The last several weeks have seen a lot of activity around both my local neighborhood and the Alameda/ San Francisco areas I visit regularly.
Weather has been mild hereabouts, and the Summer tourists and weekenders have melted away as schools got back underway.
A major sign of the changes was apparent when I recently left my house, turned the corner wandering just a few yards down to the bottom of 26th Avenue to then be greeted by a Hang-Glider drifting back and forth along the cliffs some 100 yards away.
The warm on-shore, <10 knot updraft off the Monterey Bay allowed the glider to lazily move a few hundred yards back and forth some 40 feet above the cliff-face. An easy, lazy day for the pilot and an incongruous view for my solitary self, standing directly below.
Just a few weeks before and 100 yards inland from here I had a 7-foot eucalyptus branch drop +40 feet squarely onto my head as I rode in the bike lane immediately beneath a canopy of trees.
This >2lb. cutting had remained from tree-work done earlier and chose to fall directly as I passed below. What are the odds, and what good luck! Just a knot on the head, scuff on the forehead and I was not even separated from my bike. 😊
Mid October surfing contests show up on weekends for High Schools and other participant events. Temporary canopies and Audio commentary is then set up along The Hook, which stretches along Pleasure Point from the Café down to 41st Avenue. Non-participant surfers still arrive and line up slightly away from the tournament action, either down toward the O’Neill cliff house or the opposite end of The Hook from the competitions.
Capitola recently held its massive annual fireworks display, run from off the end of the old pier. The event is always spectacular, lasts 20-30 mins and is hosted this time of year by local businesses as a Thank you to Residents for their vital ongoing support.
The show is well worth the visit. The Capitola Village is packed, and the East Cliff is lined by pedestrian-only traffic with heads thrown back admiring the creative display reflecting off the Monterey Bay waters and towering into the skies above the crowds. A true spectacular, just a short walk from home.
I ride a bike year-round and normally 5 days a week. Rides usually run about 12 miles/day, with some weeks a couple of 20-milers thrown in. Weekends I save for sailing out of Alameda on the San Francisco Bay, which is just as well as there is always more road traffic around Santa Cruz on both Saturday and Sunday.
And biking hereabouts has changed, even during the week.
Since the pandemic ended, more people ride. In the last 6 months things have evolved from sightings of e-Bikes being <1-in-5 to now being 90% electric. And those bikes fly around!
It seems folks who seldom rode have picked up electric versions. Bikes are new and custom, sporting racks, paniers, kiddy-seats and all sorts of adders, often towing or even pushing child and animal trailers. The varieties are endless, and it is uncommon to see any two alike.
Riders seem to peddle little and travel fast. >>20 mph speeds for Electrics seems common-place and users effortlessly cross the 5-10 mile stretch from East-to-West Santa Cruz in just a few 10’s of minutes.
I suppose increased accidents will soon inspire the introduction of consequential new regulations needed to accommodate this major trend. Strangely, cannot even recall when I last saw a new bike that was not electric and in truth this has all occurred in <12 months. 😉
As a warning: if you ride a manual bike for (say) just 10 miles hereabouts, you are going to need to avoid typically 3-5 risky (to yourself) actions by other travelers. Culprits are unobservant vehicle drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists, respectively. And the problem worsens greatly as your average speed increases. It seems speed somehow makes you far less visible to others; we develop a cloak of invisibility. 😉
By early September I had finished the planning for my 2023 trip to Alaska. It is a case of plan early or miss-out on the best Trips, Guides and Facilities for the next adventures. If you wonder what is available there, check out my last BLOG posted September 11th. In a related theme…
During late September, a friend from Alaska stopped by on his annual drive from his home in the Kenai Peninsula to his Summering setup in Arizona. It is a long drive with quick, regular business stops along the way; he is a great guest and welcome company who needed a break from massive daily driving schedules.
On his arrival I was treated with a delivery of bear-meat for my freezer, and we spent our brief available time running around touring my local area and haunts, ending up with evening drinks and music outside, seated by a firepit. There is so much to see and enjoy here, it was a treat for myself to have someone else appreciate what is offered locally.
Following this fun visit, we are now planning a joint Sailfish fishing trip to Southeast Florida next February / March.
Hopefully, we can make this recent stop-over a regular event. Maybe next year I will take the pilgrimage with him and provide some relief on the driving duties?
San Francisco Fleet Week occurred early October. This is truly a Family treat with ships to visit, the town bustling, street vendors everywhere along the waterfront and a unique and special aerial display on Saturday and Sunday.
The Airshow runs across the space between the Embarcadero Piers and Alcatraz. The viewing area is good from Fort Mason even down to the Ferry Building, but best North of Pier 39. Sights include a couple of jet display teams (the Blue Angels are a highlight), aerobatics and a host of one-off fly-bys from both major military and commercial aircraft.
Planes and flights come in from Golden Gate and Bay bridge directions, over Angel Island and even enter the performance area right overhead, from behind the City itself. The display has low, highspeed passes and endless acrobatics; a unique treat to watch and experience. Crowds can revel in the thrill of the event and enjoy a profound sense of pride. 😊
For myself, I have been fortunate to see this Show at least a half dozen times. Mostly from the water, where I usually motor a boat of half-a-dozen passengers about in a clockwise direction around the cordoned-off, low-fly area which runs several miles both East and West between Alcatraz and the Embarcadero. It is spectacular viewing for passengers, but when you are at the helm the heavy boat traffic often demands your complete attention elsewhere. 😉
If you have not seen this or similar displays, try to do so. And soon. I hear a City Supervisor in San Francisco is moving to ban the Blue Angels from their airspace. He is also extremely vocal in complaining about the attention outside press gives to such local issues. I wonder what his true agenda might really be. ☹
The area I live has many splendid features and opportunities. But much is changing. It is good to enjoy the numerous positives that remain available while we can. 😊
Let me now move on to summarize some of the more prominent News items occurring in the last weeks; specifically, those that have possible downstream ramifications of concern…
Over $3 Trillion has been wiped out in Retirement Accounts (401’s, IRA’s etc.) in 2022, alone. If you own such an account, you will currently have seen a >30% and perhaps as high as 40% drop in your accounts’ value. Most investors have now lost around 2.5 years of gains in the last year or so. This is a result of Market confidence in Government and consequential Outlook. Ouch.
Average folks are being abused by reported inflation running 8-9% (at 40-year highs) and constantly spiking gas prices. Retirees are additionally under the gun with Administration promises of Capital Gains Tax increases that will further establish the US as having the largest such Tax in the World.
With Fed Rate hikes already underway and more promised the Housing Market has come under pressure and the Dollar has grown abnormally strong, which severely hampers US Exports.
Dollar strength inevitably brings downward pressure on numerous smaller Currencies and Countries around the World which will consequentially economically decline further, with many not even being able to service their debt.
Fuel prices are exploding all over Europe because of the Ukraine proxy War. Europeans (esp. in places like Germany) cannot fire up Coal Plants fast enough before the colder months arrive. The UK is forecasting that over 70% of it’s restaurants are expected to fail this Winter because of energy costs. Hard to imagine the pain and pressure that will similarly fall on every household across Europe. ☹
As always, s***t rolls downhill.
The weaponization of Government in the US continues in many forms…
A Federal judge revealed that Biden ordered the raid on ex-president Trump while denying ALL current knowledge of the event. No surprise there. Blatant lies are commonplace.
Whistleblowers have confirmed the FBI is creating a false narrative by classifying the January 6th Capital incursion as separate individual nationwide Domestic Terrorism instances, to be tried in every State possible while simultaneously moving agents off child sex abuse cases. Such priorities and caring. ☹
Pelosi is legally obliged to investigate the Administration for blatantly trying to manipulate the Saudis to delay reducing oil shipments and so momentarily aid US gas pump pricing ahead of November mid-term elections. It seems the Saudis have well-documented scruples about such action which would have produced large global economic downsides downstream.
Joe Biden has personally and publicly threatened dire consequences to the Saudi’s for outing him on this matter. Wow. He may have forgotten about the essential neutralization role the Saudis play in the Middle East, having Iran as neighbors and all.
Apparently, the Administration act of soliciting in-kind actions from Foreign Sources to aid a Partisan political goal is illegal. I am sure Speaker Nancy P will give this all the attention her party requires. Sigh. 😉
On the lighter side, the BBC is reporting Hunter Biden will be charged with Tax crimes. His personal laptop has been providing corruption insight to his activities (in Ukraine and China) for a few years already. It recently additionally turned up his Swalwell-like engagement and dalliance with a new Chinese spy. So far, no charges for Hunter for anything (while Dad holds the reins). 😉
I saw some Poll or other a couple of months back that had ~70% the US General Public agreeing that Biden is both corrupt AND had likely benefitted financially from his corruption. It was implied that voters simply DO NOT CARE this is the case. Wow.
On the local home front, San Francisco was reporting a 25% Office Vacancy rate at the end of September. Looks like Covid Impacts, Out-of-State moves and Neighborhood Toxicity (prices, crime and homelessness) are all in play.
And soon to arrive will be the November Elections. Over a dozen States are on the record with reported major voting fraud issues occurring during the 2020 elections. Yet no significant prosecution, anywhere. How odd. How can this be? Sigh. ☹
France outlawed Mail-In Voting in the 1970’s as being too readily subject to voter-fraud. They conducted their last recent election entirely with a hand-count. In recent weeks Germany announced a re-vote for ~6 million people in one District because of known Polling Machine irregularities.
The US has a storied history of serious Voter Fraud issues dating back >100 years. I have seen countless Polls overwhelmingly agreeing the US simply needs Voter ID laws to have safe(r) Election Polling.
Yet Voter ID is currently politically framed as Racist, so cannot be allowed. Go figure.
And I expect there will be rampant, approved mail-in requirements and voting misdeeds in many US States and Districts come November, regardless of the outcome. Why would anything be different? 😉
On the Global front we still have Leaders who need wars (that end well) to buoy up their numerous Domestic problems. Putin is in trouble and needs a soft landing and historically corrupt Zelenskyy is spoiling daily for bigger and better action.
Biden has his proxy war and is rattling his Sabre, threatening an imminent Nuclear Armageddon to his citizenry. Despite major depletion of US Weaponry (to Ukraine) and Strategic Oil Reserves (to China and hopefully, Domestically) he has still somewhat prepared, as his HHS has stockpiled nuclear warfare treatment Nplate drugs at $1.2k each. Sadly, for you and I these only have a shelf-life of 18 months and he only bought ~250k units. If he knows something we do not, we are in trouble. 😉
Lastly is Premier, Xi. He is right now entering a new phase of Government Control which brings him unprecedented and unchallenged powers. He is already leaning in to take territories from Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and others; even claims in the heavens (Mars and Moon colonization) are freely mentioned. China believes this now-open New Era is where they will fulfil their promised destiny and Xi is the accepted and anointed one.
NOTE: The New Era is defined as the next 30years, which is to include the successful realization of The Chinese Dream.
And all this comes when US overseas image is at a low. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper (THE major National publication) wrote an October piece referring to Biden’s weakness, endless failures and ways as being more than simple mental decline and senility, referring to him as also being historically evil. This from (a, THE?) major overseas ally and a FRIEND. Ouch.
So, what might actual ENEMIES think, say and be prepared to DO? Historically it is always the weak and inept who become inevitable active targets and victims. ☹
Well, so much for these reflections.
In all honesty they are (just some of the) things that cannot responsibly be simply, totally ignored. These are the troubling chickens in our lives that can come home to roost. Some are much more likely, serious and immediate than others.
We live in sad and dangerous times, both Locally, Nationally and around the Globe.
But nobody should dwell incessantly on such matters. It serves no purpose if no immediate action is required or yet relevant. So, time to move on, but still sleep with one eye open…
Do you track both the small AND large issues that might impinge upon your World? Should you?
It can be miserable to follow all such issues relentlessly but keeping an eye on REAL liabilities that can enter your lives is usually wise.
As for myself, I will now change my immediate focus and prepare for a trip out East to enjoy a Wedding in North Carolina with some Family friends. 😊
Here’s to wishing you similarly pleasant distractions!
It has been a busy month or so since my last posting and much has occurred.
I recently returned from a three-couple outing in Alaska. This offered an Alaskan introduction to four travelers and a third consecutive annual vacation visit for me.
