I know this is not a very sexy topic for a post but it is one that has been on my mind a lot this past week.  I had Dave help me remove the old garage door at my rental house and we installed a new door.  All through this project, I found myself with the wrong tools or missing a darned good screwdriver.  At one time, I went to the local junk store and purchased a matching set of screwdrivers.  Over the past few years, I have purchased many as I lost or threw away damaged ones. In spite of my good efforts, this past week I found that unless I put a new bit in my drill driver, I had crap for tools.  That will be one of my Labor Day tasks and hopefully by Tuesday I'll have a set of them to be proud of.

Today in the paper, a person wrote the advice columnist about a leaky faucet.  He gave them advice about removing the top part and replacing the rubber washer inside.  In my opinion, just go buy a new faucet and replace the old one.  I have never got the screw out of the faucet washer in a manner that didn't lead to another trip to the hardware store to get a new faucet.  On the one time I did get the screw out, the seat for the washer was in such bad shape I had to replace the faucet anyway. 

Once upon a time, my sister called me and said that my Aunt had a new water heater but needed help in putting it in.  I grabbed my bucket of tools and went over to survey the problem.  Sure enough the old heater had a leak and it was beyond anything but replacement.  For me, that was just a snap to swap out the old fittings and put in a new one.  I did have to change one of the copper lines because of the different size heater but again a short trip to the hardware store and no big deal.  When I finished the replacement, I noticed that all around the perimeter of the basement there were small water leaks.  It appears that no one had told my Aunt to shut off the faucets in the winter and almost to a faucet they were leaking.  Back in the old days, they installed a valve about a foot away from the foundation inside the house and you would turn off the water and then go outside and open the valve.  No water in the line and no burst pipes.  Today they have frost free valves that turn the water off deep inside of the house and they don't burst.  Unless, that is, you do something stupid like leaving a water hose attached to the faucet with a sprayer end that keeps water in the pipe.  (Been there did that)  The moral of this story is that it pays to have either the ability to fix you faucets or the money to have a plumber do it.

Have you given much consideration to your retirement?  My advice is to try to figure out how soon you can do it and get out of the rat race.  As soon as you do, try to work in as many trips as you can afford.  As you get older, your health will take a lot of fun out of the trip and that really cuts down on the enjoyment.  I had this dream that as soon as I retired, I would have time to organize my workshop (actually one bay of the garage) and keep it spotless.  With a couple of renovations and a couple of rental houses, I find that I have my junk spread out like a giant rat trap set out to trap me as I try to wade through to find anything.  Add to that, I have a tendency to keep things that I might need for later and presto, I look like a hoarder on steroids.  I keep saying that I'll fix it as soon as it cools down and then it is too cold in the garage.  Oh well, I have good intentions and don't mind parking my car outside because of my poor organization.



Pow Wow at Lake Shawnee

The Labor Day weekend here in Topeka is full of places to go and see.  This weekend the Pow Wow at lake Shawnee is full of things to see.  They all march out on the field with a Color Guard and in full costume.  It is a stirring sight to see the native Americans in their full costumes as they salute the flag we all love.   From there, they have contests of many types as the contestants try to perform as well as they can and in the manner of their ancestors.   There is a lot of other entertainment and generally that includes a car show.  Did I mention the food?  Fry bread Tacos, BBQ meats and all sorts of sugary treats will be available. 

Color Guard

Drummer for dancing
Future Rock Chalk Dancer

It has been one hot week this week.  On our trip out west, the temps were cool and we didn't wear shorts many days.  On the last weekend in July near Denver, it go to cool that we went inside to conduct the sing along.  It was hard to sing when your teeth chattered.  The weather man (a professional liar) has promised that today is the last day of triple digit temperatures for the year.  They are saying mid 80's for Monday. 

Barb and I are having to reconsider our requirements as we rent our little house.  There was a time when even the upper lower class maintained a job for a few years.  Having the same job for more than 2 years has been in the minority.  There is no shortage of single parents out there also.  I'm sorry, but if you have shared custody of three kids, you can't rent my two bedroom house.  Ditto to being on welfare and probation. During our Open House last week, a lady stopped in and asked if we would rent to her daughter who has a black significant other.  After 31 years in the Military, do you thing the color of anything but money talks to me? 

