, by living with the natives in the village, in one their mud houses. He is a very bright but soft-spoken character. Last Good Friday he preached his first sermon to a small church south of here, said entirely in Bengali, and yet stirring a number of Muslims to ask him for a Bible to learn more about the Christian faith. His dedication and concern for the Bengali people is monumental.

As time went on, there were many others that we had gotten to know. Need I mention Frank and Alvis, quiet, honest, truly caring people, faithfully giving of themselves for the mission here, leaving a successful practice in Nebraska to serve Christ in Bangladesh.

Or Harold and Shaun, who we see jogging by the guest house every morning, always reflecting a tremendous joy, and infectious enthusiasm for working with the people of Bangladesh.

Bob and Chrissy had lived and studied in Tacoma, and happened to know friends of ours at the Tacoma Baptist School system; they had two children, and Bob had returned to Malumghat where he grew up. Oddly, their home church was in central Illinois, and that they were quite acquainted with the people from the denomination of our youth. We were reminded of what a small world it was.

Bob and Chrissy were wonderful, in that their demeanor immediately put you at ease – none of this “hey we are life-time missionaries and holier than thou” attitude, but people that had genuine love for the Bengali people and willing the sacrifice most of the conveniences of Amerika to serve here. There are a number of other people I could mention with similar acclaim. A close “soul-mate” was Jason, whose presence made our entire stay a great joy. He was like Onkel Herbert in providing a wonderful stimulus for thought, he and his wife having  thought processes that leave me wondering if we were not brothers separated early in life. Clinically, I’ve not seen a better surgeon than him who is just a few years out of practice, competent, cautious, making excellent decisions, yet quite skilled in the OR.  A quote from his ex-professor and a dear friend of mine, JV, stated  “Jason-he was my favorite Chief resident last year (yes, he just graduated a year ago). A very mature guy and he and his wife are committed to third world surgery. Wow.””

There was Steve and Monika, arriving after we did, and here for a two year stent, yet always cheerful and enthusiastic in the work at the hospital. Steve and Monika and their kids were a total pleasure to get to know. I wish that we could have had more time getting to know this couple.

It is with trepidation that I stop here, since virtually every ex-pat Missionary that I met at Malumghat deserves a lengthy comment, and the ones mentioned had all been served an injustice by the brevity of my comments. Among all these people,, it would trivialize matters to say that they are giving their time for the gospel and for the people of Bangladesh. They are not not giving their time. They are giving of their lives.  It is a different spirit that I could see driving them, a Spirit far greater than our own personal spirit. May God richly bless them in this life and the life to come. We came to Bangladesh hoping to bring a small blessing to those working out here, and instead, Betsy and I received the greater blessing from them.

 

I should comment on a few of the Nationals that Betsy and I go to know.  Many times, one of the Nationals employed in the hospital would drop me a small note thanking us for coming out, with no mention of any desire for something in return. There was Dr. John, a tribal native of the Tripura tribe (!), now a surgery resident at MCH. John was a total joy to work with, offering a wonderful educational exchange, both of us learning off of each other as we cared and instructed each other on the wards, in the clinics, and in surgery.

Then there was the administrative assistant Uttam, a bit younger, always happy, grateful for his position, always wanting to chat about America or about the Christian faith. Here he is with Betsy, singing on the beach.

There was Lucky, an older single tribal person, who one day had all the ex-pats over for dinner. He works in the hospital store, being “lucky” since he gets an air conditioner in his office. He is a total joy to see every day. The people of Bangladesh tend to be very relaxed, and definitely not time watchers. That can be a touch frustrating, as an 8:00 o’clock meeting typically means 8:30 or so. They have been a joy to serve in spite of the nuances of their character.

 

I hope that in the upcoming month, I will be able to touch base with my American (and German) friends to show the photos of our trip. Photos are woefully inadequate to convey the actual character of our trip. It misses the smells, the tastes, the touch, the breadth and depth of the real experience of Bangladesh.

 

14, 26, 28FEB2009 Skiing

February 28th, 2009

Jonny and I went cross-country skiing twice together. The first was up to Snoqualmie Pass, on a groomed trail, for about 14 miles.

The second was into Reflection Lake on Mt. Rainier, much of the way through steep forest with about 18 inches of powder snow. This made the possibility of easy skiing quite difficult, and only once we got to the road were we able to get some speed to our skiing. The snow was quite soft, but also very cold, which meant that it balled up underneath our skis, making the going quite difficult. Both photos were showing Reflection Lake.

On 26FEB, Dale R. and I did something that I never tried before, which was night downhill skiing. This was accomplished at Snoqualmie Pass, and was a rather pleasant venture. Photographs were impossible.

 

21FEB2009 South Prairie from Home, 35 miles

February 21st, 2009

This is my first ride of the season. I just got back my Element, which I’m turning into a touring bike. They installed new gears on the bike, to facilitate a better touring experience. I thought I’d give the bike a spin. It is definitely heavier than by Trionfo, and the fatter tires make for a touch more resistance, but otherwise, the bike worked well. The greatest difficulty is the last 3 miles, which has hills (Bellmonte Dr.) up to about 14% grade. The bike handled well, even though I was just a slight bit tired. I followed the Orting trail, but once I get past Orting, I get off the standard trail and onto a back road that is considerably more hilly, but also more scenic. I’m ready for more. I’ll soon have to take my Trionfo off of the trainer and get some better distance rides in.

 

 

 

Deutschland 03JAN-07FEB1009 – Goethe Institut

February 8th, 2009

This trip is summarized in multiple blog pages, and so no additional entry will be made here. Yes, we visited the town of Feucht!

And, we visited the Thomas Kirche, where Johann S. Bach’s bones are also buried. And, I met the most awesome couple in the region of Franken, Hannes and Katja. Plus, it was so nice spending time with Herbert (Dr. H. Feucht). Just makes me want to go back!!!!!

 

San Antonio, TX 10-14DEC2008 – San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

December 16th, 2008

This is my second time to the SABCS, the last being about 3 years ago. It is heavily medical oncology oriented, without too much for the surgical oncologist. Never-the-less, I did find the basic science lectures interesting. The clinical medical oncology portion was somewhat dreadful, with lengthy discussions over the value of differing treatment options that might be statistically significant, but have such close survival curves that they remain of overall insignificance. Dr. Liao managed to make it, and it was interesting to have his interaction from a medical oncology perspective as to clinical options. Since Dr. Liao is also an M.D., Ph.D., he seems to understand completely my rantings about the stupid studies and research that is being performed so commonly in the war against breast cancer.  I did learn some practical things for clinical application, so the meeting wasn’t entirely worthless. Other activities included walking the river-walk, and eating Tex-Mex food.

We went to all the lectures, and were attentive, falling asleep only when appropriate.

As you can see, Dr. Liao attempted to catch every word that was spoken, hoping that in some sentence the cure for breast cancer would be inadvertently be dropped on us. We missed the cure this year, and will have to wait until next year.

The River-walk was decorated for Christmas, and many of the boats were loaded with Christmas carolers singing as the boats went down the river.