Alaska changed throughout these COVID years. It has become a recently more favored escape and experience for those seeking simpler ways and contact with a larger outdoors.
Although I have travelled there for short visits in the past, my first significant holiday was in September of 2020, when the State was an early opener for vacation travel during the pandemic. And much has changed.
2020 saw small crowds and State entry burdened with new and imperfect (Covid-related) entry requirements. By 2021 the word was out, and crowds increased with residents needing to financially recover from pandemic-depleted recent times further compounded by lesser recent seasons of Salmon runs; it was busier and more expensive.
But this year (2022) the season ran with even greater attendance and enthusiastic tourism than the prior two years. The peak Summer season, running into September and quickly to Autumn was busier again. Indeed, my own bookings were necessarily made a full year earlier, immediately following my 2021 visit.
And it was well worthwhile. 😊
Alaska is about grand displays of nature, hikes, outdoor living, simpler more independent times, hunting and fishing.
So, let me describe our outings and experiences…
After separate flight arrivals in Anchorage, our three couples (two from NorCal and another from Sweden) picked up a pair of vehicles (SUV’s) and gathered at an overnight Airbnb on the local outskirts of the City.
We shopped for a few essentials that night before turning-in quite early. The next day we found a great local eatery before heading down to the Kenai peninsula.
The journey out to Fosters Alaska Cabins (outside of Soldotna and Kenai) provided great phot-ops for our new visitors during the 3-4 hr. drive-time South. Expansive views of gigantic, U-shaped canyons were all along the way, passing narrow-gauge railway, tributaries and glacial run-off rivers at almost every turn.
We stopped for an hour or so at a Wild-Life conservatory (AWCC) featuring Bears, Wolves, Musk Ox, Deer, Reindeer, Moose, Buffalo, Porcupines, Foxes and much more. The various herds generally contain a dozen or more animals; Elk were in rut with the males separated, again strutting about menacingly as I have witnessed in previous visits. (NOTE: The park is well outside of and South of Anchorage, passed Beluga Point).
After sampling drinks, reindeer hot-dogs and similar we got back on the road in our 2-vehicle convoy.
Following another communal stop for meal and souvenir viewing we ran the last hour down to Soldotna and proceeded to our destination camp.
Upon arrival we checked-in, unloaded luggage into a couple of cabins and then each had ourselves fitted with the waders and boots we would use for the duration of our stays.
Dinners in our camp are large, substantial smorgasbords where guests congregate to feed each night. Ladies first, sit where you please outdoors or upon under-marquis seating, with an eternally open bar. Our first night of this was a great introduction and orientation for our group.
Following or during the feed, details of the next day’s trips for each party were reviewed. The dinner and clarification of the pre-arranged upcoming outings is a nightly ritual.
Some evenings featured singing by local performers. Those remaining following dinner gather around or near the open propane firepit, sipping on drinks, often making song requests for an hour or two.
After our arrival meal we headed back to our cabins for an earlyish night’s rest in preparation for our first outings.
And the first day did not disappoint.
As on most days we split into two groups. This day half of us (3 of our group) headed pre-dawn down to Homer Spit where we boarded a 40’ power boat for a day ocean fishing Halibut and Silver Salmon.
We pounded our way out for an hour or more on the Gulf of Alaska, ringed in the distance by five visible volcanos. There was a little rain, but four of the 6-person total passenger group sat inside, unconcerned about the risk of seasickness.
Most everyone aboard got their 2-fish Halibut limit (one OVER and one UNDER 32” in length) and their accompanying exhausting experience of the serious workout involved in hauling them up from the deep. Following this, we that cared fished for and caught a few Silvers for our 3-man group.
It was then time to forge our way back to Homer Harbor; the journey and fishing had left us all somewhat wet and definately chilled. The lady captain and male crew performed admirably, keeping everyone happy and having all the fish filleted by the time we tied up at dock.
The second part of our group had departed camp a few hours later (also to Homer) where they took the comfortable 49 North Boat Taxi to the State park for a subsequent hike. They had their fun and returned before the fishing group to the Homer Spit and made the traditional round of tourist trips to the famous Salty-Dawg Bar, wholesome restaurants and stores.
After stashing our catch in a cooler, we finally reconstituted our total group, then had a couple of drinks at the Dawg before heading back up the road to camp and the usual evening arrangements.
The next day, two of us set out early on a 50-minute float-plane fly-out to the Kustatan River for Silver Salmon fishing. It was a new adventure for my partner on the trip.
We checked-in, located our plane dockside, climbed aboard and flew out. It was great trip with fine photo-op views, always ensuring a fun adventure. There was just one problem: the landing area was heavily fogged-in.
Normally the plane drops its floats into a narrow river, with wingtips reaching out to the banks either side and swings its way along a short course to a preset stop consisting of manageable mud banks and a couple of wood duck-bords where passengers can clamber out. But not today.
The fog was heavy and persistent. It hung like a curtain some 400yards before the viable touchdown spot, flatly carpeting the entire region. Despite our making multiple passes to get in during 30 mins over the landing site, we were consistently met with an impenetrable wall that just would not move, so we were forced to repeatedly pull out of approaches.
Inevitably, after <2.0 hrs. we touched back down on the small lake from which we had departed earlier. Some 30mins later, subsequent flights verified that nothing would be getting into the Kustutan any time soon; thus, our fishing trip was cancelled.
So, we rushed the few miles back to camp to rejoin the rest of the group who had slept-in prior to leaving for a Sockeye Salmon introductory (“Flossing”) fishing trip. We reconfigured our arrangements so that the two younger couples went out together and my wife and I picked up a separate last-minute arrangement to go flossing later with a new local guide.
In summary, the team of four had a phenomenal time with the group limiting out their couple of dozen salmon. The two girls were novices and enjoyed major success; I do believe the more experienced men were even a little envious of their catches. The guide was excellent, put them in the right spot at the best time and taught them well. 😉
As for my wife and self, things were not so great. We arrived later in the water and the best spots and time was gone. I got a few Sockeyes yet needed to work extraordinarily hard for that catch. But it was fun and always is. 😊
The highlight of dinner that night were the tales of fishing success and new positive experiences that were had by all. So ended the second day at Foster’s Camp.
The next day was a group trip (3 couples, the six of us) down to Seward for a ferry ride. The journey to and from the Port is spectacular and often forgotten as a treat within itself.
We checked-in on-time after our 2-SUV journey down. The giant, 1-year-old ferry we boarded sparkled in its pristine white and blue colors, all immaculately wiped and spotless throughout its decks, café, seating and glass-windowed viewing areas.
After slipping dock lines and sliding out of Seward we were gone about six hours. Along the way we saw several whales, many seals, puffins, innumerable sets of rafting otters and an endless coastline with massive U-shaped Valleys truncating at the water’s edge.
And the highlight of the trip was a 1/2hr stay, in-close beneath a 0.5mile wide glacier that terminates its 10+ mile length into a spur off the Bay of Alaska. It is one of seven such edifices that originate from a massive, plateaued ice field that enjoys its own climate at about 1000 feet or so higher.
It is a spectacular sight and was an important photo-op for all aboard. Despite the chilled air the passengers posed relentlessly (as we did ourselves) for group shots and videos as large chunks of glacier growled and occasionally broke off, generating small tidal waves that dispersed into the ice flow below.
As much was filmed and photographed of this glacier as there was of the surfaced whales we had cautiously shadowed earlier, capturing their antics for 30 mins or more.
It was an enjoyable day out and we all returned weary and relaxed as we reentered Seward, then disembarked for a pre-arranged Dinner booking at a large local restaurant.
When we arrived back at camp there was a familiar pair of local singers still there, entertaining a small group (of <10 guests) around the firepit beneath the marquis. I listened for a while, confirmed the next-day arrangements and then retired early for the upcoming morning’s adventures.
The following day, three of us (myself, younger son and his significant other; they both in from Sweden) headed out at dawn for a float-plane trip up to Crescent Lake, >1 hr. flight-time away.
I arranged for the lady to take the co-pilot chair as my son and I took our seats in the main cabin with the other 6 or 7 passengers aboard. The flight out garnered some of the better happy-face and mountain landscape pics I would capture on the entire trip. And we landed on the starkly emerald-colored, isolated lake just as planned, beaching up behind another flight that had arrived minutes earlier.
There are only 6 guides allowed to work this lake and 3 were on the beach after we landed. We quickly split into 6 or 7-person groups, boarded our flat-bottom, motorized boats stationed near the landing area and dispersed about the lake.
Our day featured (almost) “Snagging” for Silvers and Humpies down in a corner of the Lake, shortly before it gently spilled into a sluggish downhill river. The fishing was productive for all; I picked up the 7 or so bright red humpies I mostly cared about while others targeted and captured the 3-fish limit Silvers they wanted. Our group had a few Silvers we brought back, too.
Most of the day fishing involved keeping tabs on a nearby group of 4 brown bears (an underwater swimming Mom and 3, 2-year-old Cubs) who constantly threatened to cross over towards us from 150 yards away. Fortunately, they harried the opposite bank of a dozen anglers and a couple of guides all the time and never became sufficiently interested in us. But again, they were so close we were easily able to watch, photograph and video all their mischief and antics.
Last year (2021) I had seen these same bears and as many as a dozen more. This trip there was just “Swimmer” and her 3 boisterous cubs.
After all the fish were had we took off by boat following these bears, taking pics and videos from close range but keeping safely behind them as they quickly progressed unimpeded by any fishing groups down the bank towards the plane landing area.
I managed to fish alone for Dolly Vardens (like Rainbow Trout) and picked up a dozen in the very place the bears were gamboling 3-4 mins before we beached. And this, as the guide filleted the fish, my son tried for more Silvers and the others in our small party looked on, drank and ate while watching for a surprise visit from bears. Finally, we piled back in the boat and moved on.
After a subsequent, quick (< 5minutes) stop required for me to pick up a 19” Lake trout (using newly harvested Salmon eggs) lingering beneath a floating filleting station, we rounded a couple of bends and beached again to await our incoming float-plane transport out.
There were soon perhaps 20 of us on the beach awaiting fly-outs. No bears arrived and a few of the anglers started fishing with snagging rigs while we waited. I must have seen ½ dozen more silvers caught and filleted during the 30 mins or so we stood about and chatted.
A couple of planes arrived. We all quickly helped load gear, bagged fish fillets and snack coolers then scrambled along the plane’s shore-side float, clambered up the fixed boarding ladder, dove into the cabin and fell into our window seats.
Within the hour we had taxied, taken off, run low out through the blustery, tree-spotted Valley, then crossed the large expanse of water to the mainland, while passing over a few solitary oilrigs in the brown silty waters ~2000 feet below.
We banked sharply into the Lake landing site and within an hour we were back in our own cabins at camp.
The second group (3 persons) of our party rose later that day and had gone on a guided and guarded short hiking tour through bear territory to Russian River Falls. They did not get along too well with their guide that day and thus had not enjoyed the fun and adventure anticipated.
Much as they wanted to ditch the guide, they realized that the other hikers they saw that day were well-armed (lots of bears are around) and so them wandering carelessly unarmed and w/o even bear-spray was perhaps very ill-advised. They did not immediately enjoy the trip, sights and experience as was hoped. It happens. ☹
Dinner that evening was quite a contrast. My Swedish guest saw her flight, fishing, bear viewing and boating as “one of the best and most memorable days of my life.” Great to have such a unique, wonderful experience while capturing so many pics and videos for memories.
The Hiking group even seemed to reflect that there were perhaps some special memories to their day, too.
And so, another day in Alaska passed into history and personal memory. 😊
The following day the Swedish couple in our group began their trip home to work responsibilities.
My eldest son and I took a 2-seater, side-by-side ATV trip into the Hills around 1 hr. drive South of Soldonta, towards Homer. We passed through an old Russian Village with a small, highly ornate church at its center, before taking off on our remote, guided trek.
The hills were strewn with brilliantly purple Fire Weed and we ran by deserted trapping cabins and the few remote ruins, all the time travelling on regulated State land. If I recall correctly, for some reason the Government owns >40% of all Alaskan Land. Such massive ownership is typical of many Western US States.
After driving outbound some ~90 mins on moderately tricky trails we reached a halfway point and turned back. Our ATV’s front LHS tire was already running low air pressure when we had set out, and by the time we were 5 miles short of reaching our SUV and trailer, that tire broke its seal, and we ran off-trail.