Yesterday the great Fast Food Strike hit a Pizza Hut in Topeka.  The manager had to go tell the employees to get out of the parking lot and back on the sidewalks.  In the Movie, Jerry McGuire, the buzz word was "Show Me the Money."   Ok people if your Big Mac costs $10.00 will you continue to buy them or will you drive down the street to Sonic or Burger King where they are cheaper?   You like the rest of the world will continue to vote with your feet.  Why don't I eat at the Burger Palace where the food is fit for a king?  Because four burgers two fries and two drinks were $51.00.   Last weekend I bought enough steak to overfeed 4 for that same amount.  We had a meal and "Planned Overs".  That is where you know you will have enough left overs to cook another meal or two.  Heck by the time I threw in some grilled chicken, there was enough for Dave and I both to have enough food to cook a couple of extra meals.    If there are no longer fast food jobs for the first time workers because the people that are unemployed are now willing to work at McDonalds for $15.00 an hour, where will the new kids work?  Hell, most of us know that the extra money will go to the Government as fines for not having Health insurance or to pay for mandatory health insurance. Poked in the eye by the big bad government again.

Oh well, on with the day.



Economic Equality?

Yesterday, Barack Obama showed more of his true colors than ever by calling for "Economic  Equality."  He said that the custodian and the steel worker should both have the door open to  the same benefits from their jobs.  We as a society can't give everyone the same money for different levels of work.  I'll bet he doesn't give back the part of his salary that exceeds the amount paid to the staff at the White House.  

What we need to have is the chance for everyone to be their best and increase their pay as their hard work pays off.  I contend that in most cases the system will promote the hard workers and best qualified to the better positions.  I cannot imagine that all teachers would make the same pay.  After over 30 years and with a Masters Degree, Barbara should have made more than a starting teacher with no advanced degree. 

Many of you haven't been around as long as this old graybeard and haven't seen all the efforts we have done to attempt to make significant changes in society.  There was a lot of talk about the guns and butter of the Johnson Administration.  We built housing and provided millions in grants to pay for schooling for those on the bottom of our society.  We have fed meals and gave Head Start to the underprivileged for 50 years.  Is it the role of our Government to spend more than we take in to help the poor?

The biggest problem I have with our Government is that they continue to write new bills without measuring the amount of money they have mandated.  Our Laws should not have provisions that are unfunded.  When the unfunded items are considered, the good of the future generations must be considered.  The burden of Government spending must be brought back to a level that it does not exceed the amount taken in Taxes. 

Today the cry goes out that we are cutting spending on programs that do good and we are throwing money at things that are not doing good things for us.  While there needs to be a little less of the USA playing  Sheriff to the world, we do need to have a military presence.  Yes, we need to cut spending in all areas and until outgo and income are a heck of a lot more balanced, we need to stop spending. 



I Have a Dream

On the street where we live, there lives a black man.  I don't know him any more than I know his neighbors on either side.   That is the way my dream goes.   I think it should not matter the color of the people that live near you.  The color of a man's (or woman's) skin should not have any inference or influence on how I treat or interact with them.  There is enough room in my heart to wish everyone success and happiness.  Our school system provides a great education to those that go there and there is a pretty good social net to catch anyone that is having problems.  That's my dream for MLK's 50th anniversary of his I Have  Dream Speech.

Yes, there are problems in the world and a lot of them at home.  Some of the problems stem from the loss of the fact that having a dream and the will to work that plan can and will make your life better.  We have a lot of people that have either lost the vision of a plan and the hope that it brings, or they have listened to the hype and have expectations higher than the reality of life. 

There is a fine balance between what our Government should and must provide.  I think the scale of Freedom has moved too far towards telling people that it is the role of Government to guarantee equal outcomes versus equal opportunity. 

For those that don't know me, I grew up fairly poor.  The limitation of where I lived did not follow me into the Military.  The Army needed young Forward Observers in Vietnam just like they needed Pilots in WWII.  I was a non college graduate that was selected for Officer Candidate School and was bound for Vietnam from the first day I was in the Army.  I used the Army GI Bill benefits to get a degree and we both won.  I found that I loved the Military and used my Active Duty time as a stepping stone to a career in the National Guard.  I had a lot to learn and with hard work I made it. 

I am blessed to have a life partner that also grew up fairly poor and we have benefitted from the shared vision of better things.  We put money in the bank instead of buying a boat and worked with the future in mind.  We have arrived but still have a pretty good view of what is the reality of the world.  