As no tools of any form were brought along by the guide we staged the vehicle slightly off-trail and returned in the guides (fortunately) 4-seater ATV to our vehicles just outside the Russian Village.
We settled with the guide, and he told us he would return later with tools and a spare wheel to recover the vehicle. It appears that as the weather was starting to turn (colder, wetter; with the Fire Weed dwindling, changing bloom) and the region is so remote, it was unlikely anyone would need to pass the abandoned ATV in the immediate future, certainly not for a day or two.
So, off we went North, back to camp and dinner, with another fine tale to tell. 😉
The following day our NorCal couple (my recently married eldest son and bride) packed up their SUV and headed up to Anchorage and their flight out. My wife and I took a break, just doing laundry and lunching out before the routine evening camp dinner.
The next day I fished alone with a familiar guide. We had planned to fish the Kasilof River, but the Silver runs were not yet really happening there. In fact, other than on fly outs or in the Gulf, they were pretty sparse with the major runs still yet to come in after the Sockeye flow gave way.
So, we fished the tail-out of the lake by the Lower Kenai. It was painfully slow progress and as you can only run a single rod when alone, it is impossible to quickly check out optional lures when pulling plugs. Some of the other six boats we saw that morning also only caught an occasional Silver, despite each being able to run at least four rods.
Eventually we hauled out and headed back down the Kenai River and I picked up a few Sockeyes flossing to add to the single Silver caught at the Lake. So, it was somewhat productive, and provided additional meat to add to the freezer. But it was a good day, and I spent more time with a familiar guide and friend.
The following day was my last fishing on this trip with another guide known to me and hailing from Oregon. Ryan had moved up with his whole family this year for the Summer guiding season in Alaska.
This time I was targeting my favorite, Rainbow Trout. It is all catch and release, but great sport.
The fish were spread out in pockets and so are not easy to find until the Silver Salmon runs are in full flow.
But Ryan found the fish and I had a big day. I took a spectacular 25” Rainbow, a couple of 24 inchers with about 45 total brought to the boat, mostly in the 19-22” range. I lost a 28-29” monster who was a little too smart for my skills; he made my 25” fish look like a tiddler and me feel like a complete novice. 😉
The day demanded a lot of judgement and realignment to the quite different trout nymphing techniques used in Alaskan waters. It took a few hours before my skills really began to set back in with subtle back-handed casting and drift-mending adaptations. In the end I was even able to pick up some nice Rainbows in hard-to-manage, low expectation areas. 😊
And then the fishing was done, and nothing was left but satisfied bragging rights, organizing fish shipments and arranging travel home.
There was about 130 lb. of fish shipped back. Mostly Sockeye, but a smattering of Silver Salmon and some decent Halibut. The freezer is again adequately filled after being only recently emptied of the few last 10’s of pounds of fillets which were still in prime condition from the similar 2021 haul.
But we did not get out Scot-Free.
A few days before we left my wife contracted Covid and it was a full three days later before I finally tested positive. This played havoc with our return. Fortunately, my case was VERY mild; no temperature issues at all and I was testing negative again within 72 hrs. Lucky me!
We both hit the PAXLOVID 5-day course treatment along with a recommended battery of supplements and vitamins. As my own case was so surprisingly short-lived, we were both simultaneously ready for travel and returned home.
Noted lessons learned and worth noting, re: HAVING COVID…
If a standard Covid Lateral Flow Test (CLFT) shows a PALE (Positive) line that takes a while to appear, your case is likely less profound and symptoms less debilitating. The Viral Load you carry is LOWER and most likely you are less infectious, supposedly “only to perhaps pass it on to a Spouse.”
HOWEVER, if you have a DARK RED (Positive) line that appears within a few minutes, the opposite is basically true, and you might even be classed as a “Super Spreader.”
Medical professionals have elsewhere offered these pointers. Your guess is as good as mine as to their efficacy. 😉
Now changing subject…
Since my last posting there a have been a couple of (shall we say), Phase II wedding celebrations to attend. Let me explain…
Inevitably many people still got married during the Pandemic which caused attendance at events to be somewhat to severely limited as folks were either reticent to travel or Covid restrictions remained profound and ominous in the vicinity of the event.
So, some couples choose to have belated, secondary events in more convenient locations and at a (sometimes) much later time. Both thwarted guests and newly married couples often favor a celebration redux. Hence, I attended a pair of such events in recent weeks…
In the first case it was the reception redux locally for friends and neighbors who did not attend my eldest son’s wedding in Kauai, last May. There were a few speeches, great food and a fine turn-out.
The second reception was a celebration of a friend’s eldest son’s marriage which occurred quite quietly during the very early depth of Covid restrictions (mid-2020). This event was a full-blown wedding / vow redux, and the couple now even had their new baby in attendance.
In both cases it was great to see the joy and closure that both events brought to guests and couples alike. People always have fun on such occasions, but it was precious to witness the obvious happiness and satisfaction on the faces of all those privileged to attend. 😊
Perhaps such Phase II events in convenient secondary locations will become increasingly commonplace and traditional? Certainly, the Pandemic has already affected many other aspects of life.
Then next of course there is the Local, World and Domestic News that has flooded in since my last BLOG.
Only the most noteworthy is worth mentioning. So let me begin with firstly a couple of simple Local observations…
Not greatly mentioned is the fact that the entire San Francisco Bay turned a vivid reddish brown for over a month. The effect began in early August and was only diminished and constrained to mostly the Alameda estuary by mid-September. It was recommended the fish caught were not eaten.
An algae bloom not seen for almost 20 years has again returned. The effect was initially quite alarming since the muddy redness deepened as the days warmed and it spread so extensively throughout the entire Bay.
Many of the local Ducks (mostly Mallards and Canadas), Herons (mostly Night Herons, some Great Blues and Egrets) and Cormorants temporarily quit affected surrounding marinas and headed for cleaner fishing grounds, only slowly returning as waters became clearer.
In Monterey Bay, the great Blue Herons nesting in the +80’ high Eucalyptus above the bridge running through the Santa Cruz boat harbor have already produced a new generation for 2022. The birds and their young still frequent the nests and caw loudly to all who will listen.
On the World front…
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away, aged 96 years. The Country, Commonwealth and many around the World mourn as a new King dutifully awaits his Coronation. And the outpouring is staggering. Sadness of loss remains palpable, yet a new, continued and stable era is anticipated and quickly needed.
Reports from Ukrainian front-line soldiers suggest they lack basic weapons, ammunition, communications, transportation and manpower. As many $100B’s in weaponry and other forms have poured into the Country, one must wonder what is going on.
The day before Ukraine was invaded the President (Zelensky) was considered to the be the head of the most corrupt Government ever known. One day after the invasion he was being hailed as a modern-day Churchill.
The US is reportedly severely depleting their military reserves by channeling much advanced weaponry, ammunition and funds to the Ukraine. Similarly, many European Countries are contributing the same way. So, something smells bad, here. Things do not stack up.
On the COVID front there have been >10 Countries that I have personally seen officially reporting Government-recognized problematic findings from the impact of Vaccination. These include the likes of Germany, Denmark, Israel, the UK, Turkey, Japan and more.
Other than Media reports offering 11 dubious (non-Vax) explanations to now routine and numerous, so-called sudden adult deaths, there is no similar mention or reporting in the US at all and certainly nothing hinting at any problems whatsoever with vaccinations. No wonder there are conspiracy theorists running wild. 😉
The US Domestic front inevitably remains very bumpy…
FBI whistleblowers are coming out of the woodwork and uncovering the obvious current bias and politicization of the Bureau that we have already been increasingly witnessing for decades. They say heads will roll. Time will tell… sigh. ☹
The border crisis continues. In early September, the Administration acknowledged that around 2 million illegals had entered the country under Biden’s reign. Independent bodies are already on record stating that with known missed encounters and existing official recordings the number already greatly exceeds 5 million, with no end in sight. Someone cannot count.
Gas prices in California can now be found in the $5.50/ gal range. We are supposed to celebrate this progress down from >>$6.00 / gal. I recall quite recently when reaching $4.00 / gal was considered disastrous.
Most of the price reduction we are seeing is driven by a great fall in demand driving down pricing. Folks cannot afford gas prices and so are finding other ways to minimize their budget expenses by limiting personal consumption. Another inconvenient truth.
The situations we create and to which we are offered delusional or deliberately misleading insight are almost comical. So, let us not dwell on any more of such frustrating News and simply move on…
We are heading into Fall (Autumn) around the Northern hemisphere. The News channels and Media offer their own spins on the reality that they wish us to accept. And this remains our choice, at this point.
As you can see from above, I have personally experienced and fortunately enjoyed several happy, convenient diversions during the last six weeks. I recommend you similarly find a path for distractions.
And as for the News reported… keep questioning what is offered and try to look behind just some of the screens. 😊
Well, it is 100 days into the Russian invasion of Ukraine and News outlets seem to be switching their attentions elsewhere. And I will follow suit and move to happier events to begin.
In the past five weeks I was fortunate to travel up to Northern California and then out to Hawaii.
The trip North took in Shasta City and trout fishing on the McCloud river below the dam, followed by a couple of days drifting the Lower Sacramento around Redding and Red Bluff. This was shortly thereafter followed by a visit to an old stomping ground of mine to Kauai, Hawaii; this latter journey being prompted by the spectacular destination wedding of my eldest son to our (now) new daughter.
Let me just concentrate here solely upon the locations themselves and primarily provide insights for travelers to local destinations and activities.
So first came the early May drive North to Shasta.
The drive itself was warm enough but weather up there was still colder as my youngest son and I headed Northbound along the the I5 corridor, paying an arm-and-leg at fueling stops along the way.
Before reaching our destination, we passed Shasta Lake; it seemed even lower than during my prior visit late last year. At best guess the vivid orange banks were exposed >>50 feet below the vegetation line and several fingers of the basin were now completely emptied of all water.
The boat sheds had been moved with new ramps installed, enabling boaters to reach the shallow Lake, gain access or launch.
We continued North, then checked-into the Shasta Inn late afternoon as snow was beginning to fall. This was a troubling proposition given our fly-fishing plans for rainbow trout the following morning. ☹
We hit the Black Bear diner for comfort food and then retired to our cabin/ room, watching the picturesque snowfall through the window while laying on our beds enjoying fishing programs on the TV.
The next day was a pleasant surprise. Before we had left the snow had melted away around the SUV, so we dressed quickly and warmly for wading and headed up the higher elevation of the McCloud Dam to arrive before the sun could reach down to the river at the base of the gorge.
The water-level in the reservoir was at a low and barely reached the spillway gates. So, we each geared-up and went to our preferred and separate hunting grounds.
I hiked into the thundering dam outlet pool to then fish 100 yards further down, against the cliff-face beneath the spillways’ end. My son took off on higher ground along the blocked-off mile-long, rock-littered road toward Ash Camp to then clamber down towards the deep pools and swirling waters offered a mile downstream from where I was installed.
Oddly, the day was warm. I picked up a few strong, vividly patterned Rainbows and then climbed the rocks back onto the spillway itself and picked my way across its empty base. From there I descended back down and into the river, winding my way several hundred yards further to the sharp left bend below.
The day became warm. The sun shone, I shed much of my gear as I fished the bend, basking in the surprise warmth and sunlight while picking up three more fish.
We met up mid afternoon back at the SUV and then went our separate ways to finish the day. The deeper pools continued to be hard to exploit and my own attempts had yielded a little less than typical in the colder weather. But we were fishing and thoroughly enjoying our unexpectedly warm surrounds in the lush McCloud river gorge.
That evening we went in search of new places to eat and ended up back at the Black Bear. Like most places in CA, things close early and staff shortages abound following Covid closures and constraints. The diner attracted more than its share of locals and so we ate there again; good wholesome food and plenty of it.
There was no snow that evening when temperatures dropped. So, the following morning we donned our lessened gear for the warmer day and repeated the prior days action in largely the same places, fishing till early afternoon when we packed-up and wound our way down from the dam to the freeway which sped us within the hour to the much warmer climes of Redding.
The deep pools of the McCloud below the dam remain difficult to fish, a true enigma. The pockets are filled with trees and branches deposited over decades; tight-line nymph fishing is ideal, but the constant snags and associated reties make it a tedious (and expensive) proposition.
Nevertheless, by late afternoon we had checked-in at our Redding hotel and were off to my favorite eatery (Kahunas) for Mongolian BBQ and Sushi.
The next two days we drift fished the Lower Sacramento with my favorite guide Jason from River Pursuit out of Red Bluff. The river is historically low with minimal water release, and we first worked nearer the Redding area. The second day we fished further South by Red Bluff in the Canyon.
The waters are loaded with Sucker fish in places, but we snagged very few of these and the pair of us combined probably hooked into over two hundred rainbows during the two days. A couple of carp joined the ranks but most of the many trout ran 15”-19” with the majority on the larger side.
Both days we beached the boat for a lunch of hot-dogs, soda and to afford Jason a break from rowing. The fishing was spectacular; mostly we were regular nymphing but also caught on dries and tight lines.
There were few other boats to be seen; the solitude, warm days and focus of the fishing were constantly refreshing. The views were green, lush and impressive, but our attention was constantly and heavily drawn to the waters and the bite.
This trip I realized more about the subtleties of fighting fish that jump (Trout, Salmon, Bass etc.) with barbless versus barbed or treble hooks whether using dry flies, nymphs or lures. There is always something to learn and such massive experiences quickly speed the process. 😊
Eventually this fishing outing was sadly complete. So, we quietly and reluctantly drove ourselves the five hours home to Santa Cruz, CA.
What a great outing.
The next few days were hectic as clothes, shoes and goods were picked up and packed for the wedding-centered trip to Kauai.
So, as a fun break to the preparations we first made a two-man trip down to Moss Landing and Phil’s Fish Market. What a great recent local find this has proven for our family. Excellent food, friendly, lively atmosphere and sensible prices in a now Covid-free setting. Hard to beat outstanding Cioppino, inexpensive quality wines and beer for an afternoon outing.
All this is secreted in a picturesque working harbor on the Monterey Bay and situated just 30 mins drive South of our house. 😊
And then on to Kauai. I was last on that particular Island some forty years ago. I recalled the exquisite quiet, deep red earth, rough roads and the golden bay sands laid out before the Kauai Surf Hotel.
Of course, all is now much changed. The Hotel has long-since fallen in two major hurricanes, the population has grown, and more tourists now visit. Everything moves on, as it must, but Kauai remains favorite over my (also ageing) recollections of other subsequent visits to Oahu, Hawaii and Maui.
The flight over was on-time and the approach built with excitement as passengers pressed to the windows for views of the Island as we descended towards its shores. There were smiles everywhere as new visitors marched from the plane through the airport while bathing in the welcoming warm air.
We bustled swiftly through the open-air Baggage Claim, fought for our rental cars at Dollar and headed quickly for late-night shopping essentials at Safeway on the way to our apartment.
And at Safeway, we met the chickens. And we met the cockerels. And everyone was enchanted as photos were had. 😊
Googling commenced as the shopping went on. Chickens are everywhere, especially on Kauai. The politicians in Honolulu have plans to sterilize and diminish the population, but to be honest, I like ‘em. They show up everywhere and seem charming to me, even when they opportunistically wander into open-sided restaurants in search of scraps. 😉
We had a ground-floor apartment to the North in Princeville overlooking the ocean, about 45mins up the East coast from the Lihue Airport. It stood 100 yards off a golf-course and 20 yards from a steep drop to a narrow bay. All of Princeville is apartments and houses centered around a lush golf course (Links) that partially sits upon cliff tops.
The lawns that run to the cliff edges were intermittently populated with the endangered indigenous Nene Geese and mostly-white, stork-like Cattle Egrets which were brought in during the 1950’s to control the insects around local herds.
We had a beautiful place to stay and many more to visit.
The local store was (Foodland) five minutes away in an extensive open-air Mall area, which supplied most our needs, including great Sushi, Pokes, Vegetables, Local Coffee and all that a Safeway has to offer, plus beach-related supplies and sundries.
Eating-in is convenient and there are many great options. This is helpful as often the restaurants can prove a little pricey and are limited (coming out of Covid) by opening hours, demand and staff shortages. And naturally, prices for most goods are generally above mainland offerings as one would expect on an island.
Goods are flown or container-shipped into the larger Island ports then often transported less expensively by barge to smaller Islands with shallow-draft harbors, like Lihue on Kauai.
Then there are the outings we tried…
First up was a fishing trip on a forty-foot powered catamaran out of the small boat commercial harbor just South of the Lihue Airport. Well, our party of two were out on the water Northeast of the airport by 0600 with a skipper at the wheel and a single crewman setting all the rigs.
A trip like this is not for the feint-of-stomach on such exposed waters. It was not particularly rough for early May but was a vigorous trip on the windward side of the Island. I sail, so no problem. It IS however a problem for most of those less familiar with ocean waves and swells, with or without some of the many sea-sickness aids available today.
As for the fishing… we had at least six lines out for the two of us. After about an hour we heard, “Fish on. It’s a Marlin. She’s takin’ a lot of line.” And before the rod could be handed to me in the fighting chair, “She’s off.”
We trolled around with half-a-dozen other vessels by a buoy set up about 90 mins out to attract fish, while following clues from Goony, Shearwater and occasional Albatross activity, before eventually heading further North another hour looking for bites. I got to eat my fill and drink a little beer, but that was IT for the fishing.
We were back in and tied up by 1.00pm and headed home to the apartment after a stop-off for a couple of beers in a Mexican restaurant where we were charmingly entertained by a few chickens wandering in and out, looking for scraps.
Next up we tried Bike Rentals out of Kapa ‘a, 30 mins South of Princeville. There is a paved, flattish, 10-mile ride out, all along the coast. Nice journey. We favor NON eBikes, so the outing is inexpensive and not too demanding. It is clear where the trail ends (it just does, with rocks barring the way) and there are plenty of outlook stops to rest or picknick. A recommended trip for all ages with a million photo-ops along the way. 😊
We even stopped off in Jimmy’s in Kapa ‘a, just off the Bike trail for a beer and Pina Colada before we returned the bikes. Friendly staff, hot food and welcoming atmosphere if you are inclined.
A couple in our group rented snorkels and fins in Hanalei for nominal fees (<$10.00 each per day) and had an exciting time viewing turtles at Anini Beach just a mile or so from our apartment. Quite private and great fun for all. The swimming is NOT demanding but weaker swimmers and children really should rent lifejackets and wear them. Remember: stay 10 feet away from the turtles and no touching these >2’ wide, ambling behemoths.
Needless to say, the water is clear, the skies brilliant blue with the air warm and enticing. What is not to like? What is better than a restful, post-swim lunch and nap upon a quiet beach?
And what would a trip to Hawaii be without the hikes? There are countless to choose from with trails running back into an interior of lush green tropical forests, canyons, towering volcanic peaks, streams, rivers and waterfalls. Truly a paradise to explore and enjoy.
Both locals, tourists and travelers will quickly suggest and offer their favorite spots to explore.
Then there was the dining out. There are sandwich, drinks, restaurants and food shacks scattered around all the populated areas. Inexpensive breakfasts and snacks can easily be found. There’s always visitors and friendly locals with whom to chat and share a tale. And on the Island the smaller shops, stores and shacks are commonly brightly colored and cared-for.
Everything runs on Island Time. Rushing to get things done is not a priority. A common sign hung on business doors is “Open till Closed.” And they mean it. If things are already booked-up, folks just close and leave. If staff is short (as it often is, following recent Covid re-openings) or unavailable, restaurants and shops close early or just do not open. By mid-May it was common to see restaurants stop serving by 8.30pm and empty by 9.30pm… even on Saturday and Sunday.
Kauai is now quite different from my long-ago visit in the early 1980’s. Back then there were many rough, red-dirt roads. The ONLY traffic light on the island was in a sugar-cane planation to manage trucking operations. You could only reach Hanalei by Gondola and the road out there was referred to as a donkey-track, by the locals.
The locals like to talk about those times. They enthusiastically recall them from their youth and wanted to hear my own stories from back then. I spoke with a few who truly lit up as they shared their own recollections and listened to what I could tell.
It is simply different now. The main road almost rings the Island, running from NNW, across the North shore, down the East coast, along the Southern Shore and up the West coast falling short at the rugged and impressive Northwestern Na Pali coastline.
The Island looks like a slightly squashed donut on a map… as the crow flies it is about 30 miles from the most Northerly to most Southern point and maybe 35 miles from East to West. The main road basically circles the outer edges of Kauai so the journey from the most Southern to Northern point is about 45 miles by vehicle.
There are commonly traffic lights, now. They even often have 15-minute traffic delays between Kapa ‘a and Lihue, which locals and GPS systems steer around using the few inland roads.
And with these changes comes opportunity and business. Tourists, visitors and an increased population. Yet when I spoke with locals, they often seemed sad at what was lost, more than enthusiastic about what was gained.
I have since heard that locals are now aggressively attacking local officials complaining of the high tourist activity and associated traffic access into quieter towns like Hanalei. Residents in many ways enjoyed the peace and seclusion that was afforded during two years of Covid-related quiet.
Then there is Hanalei itself, just 15 mins West of Princeville where we stayed. It is entered down a steep (recently repaired from a major collapse) road, passing over a one-way bridge that runs alongside a meandering river which rambles to the nearby coast.
I ate out in Hanalei several times. The main street sports a few hundred yards of restaurants, colorful, busy shops, a church or two and a public school that enchants the gaze of bustling tourists. Architecture is picturesque and almost colonial in appearance.
One evening we ate as a group of four at the Dolphin Restaurant, opposite the Postcard restaurant and nearby a large Kayak-renting center. What an interesting and lively place to eat. One of our party wanted to try Sushi, so we hit that adventure and accompanying wine offerings hard. What a great meal.
The place was pricey, hard to get into and the staff were effective, polite but overworked, understaffed and a little stressed. In all honesty their business was most likely relatively quiet a month earlier, but the post-Covid ramp-up hit them hard. They ARE one of the best places to eat yet they too stop serving by 9’ish each night. But it WAS a great night out and I can highly recommend the Dolphin. 😊
On another afternoon we (as a wedding party) rented a large beamy powered catamaran sailboat out of Port Allen to run in the lee of the Island for a four-hour trip up to the Na Pali Highlands, returning outside the harbor for sunset views and phot-ops.
After my previous offshore experiences that week I was suspicious of how well the forty or so folks on this boat would fare, even though we were protected from larger waves after rounding up the more heavily sheltered West Coast.
In all honesty most people fared well. Just maybe half dozen folks later commented on being a little queasy and only a couple suffered greatly. The crew managed their guests well, by metering drinks early-on and serving the excellent, on-board-prepared steak dinner late in the trip.
The Na Pali coastline is huge and precipitous with waterfall outlets etched into then light brown cliffs, a unique sight, well worth the journey. We encountered spinner dolphins along the way, viewed the forbidden Hawaiian Island to our West and ran at around 20 knots Northbound and the same again on the softer return journey with the kinder, rolling following sea.
And we were back for sunset, where the colors in the sky proved particularly spectacular as the spinner dolphins returned and put on a brief closing show to entertain us all.
A final outing was made by me with an old family relative; it was a geezer trip. We had searched all day, finding only sold-out and absent kayaking renter facilities, until we took a chance and ran back North to Hanalei, nearby the aforementioned Dolphin restaurant. Et Voila!
We booked a couple of single kayaks in intermittent rain, and I was soon thereafter off on my first ever Kayaking run, up-river. I clumsily zig-zagged my way between tropical riverbanks for an hour or so, enjoying the occasional downpours that conveniently cooled-off my overworked, unskilled efforts.
By the time we turned back downstream I would mostly steer in a straight line and used far less energy as a result. I could also competently pass other canoes without fear of my colliding with them. 😊
It was great fun and something I will likely repeat back here in the safety my local Santa Cruz harbor, for learning purposes. Although I thought my arms would explode because of my unskilled thrashing, they did not, and the next day did fortunately NOT bring any of the expected aches and pains, either. 😉
As I neither flipped the kayak nor crashed into the bank (or anyone else) I can safely recommend that anyone can try this. It is a fun, healthy activity for all the family. But everyone needs to wear a lifejacket when participating.
Our final day on Kauai featured a run up the famed Waimea Canyon ahead of a late-day flight out. This is a journey I have made before, but we struck out this time.
The Canyon provides massive wide views of the lush surrounding cliffs and a river nestled down deep in its gorge.