From where I sit, it seems like we have spent a lot of money trying to raise our citizens up into the middle class.  I am sure that there are a lot of good examples but there are a fairly sizeable pool of those that seem to not be there.  I don't have all the answers but so long as people continue to have a dream for their future, they will stand a chance of getting there also.  One note of caution, a plan not worked is doomed to not have the intended consequences we might wish for.  A fair plan worked well can quite often achieve results.  So what are we teaching our children about the past, present and future? 



Why is it so Complicated?

I am not the smartest guy in town, but from where I stand here in the Heartland it doesn't seem that the problems are beyond fixing.  I am pretty sure that because the Congress is divided into two groups that can't even talk together, they will never get closer to a solution.  I don't think we need to throw them all out but at least half should not be re-elected and then I am sure the message would get through.

I am not a strict Constitutionalist, as I realize that it was written in a simpler time and to help us set boundaries and limitations for problems that don't exist today.  With that said, I am not one to throw the bathwater out with the baby and start completely over.   I think we need to have a review of the constitution and not one lawyer or elected politician would I let attend. 

I often wonder why the President and the Congress of the United States think we have this role as the World's policeman.  If a country wants to change their form of Government, why do we owe it to them to resist change?  Where does the need to spend money we don't have start?  We are running out of money to fight forest fires right here at home and someone thinks we need to do a demonstration bombing in Syria? 

I am fairly sure that one lone voice out here in the Heartland won't get heard in Washington, D.C. but we have to start somewhere. 




I am going to start a campaign on Facebook that carries a message not just other  people's funny pictures.

For Example - Where have we gone wrong with our young people that they no longer feel that a good education and hard work will improve their lot in life?  That worked for me and today on face the Nation Colin Powell said it worked for him.

Why does everyone say that no one needs an ID to vote?   You have to have an ID to cash a check, get medical care and most of the things we do in life. The new Medical Care Bill is based on everyone carrying a Medical care ID card and no one is up in arms about that.  If having the right people represent us is so important, why do we not have the highest standards in voting? 

When our Military members no longer have to carry an ID and have Dog tags and be in the DNA data base, I will change my mind about voter ID.

If it is racist to look for white crime on blacks, it is racist to look for black crime on whites.

Why do our leaders think we have to go and send Egypt and Syria money when Detroit is a sucking wound on the face of our country?  Didn't Saudi Arabia say they would make up any cuts in spending we make?  They can afford it so let them foot the bill for a while.

How can so many well educated people in Washington D.C. not understand that the President should make a budget, congress needs to approve it?  To me it shows that the people there don't understand their jobs.  In My world, spending needs to be limited to income.

How can over 90% of the Congress get re-elected when their approval rating is at 14%?

I have a dream that everyone will one day wake up and live the best life they can. 




Most of us are running around and saying the Federal Government must cut the budget to match revenue.  Now that a lot of those cuts are hitting home to the Military, the cries begin that the cuts should be "Not in My Backyard."   Over the past 20 years, the Army National Guard here in Kansas grew their maintenance and refurbish program to an annual payroll of 22 million dollars.  Next year the cuts are going to be in excess of 15 million dollars and put about 100 workers out of work.  

This week, Barbara got the new Kansas Magazine and it listed the best restaurants in Kansas and one of the places listed was the burger place in Lawrence.  They also have a joint in Topeka and after seeing a movie yesterday, we invited the kids to join us for a burger.    four burgers, two orders of fries and two drinks were $51.00.  I don't want to sound like it wasn't one of best burgers I have had in a long time.  Guess I have been out of circulation too long. 
The Butler's Star, Forest Whittaker

On to the review of the movie.   The Butler is a story about a black butler that served over 20 years in the White House.  From Eisenhower  Through Carter he served in silence and left his personal opinion at home.  It was an interesting look at history of the White House with a special look into the Civil Rights issues that evolved over his service.  I for the most part thought the actors selected to be the Presidents were pretty good.  I thought Robin Williams would have been a better Truman than Eisenhower.  I guess I was so blown away by Tom Selleck's portrayal of Eisenhower in the movie "Saving Pvt. Ryan."  I was sitting there mesmerized by the Presidents and their wives.  When they got to the Reagan era, Nancy Reagan came on screen and spoke to the Butler.  I kid you not it was Jane Fonda is full color.  I am sure that Ronny is still spinning in his grave over that selection.  A lot of the Vietnam Veterans have not forgiven her for her "Aid and Comfort to the Enemy."  I have almost forgotten her and her part was so small that it was hardly worth noticing.  In spite of some exaggeration in the script and only fair casting, I thought the movie was worth seeing as a reminder of who we were and where we came from.