After lunch in the bustling bay-side Waimea town, we headed uphill and inland to enter the side of the canyon on the West. There are spectacular walks and serious hiking trails penetrating high into the Waimea Valley Park and Canyon on both sides.
As we entered, our first stop (at 1200’) displayed the yawning Canyon entrance to our right and the open flats running to the coast and open deep blue Pacific on our left. Quite a phot-op. Unfortunately, on this day we subsequently ran into mists above this height and saw little more but cloud all the way to the top.
The Waimea Canyon and Park are a must see for visitors to the Island; just be aware of the cloud-cover on your chosen day. 😉
Finally, after visiting friends in their local beach-side vacation rental in Poipu we dashed back to the nearby Lihue Airport, dropped off our Dollar SUV rental, rushed to check in for the flight and then just caught last drink orders (by 9.00pm).
The flight left on time and by 0600 the next day we were deposited as a somewhat saddened and disheveled group into the SFO terminal.
But it was a great trip. We will certainly visit Kauai again. 😊
I have generally and deliberately not mentioned the Wedding I was attending on Kauai and all the directly associated Ceremonies, Blessings, formalities, emotions, treats and special surprises that accompanied these very precious and memorable events. This would require a mighty book in and of itself. 😊
Suffice it to say that the Wedding and Reception were held privately in the Botanical Gardens which are a twenty-minute drive South of Princeville on the East Coast of Kauai. The location is prized for destination Wedding Events and provided an idyllic surround and setting for the beginning of my son and his new wife’s life together; they present as a very fine couple. 😊
The recent return to our Santa Cruz (CA) home has yielded a couple of pleasant surprises. Weather has been warm and welcoming with the Summer Holiday crowds still not yet arrived en masse.
There have been a few local visitors…
The occasional Humpback can be seen from the Northern shores of Monterey Bay, nestled beyond the kelp-line between Capitola Village and towards the crumbling Cement ship at Seacliff, just a little Southeast of where juvenile Great Whites typically congregate. The Whales’ presence is given away by occasional spouts and birds massing to grab spare fish thrown off from expansive feeding activities.
And as I write the Sooty Shearwaters have made a seasonal return in their hundreds of thousands. These birds dive tens of feet beneath the ocean swells, grabbing from the massive shoals of smaller fish. They travel the world from Australasia in a figure-eight pattern on the wing and ocean for 8-9 months a year, only coming ashore for three months or so to breed.
While here they run East-West along the Northern shore of the Monterey Bay. Their narrow flight path is just beyond the kelp, running from towards the tip of the Santa Cruz Pier, passing Pleasure Point and as far East as Capitola. They fly in a tight band some 50-100 yards wide, miles long, just a few tens of feet above the waves, constantly searching first East then returning West. And the cyclic procession is endless.
If you board a boat that sails through the flock, you are entertained and bombarded by excited, noisy chatter and seemingly frantic activity; Shearwaters are wholly unconcerned by vessels either drifting or charging through their flight path.
And as they busily proceed East and West with the sun beginning to set, constant evening flights of resident Pelicans pass Westerly overhead, lazily heading in drafting formations towards their favorite nightly roosts.
Strangely, locals strolling the beaches and cliffs often do not seem to even notice this mass of life surging out to sea just a few hundred yards offshore. The countless Pelicans and other seabirds overhead pass largely unseen, too. There is so much all about us that proceeds largely unaccounted.
And now I should fall to responsibly recording some of the more notable News Events occurring since my last BLOG. There is quite a list…
Iran has dismantled twenty-seven UN monitoring cameras ensuring there will be no tracking of their Uranium Enrichment activity nor even the current location of their centrifuges. They claim the UN has no right to monitor and scolded the US for their concern and comments. This should end Iran’s hope for a revitalized Nuclear deal with the (US and) World, but with blundering-Biden policies, who knows?
Adding salt to the wound North Korea (while managing a major domestic Covid outbreak) has announced it will be joining the China and Russian Block with Nuke testing.
China has now eased the massive personnel Covid lockdowns in Beijing and Shanghai and is finally experiencing some encouraging growth after previously disappointing results, which were further hampered by decreased World demand.
Most fiscal growth in China is stimulated by massive local Government funding fueled by regional Land-Sales (which provides >50% of all local Gov. revenues) and business-friendly policies. However, Land-Sales will ultimately prove finite and the central CCP has now seized the collection of all these land-revenues and is meting the monies back as it deems fit into the local regions. This chokehold is feared capable of subduing successes the previous approach had made to local economic recoveries.
The US has well-publicized and massive Inflation, Supply-Chain and other Fiscal problems now broadly accepted as being the result of bad Administration Policies. The bigger problem is that if the US has economic woes the rest of the World suffers similarly and sometimes even more-so, as a result.
Basically, the US recognized foolishness and disarray is victimizing more than US citizens. At this point the argument can be made that Domestic Biden insanities are bringing harm across the entire World.
Those dependent upon Market funds (401k’s, IRA’s, Investments and other financial Instruments etc.) to finance their lives are experiencing typically 25-30% losses in value over <18months of the new Presidency. Those without such investments are looking into the teeth of massive cost-of-living increases with even less protection. ☹
The US uses the “Basket of Goods” method of measuring inflation. This highly questionable scheme was adopted by Bill Clinton, copying the same method used by the British. It has enabled inflation to be regularly CLAIMED as ~3.5% for decades within the US.
The big issue is that this method ignores major economic factors such as cost of housing, gas etc. altogether, and is manipulated by removing from consideration any items that experience large price increases. Yup, the number is basically cooked. So, if this massaged and manipulated number has currently ramped-up to reportedly >8.5%, you can image what an honest view might look like. ☹
My own crude assessments suggest that real inflation is clearly running >20%, but probably <30%, for just the last year, alone. If you are not scared by this, you should be as there is nothing in the works to check this ramp-up of inflation, nor the confidence-stimulated free-fall underway in the Financial Markets.
Amazingly the Administration recently opined their concern that associated continued Low Polling might cause parallels being drawn between Biden and Carter. Honestly, with the articles, numerous Polls and (even) declining Democrat Leadership support it is staggering there is no realization that this particular horse has LONG-since left the barn. 😉
Then there is the tragedy of Gun Control shenanigans.
Without arguing one way or the other just let me offer that most guns and weapons have been made in largely the same way for around ONE HUNDRED YEARS. In the past guns had LESS not MORE controls on their access than now. Something changed and it was not the guns. Logically we would be wiser to understand and chase the root causes rather than just the guns themselves…
Around 60% of all gun-related deaths are historically suicides. If we are looking for a substantial impact upon gun-related deaths, we might want to at least CONSIDER Mental health issues; they are front and center in total death-count and in the specifics of most all Mass Killings.
Also, there is a great irony in that it is mostly Politicians and Parties that ultimately publicly debate, publicize and fight about Gun Control. Let me explain…
Citizens seek their Second Amendment rights to be upheld so they may Hunt, Defend Themselves, Family, their Property and so on. But almost every gun owner with whom I have ever spoken holds one thing in common, and that is their great distrust and lack of faith in Government. They often believe self-protection is required from their own Political Leaders who cannot ultimately be trusted.
Naturally in all discussions and debates on this subject, such leaders NEVER state this fundamental point. Why would they? And right there is both the sad irony, and an inevitability. 😉
The Southern Border Illegal Immigration crisis continues, but the DHS has a new shipping plan to disperse such immigrants. It is sarcastically called the Abbott Plan. Since border facilities are filled to overcapacity, the DHS has begun shipping excess people to cooperative LA from whence they are quickly released on their own dime to move on, untracked and certainly unlikely to show for further processing.
When LA overflows the intention is to then start using Albuquerque facilities, followed by Dallas then Houston and wherever else then becomes necessary.
The Head of DHS (Mayorkas) was just recently before Congress where he asserted on questioning that maybe as many as 1.6-1.7 million illegals have been processed through on Biden’s watch. During April alone ~235, 000 entered the US. Like many I have regularly seen these numbers, month after month. I would say a realistic number is >> 2,000,000 but less than 3,000,000 would be more accurate.
And these are the numbers of JUST the people found and processed. The real number with Open Border Polices could be staggering. The COST and social impacts that continue to be understood will be staggering.
Nancy Pelosi made nearly $100 million between 2008 and 2018. The average senator made around +$150k/ year during this period ($174k in 2021). Technically there is nothing to be seen here, since trading on Insider Information (the Speaker, bringing or NOT bringing issues to the floor of Congress) is not officially illegal. But trading on Political position (Hunter and Joe, take note) is just not kosher and needs investigation and updated Laws.
The Administration is being sued by a group of Medical Doctors for hiding and making unavailable known-good COVID cures and treatments. This is especially troubling as Government-driven Lockdowns during the pandemic are now proven to have caused many unnecessary deaths per a series of related articles and studies appearing around the World. These facts are IN.
The New Zealand Labor Government is officially now taxing Cow and Sheep farts in the name of Climate Change. This was DONE, despite NZ being 90th in carbon emissions and this consequently having zero Global impact. It does, however, punish and discourage their farmers and meat industry while driving up food prices (and Government revenues).
Early June Polling surprisingly shows that support for abortions is falling…
The likely leftist SCOTUS leaker may have seriously misjudged the mood in the US. The potential overturn of Roe V. Wade only returns powers of decision to what is (per Ginsberg and many other legal authorities) a more correct legal basis, ie. to within individual States.
Although Polling is around 50-50 (a surprise in itself) for the overturn, the pro-abortion polling apparently craters after the first Trimester. Another surprise. It seems this leak may NOT provide the Voting support bonanza that Leftists had hoped.
Whistleblowers confirm that the FBI is purging Conservatives; hardly a surprise in the wake of left-biased actions taken in the last decade. This is not the bureau once loved and trusted. But was it EVER really trusted, given positions and actions taken even as far back as HOOVER?
The word is that there are now “thousands of FBI whistleblowers coming forward” denouncing the actions of senior officials they who they say have been acting alone. Time will tell. Post mid-term election results might well facilitate the threatened ground-up shake-out at the Agency (or, NOT?).
Early leaks of the CA Study due later this year regarding Reparations suggest this will indeed go forward. The on-going recent outflux of wealthy Californians will likely continue as many will resent being tapped for funding in a FREE State (no slavery ever there), where neither they nor their families ever owned slaves nor facilitated that industry.
California wants to lead the way on Reparations. I suspect it will go forward and anger the very many in their population who never even migrated to the State nor indeed the US until well-after Slavery was banned Nationally. But that is CA. 😉
And I must close with something about Joe Biden again being Number 1. It seems he is well on-track to most certainly easily beating the most embarrassing Presidential Record Ever: Let’s Go, Vacation Joe!
Well, those are some of the News snippets worth leaving on record.
As for myself I am glad for my recent vacations and breaks, but after keeping up on current events, am already waiting for more. 😉
Again, during these troubled times I recommend to you and yours that you prepare for and enjoy the upcoming Summer Holidays. It is just too wearing to stay abreast of the News without taking a break.
So, find ways to put the media onslaught behind you from time-to-time to enjoy the positive relationships and experiences that present themselves in your life.
For a couple of years through the pandemic and particularly the last 15 months or so, I have been sharing and passing along every reasonably funny cartoon of social and/ or political satyr which passed under my nose. All forwarded in text Messages or on Messenger.
My focus tends to be upon items which most folks of mainstream opinion would not find disturbing and worthy of (often) ironic laughter. 😊
This provides me a great distraction from the brutal onslaught of news reports, which I still follow religiously (even though often painfully) from both sides.
A friend who is one recipient of my texts captured the purpose best when he simply said, “It’s good for me to laugh at this stuff so I don’t go nuts.” And this mirrors my purpose in the distribution. 😉
Watching the chaotic and predictable present emerge has caused me to recently reflect a little more on the past, as it was. It is a useful and necessary distraction to take your eyes of an often sad and predictable horizon and view your own present by contemplating the wake of history.
I have previously written several times about the way human personality is formed. In part by our experiences, cultural exposure(s), position, intellect and more. But there then always remains the issue of our genes: the often-profound impact from whichever bloodlines we sprang.
For my own part that genetic hereditary connection runs far back in known history directly though the male line from the Highlands of Scotland and similarly so on my maternal side: Mackintosh and Ferguson Highlanders, respectively.