In the area of Civil Rights, I share the myopia that a lot of the white middle class have about just how bad it really was from 1860 to 1960.  Having grown up in a lower class neighborhood, and escaped the perpetual poverty there, I thought everyone had the same chance to overcome and adapt that I did. I guess there was a large segment that put the entire black community in a second class.  There were no blacks in my neighborhood.  The joke was that no self respecting black would live in Dog Patch on the east side of Wichita.  The truth was that in spite of the steps forward, Wichita was still very segregated and the blacks lived in "Their" part of town.  I had a significant emotional event when my Lilly white ass went to East High in 1963-65.  There, the classes were at least 50% black.  The "N-Word" was never to cross you lips out loud.  It didn't matter what the Oakies and Arkies in Dog Patch called them.  I am not going to say it was tough at East High but one of the rich kids was robbed at knife point in the locker room after gym class. 

I guess in a lot of ways you could call me a Pollyanna.  Just as I have always felt that there was enough room for everyone to get recognition, I felt there was room for success. I for one always clapped when people of any color were recognized for their hard work. Perhaps I am an aberration of the way it is.  I think that a good education, hard work and a smile helped me make my way to the status of at least "the Cream of the Crap."  I am one happy dude right here where I am and think it would have to change a lot to make me feel bad about my lot in life.

Can you see the smile on my face?



Bike Ridin'

I know that I have shared with you many times that one way I try to get and stay in shape is to ride my bike.  We decided to leave them home on our trip out west this time and spent the better part of three weeks not riding them.  When we got home, I got involved in renting our small house and  just never got around to it.  This week we have ridden twice and man has it ever kicked my butt.

Biking in Lawrence

I just lost my bike legs and it was not because of inactivity.  I know that in Yellowstone we walked about 12,000 steps each day.  On our overnight stops, coming and going, Barb and I would find the nearest "Big Box" store and walk around inside.  Working on the rental had me on my feet all day and if you haven't climbed up and down a ladder several times, you don't know what sore knees are. (Hey, I am mid 60's)

During the first ride back,  I found that the gears shift  just wasn't quite right.  I took it to the bike shop and he adjusted it and it is a little better but not by much.  Guess I will just have to do some reading on line to get it right.  I do find that I ride mostly in the middle ring and between three and five on the rear gears.  That equates to 8 to 15 MPH for the most part. 

Oh well, better go do something.


Lies My Father Told Me!

There is a fine line between tall tales well told and lies.  When Beer is involved, you can expect the tales to be told with embellishment and often with out much fact involved.  The larger and more diverse the group, the taller the tales may be and often they border on just out right lies.  In this day and age, I find that the truth just eludes a lot of people.

We are in the process of renting our small rental house.  We held two open houses and took applications from a large number of people.  Checking out the applications this time was just frustration in action.  The most promising three applications were so full of holes that we are going back to the drawing board and re-advertising the house.  I won't get into the details but if you owe your landlord $5,000 and the utilities are in his name to keep them turned on, don't expect me to want you as a tenant.  I don't care if you fix mowers if your own yard is full of weeds.

Mom and Dad Years ago.

Now back to my father.  I was told from an early age that my name was Dennis Earl because at the time David Aaron combined with the initial of my last name made the word DAP.  IT had a bad connotation in the 40's.  It was supposedly my grand father's name Ennis Earl with an added D.  Just lately I was doing some searching and found that my grandfather's name was Earl Ennis.  Another myth shattered.

When we were kids, my father would tall us the story of how he lost the tip of his right thumb.  He claimed that at one park the squirrels were so tame that they would eat out of your hand.  On one such adventure, he claimed to grab a squirrel and it bit the end of his thumb off.  At our reunion in Colorado last month I retold that story and my uncle told me that Dad got his thumb caught in a wringer on an old washing machine and that's how his thumb was damaged.  That's Two Dad.

Ok, Ok if there were only two tales told me by my father, I should be proud not angry.  Especially if my degree was in making stuff up.  Read the disclaimer on the side of this blog and I will tell you that it is a compilation of things the way I remember them and often they have been told so many times that they get polished up for the humor. 



Are You Sick and Tired of Sick and Tired?

OK People, listen up.  For most of you, the odds are that you have it darned good and you need to find a way to "Get Over it!"  For those that have the President you voted for, "Get Over it!   People say, but Dennis, you don't know how bad it is.  Well, let me share with you some of the reasons I think you are wrong!