Our genes and histories often profoundly affect our self-image, personality and psyche.
Given my own propensity for travel, these thoughts, a pending social event (family wedding) and desire to perpetuate records of the family history uniformly along the line made me realize it was an ideal time to again visitthe Highlands of Scotland.
A recent opening in the pandemic window over the UK made it possible to quickly arrange travel and meet with my youngest son in Edinburgh during April.
The Northerly destination and off-season timing made it relatively easy to find good flights, Hotels, car rental and willing services for the planned journey.
I was quickly in-route to my flight out and forwards, fully masked-up for the SFO airport passage and flight experience with fortunately no actual Covid-testing required to enter the UK.
The United (UA) flight was unremarkable, two-thirds empty and easily supported by a polite and seemingly tired and weary cabin crew. The arrival in Heathrow (LHR) was however somewhat different.
As London is a port of entry, I was required to retrieve baggage after passport control and manhandle my way via free Express Train from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5. A free baggage cart eased the transfer and notoriously long march.
Terminal 5 houses Domestic and more local European flights. It seemed when I arrived there for my onward flight to Edinburgh that everyone in the UK was going somewhere, especially with the school holidays in operation, too. Lines for food and snacks were long but speedy with (now) maskless travelers happily bustling around and enjoying a resurgence in travel and lessened (Covid-related) restrictions.
The British Airways (BA) Edinburgh flight was packed, polite, slightly delayed and efficient. After grabbing another free trolley upon arrival there, I muscled my baggage some 400yds to Avis and picked-up my rental SUV.
Not wanting to immediately fathom the SUV’s on-board GPS I set up my own (apparently outdated, I found later) portable unit and plotted my way into downtown Edinburgh and my overnight Hotel. I passed by the Murrayfield Scottish National Stadium, navigated my way around the now changed 1-way system and used the force to reach my hotel, parking illegally (as recommended) outside the main front entry, leaving flashing emergency lights as I checked-in.
The Hotel proved to be a great stop, just 10 mins walk from the main downtown and Princes Street.
After dropping my car into the hotel-recommended NCP parking lot right below the landmark Castle, I set about my evening search for a meal and entertainment. Finding an empty table in a warm, busy traditional Irish pub showing live European soccer and providing endless opportunity to people-watch, was just the ticket.
After downing a few pints of draught Tennants, accompanied by a steak-and-ale pie with fries I contentedly meandered the charming roads back to the Hotel and settled in for a good night’s rest.
The next morning, I awoke refreshed, dressed hurriedly, packed, checked-out, stowed luggage with the concierge, then sped off walking to retrieve my SUV and then return for my baggage pick-up.
All this went well, and I next sped to Edinburgh airport to meet my son who arrived just a little later than originally planned on his own BA flight out of Heathrow, which had seen several threatened and actual destination and timing changes that eventually just mostly magically disappeared. 😊
We quickly headed to our transport, set our directions on the more current SUV GPS and headed North to the Highlands.
By way of historical catch-up we first crossed the new, third Firth of Forth road bridge and stopped-off in Dalgety Bay to visit a bungalow I had rented overlooking the massive estuary below, when living in Scotland decades earlier and working briefly for General Instruments in Glenrothes.
We then charged on into the moderate Friday evening rush-hour traffic which quickly dissipated as we headed along the Motorway then towards the A9, Northbound to Inverness.
After muddling through a confusing array of constantly changing 50, 60 and 70mph supposedly fanatically monitored speed-limit requirements and occasional snowstorms, we arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel some 2-3 miles outside of Inverness Town center.
We quickly dropped off our bags and sped into town. The light was slowly dimming, so we parked alongside the River Ness on Ness Walk, across the bridge from the main town and overlooked by Inverness Castle that has been sometimes stewarded and controlled by Mackintoshes in the past.
Then began our rapid search for restaurants, pubs and a review of opening times for the now-closed tourist shops and local stores we would later need to visit.
Having made this journey several times before left me already aware of the best areas to search that would turn up later shopping opportunities and suitable restaurants for the next couple of nights.
It seems that if you want a timely seat in many of the better Inverness restaurants you need to book in advance, especially for Friday and Saturday nights. They too have just recently re-opened, are training inexperienced staff and are stretched to serve their belatedly post-Covid surge.
So, we booked an excellent restaurant (Prime) right on the Ness for the next (Saturday) night and finally settled on an accessible Jamaican-styled eating place off the nearby main street for this (Friday) night. What a pleasantly surprising eatery this proved to be. I had a piping hot Haggis starter and Rack of Lamb main course. That chef really knew his stuff. 😊
We retired after a great meal and successful fact-finding viewing of the town. The next day was assigned for a rapid trip, revisit of family history, places and events.
And a busy day it was.
We began by entering the remaining 12,000-acre Mackintosh Estate surrounding the current Moy Hall on Loch Moy, a more modest 1950’s mansion built to replace the 1870’s Baronial Castle demolished (with great difficulties) right next door. The ruins, current home and surrounds provided picturesque photo ops for our trip.
Next, we approached the gamekeeper’s wife who brought her husband (Ian) to visit with us by their lodge and we chatted about access to the small Mackintosh family Museum as his dozen or so friendly dogs covered us with mud from thigh to boot. He directed us to one of the two family Land Mangers and his lodge, just a 150yds further along the road.
There we knocked and were greeted by a kindly, smiling Alex Fraser who secured us entry to the private museum and talked with us at length about known and shared family histories.
The (museum) collection features a sign-in log reaching back through many decades of visitors. The building famously holds an old four poster bed where Bonnie Prince Charlie slept while at Moy before the battle of Culloden. Old swords and weapons decorate the walls including a family broadsword used in the Battle of North Inch when the Mackintoshes successfully represented Clan Chattan in 1396, and the saber used by an ancestor of our host (Alex) during the route of Moy (1745).
The walls featured paintings, pictures and records of the more notorious family and clan events. There were even a couple of real (stuffed) Scottish wild-cats in cases, displaying the pure genes represented in their 7-ringed tails; these are however, less accurately represented on the family crest!
We registered our names, recorded the visit and before departing were requested by the Dowager Lady Mackintosh to call on her before leaving. Then, once again (Covid) masked to respect local and health needs, we visited with her outdoors for a brief time and caught up on mutual family events and travels.
Her son (the new Laird since his father’s death in 1995) is returning to assume his family responsibilities from his elderly mother’s care in 2023 and was planned to visit in the coming week following the (quite belated) loosening of Covid restrictions in Scotland just a few weeks prior. John Lachlan is the 31st Chief, the Mackintosh of Mackintosh and the head of the recently reconfirmed ancient Confederation of Clan Chattan.
It was a fortunate and productive visit. As the morning was still young, we said our goodbyes, jumped in our SUV and headed the few country miles to Rait Castle.
After running a bumpy half mile from the main road, the last few hundred yards peter out into a simple dirt track as the approach to the main castle ruins. The thick Keep stone walls and attached Tower still stand in good order and photograph well despite having not been occupied since the slaughter of the duplicitous Comyn Clan owners in 1442.
There is a great family story of deceit and discovery surrounding our family’s massacre of their mal-intentioned hosts (the Comyns).
A pair of young men drove up and joined us at the castle. I did not speak with them but was surprised to see anyone at this private and less well-known historical site. Maybe they were Comyn descendants? Perhaps it was better not to ask. 😉
NOTE: It still seems very strange to have been taking snapshots on the known, precise spot where this notorious slaughter had occurred.
Following this diversion, we ran back <10miles to the Culloden Battlefield and visitor Center which also lies close to the Moy Estate.
The last pitched Battle fought on British Soil was in April 1746 at Culloden Moor, following the events of the initially popular ’45 uprising by the Jacobites, championing the Stuart claim to the combined Crowns of Scotland and England.
That waning campaign finally retreated into Scotland from gains as far South as Manchester in England during 1745 and culminated in a Government victory at Culloden the next year.
As usual the Mackintoshes took pride of place, front and center in that battle and so as a clan sustained heavier losses than any other. Two burial pits are marked with headstones, accurately positioned on the battlefield by the Victorians who later memorialized the resting places of some 250 kinsmen lost in the Battle.
A half dozen or so more stones additionally mark other clan resting places (in trenched burial pits) of another ~1000 fallen Clansmen from the Jacobite ranks.
The Visitor Center building is pristine and substantial. The café features great snacks, meals and the store offer a large and varied selection of related souvenirs, books and memorabilia.
The Museum there is expansive and chronicles the events, leading to, during and following the historic battle in unprecedented detail, even sharing the subsequent suppression of the Clan system (including banning wearing of the kilt), disproportionate punishments, trials and transportations all leading into the infamous subsequent clearing of the Highlands.
Outdoors lies the battlefield itself, now restored to its best-known state at the time of battle. Flags mark the battlelines of both sides and features of the event (landscaping, walls and a small dwelling / farm) remain fully intact. We walked the field, visiting the burial pits while leaning into the teeth of a brief, unseasonal windstorm of sleet.
Returning to the Museum itself we grabbed more hot drinks and finalized a quick last review of the many showcases and exhibits.
A meaningful visit to the Culloden Visitor Center should take 2-3 hours, minimum.
Most of our review of the more notorious family history was done, so we headed back (~10 miles more) into historic Inverness itself, looking for a few souvenirs and gifts.
We parked directly beneath Inverness Castle and walked the 150 yards further into the main part of the busy bustling town, below.
After a quick stop for beer and essential shopping we headed the few miles out of town to freshen up at our hotel, prior to the previously reserved restaurant meal at Prime, just over the Ness bridge and across from the main part of town.
Dinner was excellent: Steak, beer, wine, a fine local whiskey for me with a shared dessert. And all conveyed by a chatty and entertaining Hungarian waiter who was additionally busily occupied training new staff in the wake of a post-Covid and seasonal revival of the local restaurant business.
We visited a few whiskey stores on this trip. More out of interest and curiosity than anything else. There are so many, and each has its own decorative, elaborate and entertaining offerings. It seems travelling Scots have always historically carried whiskey on their persons: along with the food packed was ALWAYS a good ration of whiskey for the journey.
So, Saturday was an enormous success and we retired to our hotel to rest for the Sunday run back to Edinburgh and its tourist and historical treats.
After a hotel breakfast we hit the A9 early and enjoyed the sunny hills, picturesque valleys, streams and rivers as we headed South. Again, we fought the mysterious 50, 60 and 70 mph implied (or truly enforced?) speed limit restrictions and by early afternoon reached the Bruar rest stop.
This stop is a place to behold. It features numerous large stores, shopping and dining opportunities. Most of the goods can be a little pricey, but the quality is excellent, no matter what you want to buy.
The place is just a few miles South of the Dalwhinnie Whiskey Distillery on the A9 and offers goods, foods, dining, clothing, outdoor supplies and equipment of all kinds and more. It is a must-stop on North-South travels in the central-East of Scotland.
By mid afternoon we were back in the NCP parking lot beneath the towering cliffs supporting Edinburgh Castle (which seems like) a thousand feet above. We marched up the steep road to enter the main street running along the spine of the hill, approaching the Castle entrance from the front.
There were tourists everywhere this Sunday. The streets were bustling and happy. A couple of Pipers were playing in full regalia and street entertainers were stationed here and there.
We walked up the quarter mile to the castle entrance to find that late-day tours and access was already fully booked on-line. No matter. There were activity, shops and people enough to entertain the rest of the day.
For the next several hours we wandered back down the main street for a dozen blocks and eventually followed an anticlockwise downward spiral of roads and pedestrian activity to the base of the castle, crossing the railway bridge by the Waverley railway station, then into the famous walk down Princes Street.
The weekend bustle of visitors, local shoppers and tourists was at treat. We passed above the grassy Castle gardens, down to our left where the largest European Christmas Market is normally featured, Covid-permitting.
After a few stops, drinks, afternoon snack and much people watching, we eventually completed our anti-clockwise walk beneath the castle and headed up Lothian Steet into the parking lot to pick up our SUV and head out to the airport hotel for an overnight.
The next morning, I shuttled with my son into the airport for his return flight via Heathrow to Sweden. After briefly returning to the Hotel, I picked up the SUV and ran back to central Edinburgh for my last day out of shopping and tourism.
Again, I parked in the NCP lot and this time walked the steep steps directly to the Castle frontage. Not too exhausting after all. 😉
After viewing a few more of the historical memorials surrounding the entrance I wandered with the tourists into numerous stores trying to solve my purchasing requirements for memorabilia and gifts.
There are many busy, elaborate, extensive and interesting shopping opportunities. Visitors and tourists have been entertained and supplied from these same buildings for centuries and it shows.
Finally, I had my purchases and once again meandered down an anti-clockwise but different route to the Railway Station, passing sidewalk and street vendors, alike.
I crossed over Princes Street and continued the same direction as the day before, stopping for a Subway sandwich and a Starbucks. The coffeehouse house featured cavernous upstairs seating and high ceiling to floor gabled windows that looked directly up to the Castle, perched serenely above. Quite a view and a spectacular photograph to forward on to friends and family.
Returning to the parked SUV I climbed aboard with purchases in-hand and weaved my way out of town and to the airport where I returned the vehicle a day early and shuttled back to the nearby Hotel.
That night I had my last Haggis appetizer, local pie and retired late after cleaning out an email backlog. The food in the hotel was surprisingly good, too. 😊
Early the next day I called for a 6.00am shuttle and dashed to the airport for an early check-in on my own BA flight down to Heathrow to secure later afternoon Covid testing, ahead of my next-day SFO flight.
I reached the crowded Heathrow Terminal 5 and muscled my baggage and handcart to Terminal 2 for a Hilton overnight while my Covid testing was secured for the international flight.
Everything about the required Covid testing was simple and efficient except the actual booking of it on the providers website. I stood in an outdoor wind tunnel entering my data with my phone, over and over and over again. Eventually I had papers, passports and tickets blowing around as I re-entered my Name, DOB, Flight details, Passport Information, Residence, Sex, etc. etc. again and again and again, ad nauseum.
Eventually the data stuck, and the repetitious questions ceased. My appointment was secured. Sigh. 😊
I was able to enter the near-empty testing facility in Terminal 2, get tested and receive results within the following 60 mins. To relieve my earlier, data-entry frustrations, I went for a soup and beer in the Hilton Bar and retired early, watching local TV, metaphorically happily and securely clutching my negative Covid Lateral Flow test in-hand, ready for the SFO flight the next day.
The next day, Terminal 2 was overwhelmed, crowded with travelers who had been requested to show up 3 hrs. before flight time. The UA check-in was predictably miserable though I was passed security and settled within an hour of check-in being finally authorized to proceed.
As a parting celebration of our visit, I hit the Seafood Bar for a plate of Scottish Salmon Lox and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It proved to be as spectacular and appreciated as the one my son enjoyed as his appetizer just a few days earlier in the restaurant Prime, Inverness.
After the obligatory (posted as) 18-minute trudge to the Gate, I boarded my UA flight and binge-watched movies throughout the entire journey back home.
Upon arrival in SFO I waltzed through Global Entry in moments, only to be stalled by a broken conveyor belt delivery of the baggage onto the allotted claim carousel. Fortunately, I then had plenty of time to purchase/ rent my $8.00 luggage trolley to facilitate the hike to my own vehicle.
Why is it ONLY SFO that charged for baggage Carts on this trip? And why so much? Aaaah… California, sigh.
The trip was well worth the effort and exceeded all expectations I might have had. A great revisit of family legacy, my origins and more explanation of why I am. And I was able to share, spread and reinforce a little more of the Family History within our ranks. 😉
Let me now digress and share a couple of anecdotes from my very recent travels…
Firstly, while in Edinburgh I had a brief conversation with a Polish girl working as a receptionist in one of the downtown Hotels. She mentioned that her entire family still lived in Poland in an area less than 120 miles from the border.
Even before the first shot was fired in Ukraine each one of her relatives had a clear evacuation plan in event of troubles moving in their direction. For centuries Poland has historically been engulfed early in every major European conflict. Inevitably, their expectations are set low, and anxiety is high. ☹
Days ago, I ran into a local building contractor at a gas station in Los Gatos (CA) and we ended up chatting for 10-15 minutes. He said he had many Mexican workers in his crews and that their political views were very much affected by their news-savvy children who faithfully explained and discussed current events with them. As a result, he said his workers were constantly asking, “Why are you letting these things happen to your Country?”
Let me now move on and feature some verifiable and objective truths about recent current events…
The war in Ukraine seems to have not provided the expected cover for personal and policy failures that some world leaders would have hoped. Putin is embroiled in a conflict where his execution is readily portrayed as flawed, inhuman and incompetent, and Biden still seems unable to convince people that all his self-inflicted domestic woes are caused by Putin.
War continues as a human tragedy and will go on until Putin has the position he wants, and all the major infrastructure of the country is levelled. Troublingly, with the aggressive supply of weaponry to defendants the conflict is devolving more clearly into a proxy war between NATO and Russia. Tick, tick, tick. ☹
As for Xi, he continues to have major cities (Shanghai and Beijing) under large areas of total lockdown where citizens are generally not even allowed out to shop for food. He seems to have the military power to control the masses, but within the US public opinion of China is polling at all-time lows.
China has moved on to now threatening countries that who communicate directly with Taiwan as this violates their claimed one-China control of that nation. Ukraine’s recent statement of unity with the island was greeted and treated accordingly.
The first female, black supreme court judge has been delivered. No ironic racism, here. 😉
Disney has flip-flopped and doubled down on a hard political line which is getting their local controls in Florida cut away. The distorted portrayals of each side versus the other are both cynical and deceitful.
Musk executed a purchase of Twitter. Perhaps the permitted treatment of Elon himself on the platform will convince some of his intentions? I suspect not. Loss of control of the discussion from this outlet seems just too hard for many to bear.
The reaction to this (Twitter) purchase is the Administration (and Obama) push for a Disinformation Board, to be nestled within in the DHS. This ensures activities will be squarely and powerfully placed in Domestic Politics. Legally, Congress can shut down this move. But…
An Orwellian, Government-run Disinformation Board in America (not Russia or China!). What could possibly go wrong? 😉
Next, the actual use of CRT in education is receiving much push-back. Certainly, it is already well established in most aspects of education in the West, particular Washington, Oregon and into California where the systems are long-since biased and controlled with political influence.
Mathematics in many of these places is still tagged as racist and the personification of white supremacy. Yet moves away from such traditional teachings have seen subsequent minority testing performances immediately decline even further.
A recent UCLA study published in late April now suggests that Long Covid is a product of an UNDERACTIVE immune system rather than OVER activity as previously believed.
There are more and more studies emerging that provide very troubling reviews of the impact of Covid vaccination. Death rates and records of complications are squeaking into public view since mandated vaccination programs were being enforced from 3Q2021. Sadly, the word Democide has even been bandied about.
A few reputation-sensitive experts and institutions alike state that cardiac disease is a certain result of vaccination and independent researchers (John Hopkins, Blackrock and others) are posting spiking deathrates (>80% increase) in Millennials and Gen-Xers. Quote: “The numbers are so bad that if you were an unvaccinated 75-year-old last September you had better odds of seeing the New Year than a vaccinated 40-year-old.”
For myself I chose to be fully vaccinated to facilitate my travels. However, after I received my Moderna booster in December 2021 I did acquire a couple of below-the-knee blood clots within days of the injection. What to do when the next shot is due? 😉
At this point it appears that blood clots are also a medically accepted feature and risk of both Covid itself and its vaccination.
I think we can expect troubling data to keep trickling out over the coming months. Perhaps in a decade or so an honest and more complete record will be forthcoming.
Most worrisome is the fact that many 100’s of millions of vaccinations have been dispensed in the US alone. You can be sure that extensive and intricate investigation has already been completed. The fact that simple overwhelming evidence and reports of efficacy is NOT forthcoming is simply suspicious.
And Hunter Biden and his laptop just keep on giving. This is a validated and proven factual story for many years and precedes the last election for which the related news was actively suppressed and ignored. It is hard to believe that President Joe will not retire into history with long-term corruption and influence peddling tainting his resume.
As for Joe Biden. Well, I lived through the Carter years and still cannot understand how one man can have had such a flawlessly negative influence on the Country in a single year.
I tire of listing Joe’s fails and incessant gaffes. It is distressing. The world is watching and is truly unimpressed. Nevertheless, let me mention some crises: The Southern Boarder, Inflation, Supply Chain, Afghanistan, Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gas Prices, Ukraine, International Reputation, Leadership… oh, and I suppose now on-going Covid execution and mandates.
Even if Joe is Titled-Out or (inevitably?) Impeached, we now have only Kamala in the wings. Her disastrous cackling performances, all-time low Polling and proven incompetence precede any further role to which she might aspire.
Europe is threatening to harm Russian finances by discontinuing and / or diminishing the supply of oil and gas it receives. Much of their entire usage will be taken up by additional consumption into China, India and others, anyway. What are they thinking is the endgame, here? This is simply positioning and self-flagellation.
And so, price problems for gas sales continue at the pump in both the US and Europe. The US problem is the result of a 100% self-inflicted and continuing Policy failure. It seems even many deep-blue protagonists are now forced to this realization and embarrassed by the US being rebuffed by both their Venezuelan and Saudi Arabian approaches for relief.
Transgenderism, particularly as it impacts womens sports, has been all over the news in recent weeks. Oddly, transgender participation in Olympic competition was approved several (c. 2015) years ago; apparently, the issue just never became prominently visible.
But now we have bathroom usage, womens sports, military and government surgical funding and school teachings all ablaze with problems relating to both gender and sex. There are genuine issues, harm and suffering on these many fronts, all of which seem inevitably doomed to on-going, compromised and imperfect solutions.
And lurching into view are the US Midterm elections. The transgressions of well-known and documented voter fraud from 2020 (and most every previous election, stretching back centuries) remain unpunished. Realistically, what might we expect in November? A Red-Wave is predicted, but there is still much time to establish, fund and push many questionable narratives.
We have long since passed the point where Politicians and Media honestly serve and advise their followers. This might be tolerable if only there were some direct and reasonable level of accountability in force, punishing knowing misdeeds, deceptions and outright lies.
Nevertheless, with realistic expectations in-hand I just hope everyone will still get out and vote. 😊
On a lighter, personal note I am experiencing a recently increased onslaught of unwanted on-line advertising on both my (Droid) Phone and Laptop. Why is that? Is it just my devices? Sigh. Clearly, it is time for yet another clean-up and a stiffening of the defenses. 😉
Well, that is a wrap on my diligence covering many major news events and issues. Back to the happier subject of my travels…
It seems to me that every single soul has a noteworthy family history, worthy of exploration. Sometimes a little digging is required, but ultimately, we can learn a lot more about who we are and how we arrived at this point.
Our bloodlines and histories tell important stories and explain much. They are on the path of our self-discovery and awareness.
Have you ever dug back into your family history? Have you even tried? And recently?
In an era where the present and future are in such disarray, it can be comforting to simply sometimes look back in time.
Also, remember that those that come after us are invariably grateful for any insights we provide into our shared past.
So, take a little time to uncover your own history. Then share what you find.
Simple enquiries can unearth the most surprising treasures. And happy hunting!
The last few weeks have seen several proclamations that we have re-entered the non-pandemic World and a New Norm prevails.
For my own part it feels like I have dived into a seemingly innocent pool to find it much deeper than expected, infested with both sharks and powerful swirling currents not immediately apparent.
What I am told and that which I see and is reported can all be quite different.
The expected and unilaterally provoked war in Ukraine is well underway. News outlets are re-stocked hourly with indignant records of atrocious incidents. The country, its cities and infrastructure are continuing to be destroyed and eventually completely levelled.
And innocent citizens, men and women, young and old are sacrificed, violated and displaced. Over 3 million refugees fled Ukraine’s borders within the first month of hostilities.
The prodding, poking, goading and political maneuvers that began this progression are quickly accomplishing inevitable outcomes.
Reporters and observers are outraged, even surprised. Yet this type of (almost) Total Warfare have been the norm since even before the writing of the notorious Von Clausewitz.
We have seen similar events and progressions of destruction since WWII in former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and on and on. Each of these countries saw on-going warfare for many years even following the initial destruction of their infrastructures.
In the beginning there are Lofty Goals, Inspirational Rhetoric, Political and National Maneuvers at the forefront. These eventually and quickly faded, leaving the simple civilian populations exposed as the meat in the ground-level grind of warfare.