In 1965, I graduated from High School in a time when the United States was as divided as it could be.  The Vietnam War had us burning flags and burning our Draft Cards.  Employment in Wichita was on the decline and you had to either work damned hard to earn a living or live in your parent's basement.  I started school that fall but never applied for a Student Deferment.  Guess who got drafted the next year and who's ass went to Vietnam?   I worked darned hard to complete Officer's Candidate School and went to Vietnam as a 20 year old 2nd Lieutenant.  My Job?  Damn straight Skippy, I was a forward Observer for a lot of my tour.  War has a funny way of expecting you to do a good job or getting killed.  Yes, I feel sorry when there is a power outage and you can't charge your I-Phone.

When I came home in 1969, there was a full fledged recession going on and I went back to school.  I hustled groceries to earn enough to live and go to school.  Barb did the same and we lived in an 8X38 foot Trailer.  We didn't care where we lived as long as we were able to complete our goals of having a degree for us both and no student Loans to pay off.  Do that and tell me about it.  I tried to work construction the next summer but there was no jobs to be had as no one was building anything.  Even my job of bagging groceries was gone as I was displaced by a laid off engineer from Boeing.  I took a job sorting metals for a salvage and earned every penny I was paid. 

My point in all of this is don't even go there and try to tell me I don't understand how hard it is for you.  I went through tough times and worked our plan.   I had a smile on my face a lot as I was absolutely confident that with the love of my wife there was nothing we couldn't do.  Now that I am nearing the far side of my life, I have everything I need, most of what I want and a Wal*Mart nearby.

For those of you that don't support Wal*Mart, don't shop there.   The beauty of America is that the smile on my face is mine and you had almost nothing to do with it being there.  If you want to cry about how bad it is, "Get Over It!"   



Takin' Sunday Off

Dave and I spent quite a bit of time working on putting a new 16' garage door on the rental garage this week and we are taking a well deserved day off today.   I will grill some pork chops and chicken a little later on and then perhaps take in a movie. 

Grill Master at Rabbit Run

The other day someone mentioned that one of my favorite BBQ joints almost closed.  I mentioned that the rib tip special was right up there as on of my favorites.  Dave said that his favorite joint was right her at Rabbit Run.  I guess the marinade and hickory smoke is pretty darned good.  I seldom use any BBQ sauce on my meats as they are so tasty by themselves. 

I found it interesting that readership came right back up once I started to post about Yellowstone.  It is interesting that there are few comments but hey, if it happens, it happens.   In case I didn't mention it, a lot of the great pictures were taken by Barbara.  She has the eye for beauty and the lens to reach out there and make it happen. 

One of the things we kind of planned for this year was to clean up the outside area of Rabbit Run.  I hauled off a lot of old truck parts last year and drug the parts car up out of the woods last month.  Jezebel and the parts car are  headed to Kansas City to see if there is enough to make one running car.   Jezebel left last week and the parts car will go today.  Scott the new owner works for the Ford Assembly plant so he does know what side of the car should be on top.  (Shiny side up, rubber side down)

It looks like the small rental house will rent this month and it will be nice to have a new tenant.  The applicants are very interesting and from a fairly diverse group of people.  We will get the last applicant tomorrow afternoon and then begin to screen the applications.  It was kind of funny to me that one of the earlier applicants came back and said that her daughter and her boyfriend aren't married and he's black.  She wanted to know if that was a problem?  I see the color of money from the tenants not the color of their skin.  Few legal problems and a stable work history is good enough for me.

Well, Da Barb Sr. is up so I'd better move on and see about the grill work.  I hope you all are having a great weekend. 



Are you tired of Yellowstone? -Yet

My weeks posts on Yellowstone has lasted as long as our stay there.  It is my wish for you all to someday take the opportunity to travel there and enjoy what out Park Service in intent on preserving for the future generation. 
Bison Bull

Travel all over the park to see one of these spectacular animals or just wait at Mammoth Hot Springs for their daily visit.
Male Elk

On our boat ride, this spectacular fellow was sitting by the side of the lake just waiting for return to the dock.
Eagle by the lake

I for one love to people watch as I travel anywhere.  As we were waiting for our stage coach ride, this wild child was sitting there in the shade with a smile.

Fun Guy at the Stage Coaches

Last but far from the least, I offer you a picture of the person who is the reason I got to go on this trip. It is my lifetime partner, My Wife Barbara.



Day 5, Yellowstone Trip - Boat Ride?

How our guide picked out a boat ride is a touch that the average person doesn't do in Yellowstone.  I thin the possible number of boat rides vs the number of people that go to Yellowstone make it less than 1% get the opportunity.  With that said, there we were headed out to see a lake that reminded me of Lake Tahoe.  Cold, deep and one of the largest lakes at that altitude.  The big deal was made about the "Lake trout" that has been introduced and is eating the cutthroat trout.  In fact the Park service has a commercial fishery on the lake killing the lake Trout.  They encourage you to catch all you can eat but to take all you catch. 

Lake Yellowstone Boat dock. 

At one time the best way to get to the Lake Yellowstone Lodge was to go there by boat.  We were told a story of one of the boat owners and his party boat.  I guess Teddy Roosevelt had him banned from the park and his boat was burned by a couple of Park Rangers.

Ribs from a former tour boat

This is the skeleton of one of the first boats on the lake.  The Ranger on our boat trip said that it was alleged that a couple of Ranger set fire.  Our Tour guide told us that they actually went to trial over the fire.  I guess it is all in who tells the tale.

Lake Yellowstone Lodge

This is the Lake Lodge taken from our boat trip.  It is fairly plain on the outside but very opulent inside.  In fact one room there is $600 a night.  We were in an annex next to the lodge but it was pretty nice.  We found the computer room and went up to connect.  Again it was the Global Gossip at about 4% an hour.  As we were in the computer room a Japanese woman came in was carrying her cell phone(s).  She said where can she use them.  "Not very many places in Yellowstone."  She wanted to know where she could use the Internet.  "Right there but it is about $5 an hour"  She said that she paid 600 for one night in her room and could not even use the Internet free?  "Yep'er Toyota."  
Boat Bar

Inside the store at Lake Yellowstone is a Bar made out of a boat.  The back of the bar is the front of the boat and the bar is made of the back of the boat.  It was for sale at a fairly high price.

Owl Light

 This is the Owl light in the store and one of the many details worth seeing.

Did I promise you animals?   Oh well, there is always tomorrow.



150,000 Hits

This blog has 150,000 hits now and I welcome everyone to read along as I continue down my merry way through retirement.


Yellowstone day 4, Hot Stuff

One of the most famous features in Yellowstone is all the hot because of the crust being so near cooling magma in Yellowstone.  If you want details, look up Yellowstone and read about it.  I'm sure that the why isn't near as interesting as the what.  The features were almost all caused by the amount of heat and water in them.  The green in the first picture is not plant in nature.  I promise you that the runoff from the pool was way too hot to sustain any plant growth.As you tour the hot spots, you will find that you are required to walk on a board walk.  The hot mud is in a lot of places just a crust and below the surface can be scalding or caustic water that will just eat your skin off.  The smell of sulfur fills the air in most places.  The steam can eat the glass on your lens if you are not careful.

Steaming Lake
Our Guide told us that a lot of the water in the features can be up to 100 years old from springs in the ground.  Based on the lack of rain in the park, it has to come from somewhere other than as rain. This pool is fairly typical of the pools.  It is very deep and has hot gasses just coming up as bubbles.

Boiling pool

The same feature without water looks the same but just has venting gasses. 

Same kind of feature without the water.

This feature is called dragon's mouth.  It has gas and water gurgling out of it and the sound is a low growl.  One of the kids in a tour group just ahead of us said they need to carve the snout of a dragon on it.  I am sure that the park service would scream that it would not preserve the park as it is, but Disney would love it.

Dragon's Mouth
I can't even begin to cover all the different types of steaming features but I can tell you that they were one of the best features of the entire park.  Tomorrow I will show a bunch of the animals and a boat ride.  I will try to wrap up our tour with the fauna. 


Yellowstone, Day 3 & Old Faithful

For all of you that thought that after 45 years I was "Old Faithful."  I am, of course, speaking of the geyser in Yellowstone. The most striking part of the area near Old Faithful, is the Lodge.  It is so different and great that it will capture a lot of the picture space in this post.  The designer of the Lodge did his best to bring the outside of the park inside and in a lot of ways was successful. 
The lodge is built like a pole barn inside, out of Native Lodge Pole Pines
The inside is five stories tall and it gave me vertigo when I tried to loot at all the details.  The arms or supports on the main poles are taken fro the part of the park over by the lake lodge area.  The native Lodge pole pines are pretty much small trunks straight up and down. 

One neat feature is way up in the top of the lodge is a tree house. 
Tree House five stories up in the top of OF Lodge

As soon as Old Faithful stopped spurting the crowds rushed out to go somewhere else.

Old Faithful early morning spout
Our tour guide Catherine spent a lot of time telling us about the 6th form of life, archaea  that lives in the steaming pools.  It seems that it is not animal vegetable or mineral but a form of life that lives in water too hot, too basic or acidic for other forms to live in.  It is the source of color in most of the pools and fountains.  It takes iron and uses it for food to survive.  It was found only in Yellowstone (and a hot water heater in Japan) and NASA wants to sent some of it to Mars and perhaps bring life to that planet.   Below is a picture of one of the Mud Pots where it was first found

Mud Pot home to the sixth form of life
Our guide had the bus stop along a road and showed us the unique place that NASA tried to close down to tourists because it held the latest for of life.  It can reproduce DNA at boiling temperatures and is reason we now have DNA replication called PCR.  The old method was long and cumbersome. Thanks to the find of this form of life, duplication of DNA is now quick and easy.  I would tell you how but the description of this from our guide was a lot like someone asking what time it was and they were told how a watch works. 

If you go no where else in Yellowstone, go to Old Faithful and the geyser basin it sits in.  There is more hot steam there than in Washington, D.C.  You could stay there and see a lot of water vapor escaping into the air. 

Tomorrow I will try to post the geysers, mud pots and boiling water places.



Yellowstone, Day 2

One of the most important parts of our trip was the Road Scholar staff that set it all up.  I am sure that I would have wondered around the park and seen only a part of the good stuff.  Mary and Catherine had us to where the best stuff was, well fed, well rested and  on the bus as needed.  Dr. Catherine Raven  had been a Ranger, a fire fighter and was book smart and street wise.  Her insights made the bus time all worthwhile and out on the paths told us all about the trees, the geological sights and the animals.  It was clear that she liked the female Bison better than the Males.  Several times she pointed out things that the bulls did that the cows didn't.  The bulls rolled in the dirt, poked their horns into the bark of the trees and generally did a lot of activity "Just because they could."  

Bison Bull just watching the Tourists go by
The area around Mammoth Hot springs is named after the size of the place not the Woolly Mammoth.  There are pools of hot water forced up out of the grounds that look like a field of kiddie wading pools that spill over each other forming the giant pools of water and as the water drains it leaves dissolved minerals in layers.  It was well up the hill from our cabin and Barb and I didn't walk all the way to the top.

This is the pools as the water spills down the hills

This is the layers of minerals close up.
Near the bottom of the pools there is one feature that stands out.  The early travelers thought it looked like the hat worn near the French Revolution.  It was formed by the mineral laden water being forced top shoot through the small home and then deposited.  I am sure that the face profile was erosion and not visible when the feature was first seen.

French Hat


Sink Hole
One of the things you need to be careful about in the park is the sink holes.  The hot water just melts the early rocks and if you get off the wooden paths you just might find yourself swallowed up by a sink hole.   Some of these holes have hot water in the bottom and some of the normal looking ground has hot mud just beneath the surface.

One thing that I thought would be a waste of time was the Stage Coach Ride we went on.  The early travelers got off the train and boarded stagecoaches for the Grand Loop.  They toured from hotel to hotel on the stage coaches.  When the Park Service wanted to set up stage coach rides, they took the old stages out of storage.  An auditor came in and said the original stages were not in good shape for daily use.  He also told the Park that the stages were worth about $100,000 each and now they are in museums around the USA.  The new coaches are a look alike but have a lot of modern things like hydraulic brakes.  It was really neat to see the park from atop a stage like the early travelers did.  Another prejudice proved wrong. 
Boarding the early bus, er Stage
Did I mention that we walked about 12,000 steps each day.  These pictures don't show all the details of our day but rest assured that most of us went to out cabins at the end of day 2 and slept hard and long.  I am sure that Barb stayed awake a little longer than I did to read.  Me, out like a light. 

Just as a side note, Barb and I tried to vary who we ate with.  Day two was Prime Rib steak dinner with our coordinator Mary.  Barb gave me a lot of her steak and I went to bed with a stomach so full that I could have skipped breakfast, lunch and most of dinner the next day (I Didn't)  See you tomorrow for day three.  Did I mention Old Faithful yet?



First trip to Yellowstone, Day 1

For those of you that think National parks are small, forget that about Yellowstone.  Just using a quick map spot, it is approximately 75 Miles Square with regions so diverse that they seem indifferent worlds.  We drove in from the west and entered the park through the town of West Yellowstone.  We hadn't gone 5 miles when we hit out first Animal jam.  When ever people see an animal, they do everything but stop in the middle of the road and take pictures.  Those that do keep moving slow to 5 MPH  and traffic backs up for a ways.  Without the road blockage over an elk and her baby it would have taken us over an hour to drive to the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel where we stayed our first two nights.  With the jam it took well over two hours.  Most of the park operations are located in the North End of the park at a slightly lower altitude at Either Mammoth Hot Springs or in Gardiner, Montanna.

Cute little critter will stop traffic in a moment.
When the Rail Road came to Gardiner,  Guests were put on a stage coach and they made the Grand Loop.  It was not cheap and the hotels and restaurants were opulant and gourmet. The workers that built Old Faithful Hotel made $2.50 a day and the rooms there were about $4.00 a night when it opened. There are now places where you can get a burger and fries but the restaurant food is still about the best you could expect.  Yes, it was not cheap but it was included in the cost of our trip.  Our first two nights were at mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in the north end of the park.  For some reason we weren't put in the main hotel but in some cute little cabins out behind the main hotel.  They were better than sleeping on the ground but not as nice as the hotel. They were also about a 4oo meter walk from the Restaurant.

Cabins at Mammoth Lodge

The first whole day of the trip we toured the Fort Yellowstone main post.  It is so much like Fort Leavenworth and Main post at Fort Riley that it wasn't funny.  The old Army buildings have been converted to use by the Park Service with the exception of the Chapel  and the post stockade.  Drive drunk, steal antlers or vandalize any of the park property and you will find your self in  the Stockade.  DUI is a 24 hour stay mandatory. 

Google Earth car visiting Mammoth
 Can you imagine how cool it was that someone convinced his boss to let him take the Google Earth Car to Yellowstone?  The old main post at Fort Yellowstone are in the background.

The park service has as their motto to protect the park today for the future.  I have little doubt that they are doing their best to allow millions of visitors each year to see what they saw in years past.  In fact there is no cell phone or e-mail connection in most places.  If you must connect there are a few places where you can sign up for Global Gossip at 5 bucks and hour but not everywhere.  I will talk more about that later.

Our tour was mainly load up on the bus and go to one neat site after another.  We saw hot springs, geysers and mud pots of all kinds of descriptions.  we walked 12,000 steps a day most days going around the park on wooden steps.  The ground was fragile and the earth very hot or caustic all over the park. 

 There are tours you can take from Mammoth in a 1937 Tour bus that looked like fun.  We were in an almost new bus with A/C.  We did get out to take pictures at some of the animal jams but up high, it was easy to get good pictures.  In fact you could take pictures of the herd of elk that come into mammoth area each day from the hotel lobby.

Stand by for day 2.



Justice, Mercy, Love. Hate and Revenge

After 66 years here on this planet, I tend to have blinding flashes of the obvious now and then. This is one of those wake up at 3 AM flashes. Bear with me and see if this makes any sense at all.

In my heart of hearts, I think our laws are for the most part based on Justice. Do the crime, do the time. In my perfect world, criminals would earn their keep and never want to go back to jail or prison. There would be more chain gangs like in Cool Hand Luke and a lot less jail cells with TV's. If there is any rehabilitation, it would be to teach the Prisoners skills to enable them to make money on the outside in the way of getting a job. I would divide the sentence in to thirds. The first third would be hard labor. The facility would sparkle from all the cleaning. The middle third would be working for the system to earn the keep of the facility. Nothing the prisoners would eat, wear or in any way consume would come from outside dollars. Only in the last third would I have classes in job skills, reading, writing and conflict management. Prisoners would have to make a budget and get lessons in the real life things we all deal with. No free time to screw around.

To me, helping someone who has screwed up make amends for their errors is mercy. Why would I spend hours giving mercy to those who commit the crime? My mercy would extend to the victims not the criminal.

Love and hate are at the opposite ends of the feeling scale. Both can be a waste of time but I personally find love a lot more fun. Hate is a lot like work and you can spend a lot of energy doing something that hardly ever had a good outcome. On the other hand, love can be work but if done correctly can be the basis for a long and happy life.

Revenge is a dish that should be served cold. Never jump into getting even when you are mad. In fact most of the time treating someone poorly because you are seeking revenge is often not even seen by the other guy.

So, in the end of this short piece, I will share with you that I try to leave the justice in this world up to the justice system and will do my best to leave hate and revenge to those people with a lot more energy to expend than I have.