There were no National innocents involved in the provocations that led to the inevitable outbreak of this war. Yet as in every war each side believes it is wholly right and positions its National News, Reporting, Opinion and Insights accordingly.
And so, from where these words are written and read the monster is called Putin.
Things swirling around in my local world also have their own, yet far more minor ups and downs.
The clocks have jumped forward in the US for what may be one of the last Daylight Savings events. Times will truly be changed. 😉
Masks and Covid mandates are falling away in the US since the SOTU address and even the UK has dropped its vaccine mandates for unwilling Health workers so as NOT to lose a further 80-90,000 professionals from their already diminished ranks.
Gas prices continue to rise following the onset of the Ukrainian War. In my recent Northern California travels North upon the Highway 5 backbone I have seen fuel prices run up from the very lowest just under $5 / gallon to over $6.10 at supposedly more cost-effective stops.
As for Diesel, that is already often priced well over $7.00, adding expense to every single product that can be purchased.
I read that Inflation is now around 7.9% by current measures. For my own part it seems every product or service I purchase has risen steadily to objectively be some 20-30% more costly than at the end of 2020. That is a large jump in 15 months, way beyond what is advised and emerging long before any knock-on effects of the Ukrainian War could occur.
Everywhere I go in Northern California there are “Help Wanted” signs. In addition, Placards adorn most businesses, commonly requesting patience with their understaffed offerings.
Services and products are reduced in Restaurants, Hotels and Stores. Everyone requests your tolerance as employers struggle to first attract and then retain workers now accustomed to their home-based, Covid lifestyles and funding.
And the worker shortage has fueled wage increases, in turn driving staffing reductions which then affects overall service and prices levels. We have indeed entered a New Norm. ☹
As routines return there have been Irish Bands and Music in my local Capitola Village. St. Patrick’s Day offered a welcome break and return to celebration and the more familiar. 😊
Springtime blooms and blossoms have appeared and my cold weekend overnights on a boat in Alameda are moving into the rearview mirror.
For daily activity, my time has been mostly consumed in February and March with bike rides and surprisingly picturesque and brilliant sunsets. The evenings have steadily become warmer, and the post sunset-chill has diminished.
From the beginning of March there were just more people out and about. Days hereabouts have been sunny, somewhat warmer (if not so the nights) and less cloudy. 😊
The airline industry is concerned about travel, not just caused by exploding fuel prices, but as a direct result of quickly and massively growing demand.
Recent weekend stays in Alameda have also highlighted signs that the Supply Chain constipation continues, visible from the (lack of) movement in the Container Ships being processed through the Oakland docks.
Virtually NO Container Ships ever anchored below the Bay Bridge in the San Francisco Bay as recently as the end of 2020. Now seeing 5 or 6 vessels piled high, held-up waiting to get on the docks from their anchorage is a common sight, even when as many as 7 other vessels are already tied-up dockside.
The once quite open land around the docks’ waterfront and beneath the giant, stork-like cranes is filled to water’s edge, stacked to the skies with Containers waiting for trucks to move them on. The system of delivery and pick-up remains visibly choked and moving sluggishly.
It is noticeable that when I travel the 300 miles from my home in Santa Cruz to as far North as Redding there are distinct cultures in play, affected more and less by their Covid experiences…
All this region is in Northern California, which was largely aggressive in pursuit of Covid medical restrictions and requirements. In the busier towns like Alameda and immediately along the Highway North leaving the Bay Area, people are still often following covid protocols and using masks. Here Doctors, Dentists and medical professionals remain required to be masked while processing visitors with Covid practices.
My own ophthalmologist complained that although he never now wears a mask outside of work, he feared the rest of his working career might require him to do so on-the-job.
In early March I boarded one of the now fewer, sparsely filled high-speed ferries from Alameda into the Ferry Building on the San Francisco waterfront. Masking was mandatory aboard and of mixed interest on the streets of the city. However, entry to restaurants required vaccination and masks that could be quickly discarded once inside.
Upon entry to the world-famous Buena Vista for Irish Coffees we were required to show official proof of vaccination which was carefully scrutinized. No masks were required indoors though our servers chose to wear them.
The size of crowds along the Embarcadero seemed perhaps 60% of normal on that warm, sunny day and many street vendors have returned, but were now often confined to slightly different street locations than before the pandemic.
Several passages around the Piers (esp. Pier 39) channeled pedestrians in strange ways and even had multiple blocked-off walkways, clearly tied to obviously persisting Covid restrictions. Oddly, this restrained organization seemed to funnel people together, which is intuitively unwise. 😉
As I visit more rural towns and travel further North such restrictions seem to vanish entirely and are actively dismissed. Nobody is masked, many are not vaccinated and frequently proudly so. In conversations I find people often disdainful of the lack of working ethic in their neighbors just to the South in more suburban regions.
For myself, I like to travel and have done so continually throughout Covid locally, Nationally and Internationally. Inevitably I am vaccinated. By visiting other places, at-risk people and watching my own health I have been tested some 20+ times for Covid; always negative.
Following a Moderna Booster shot before my Christmas travel, I managed to pick up a couple of blood-clots below the right knee within a day or so. Coincidence? Really? Such risks are only JUST starting to be acknowledged liabilities and even then, most infrequently.
There have been several hundred million Covid shots administered in the US alone with more recently >>50 million Boosters… ideally data that will have provided massive information and pinpointed efficacy, benefits and even very minor health risks that might surface over a very meaningful period.
Yet nothing is published that overwhelmingly demonstrates the simple proof of benefits. Why is that?
Did the CDC forget or miss this blatant opportunity? Could this focused, major Institution really be that foolish? Or does this mass of data show something that is better not revealed? In all honesty there truly is reason for suspicion.
And do we not all know fully vaccinated (even Boostered) people who have contracted one or another variant of Covid, sometimes even twice. Though in all reasonability, this can be expected.
For myself I am fully vaccinated. Yet I am extremely suspicious of the shocking lack of detailed data presentation. Its sheer absence is at best, quite troubling.
And Certified Covid Testing can be a pricey business. After last New Year I paid $250 /person for a required rapid certified PCR test to board a flight from Sweden to the UK. Less expensive self-administered Lateral Flow tests can be intermittently hard to find in stores and yet also fail to offer any certification that may be required.
California is (politically) bright Blue in its major Cities (particularly San Francisco, LA, San Diego and their surrounds) and deep Red everywhere else.
As I travel about California it seems blatantly obvious that even localized political affiliations sharply affect on-going ties (or lack thereof) to Covid Protocols and Pandemic Fears.
So, now moving to a lighter subject, let me describe my recent fishing trip (300miles from Santa Cruz) up North to Redding, CA…
Well, the Drift fishing was a blast!
Again, I was looking for Rainbow Trout on the Lower Sacramento River, this time South of Red Bluff.
The fishing was mid-week and quite quiet after Mid-March where daytime temperatures were still below 65F and rains on-and-off, though dry on that day and with afternoon winds topping 12mph on more exposed sections.
There was just me fishing and a guide aboard our drift boat.
Water flow was at the lowest legal limit (perhaps just 25% of preferred fishing flow norms) the water authority can release from the dam; it was the same as six months earlier but now headed into Spring and then the heat of the coming Summer.
So, local fishermen, guides and suppliers are concerned for the future of the fishery.
Well, we had a peculiar, unique and banner day.
I doubt we saw more than 7 or 8 groups of people including those in boats or on the banks. Groups were typically of 2 or 3 people each; not many were fishing on the 15 or so miles over which we mostly drifted and partly motored through.
We spotted truly little successful action among them and those we asked professed minor or no success. Ours was a different tale.
Between 9.00am and 4.00pm we hooked into over 70 Rainbow trout. Over 35 were brought into the boat for release. The fish ranged from 14”-20”, mostly around 16” and >2 years old.
Typically, a good day fishing for TWO Anglers would be hooking into 30 fish total and getting as many to the boat as possible for release.
In all honesty we had stopped counting catches by noon and the estimates may be quite conservative. Everywhere there should be fish, there were, and I hooked fish most everywhere I tried.
We joked that the guide’s year would be a disappointment from this point onwards; everything to come would likely be downhill. 😉
In truth I have always been remarkably successful on this river, but this was an exceptional experience. 😊
We employed three different fishing techniques, all of which produced: Dry fly overhead casting with a nymph dropper was least successful. Euro-nymphing with bottom bouncing worked well in deep holes, but a basic triple rigged nymph setup with an indicator was most productive and required less touch and skill, anyway.
There was however something quite different about this trip…
Less than a year ago (mid 2021) I had noticed increased numbers of Sucker Fish in these waters and was concerned the fishery would be destroyed for Rainbow Trout. Suckers are an invasive species. And I saw this same phenomenon play out about five years ago in the Merced River coming out of Yosemite.
The trout there were gone in a just a couple of years. Each visit found more prime Rainbow fishing runs overrun with Sucker Fish.
By September of 2021 I began noticing more Suckers in the Lower Sacramento water and even caught a couple of (5lb and 7lb) those fish. This was already a notable change from mid-year.
I commented on it at the time, but nobody seemed particularly concerned, at least outwardly.
This visit (mid-March 2022) I was seeing 100’s of Suckers, actively spawning in the shallower water. I probably saw as many as 1000 fish over the entire day. This was new. This is dramatic.
These fish have few natural predators other than the Trout grabbing their spilled greenish eggs and an occasional Osprey pulling a Sucker-fish meal and loudly advertising its success.
Clearly these massive numbers of sightings say this invasive species has already been extraordinarily successful. They stick to the bottom of the river, are not troubled much by angling and generally have little affecting their proliferation.
And how does all this matter? Consider the following…
My own fishing trip likely benefited greatly. I was running a (green) egg pattern at the top of my most successful rigs. Even though many of the Rainbows I took were on other flies and droppers, the egg pattern was almost always there and at worst functioned as an attractor. The Sucker Fish were in spawn.
I am guessing only a few other fishermen that day were running a GREEN (various Trout have red and orange eggs) Egg Pattern. I had an INCREDIBLY wise guide. Thank you, Jason! 😊
And the greater significance…
There is probably little, or no work being done by local fishery employees that can or will meaningfully control this invasion. My own experience has been that when such damage is underway it happens very quickly, and all goes in one direction.
This does not bode well for locals who rely upon the river for their livelihoods: Guides, Stores, Suppliers, Hoteliers and so on.
Perhaps this major trend will not prove disastrous? Maybe there are steps (of which I am unaware) that can protect the fishery and reverse the trend? But at this point the signs are not good.
And there is more to life than fishing…
Covid has been put on the backburner. Restrictions are lifting in many places but persist (as already mentioned) as cultural norms and hang-on in some regions and many (all CA?) medical environments.
Covid has been down-graded to “a flu-like risk to work thru’” in several parts of the World. I am sure it will be brought forward again when the War in Ukraine no longer serves all required purposes, or if a genuine, powerful new variant emerges.
But for now, many will get a general break from the Covid onslaught. 😊
Today, Putin and the War are tagged as the focus and cause of all our woes and the people of Ukraine must die, suffer, be displaced or flee as hostilities rage on.
It is said that people deserve the Government they get… the belief being that if it is truly bad you should rise and overthrow your oppressors. This is easier to say than do when the collective and personal cost is often so formidably high.
Much of the Western World is on-board in support of the Ukrainian cause. It is mute that its government was thought, until weeks ago, as highly corrupt. Times change. Convenient Politics reign.
Many other Countries see Russia as an ally, or a sovereign State protecting its historical territory, interests and own security. And this completes the troubling division of World opinion.
China has made its choice and (generally) backs the Russian efforts. She also wants to re-assimilate Taiwan under her umbrella and is biding time and watching how things play out for Putin.
The recent Middle Eastern peace-accords forged by the last Administration have now been abandoned and displaced. Consequently, previous allies (Saudi Arabia and UAE, etc.) will not even take US calls to address a bail-out for the US Oil pricing catastrophe.
And inevitably, Iran and North Korea are back, acting-up with spurious missile shots. This, even as the US is seeking an inexplicable renewed and punitive (to the US) Peace, Nuclear Proliferation and Oil-Supply deal with Iran. Ouch. ☹
Further, an Administration attempt to get Oil Supply relief from Human Rights Violator and failed Socialist Venezuela after Russian imports were finally banned, had the Venezuelans formally reporting back on the conversation to their (Russian) ally within days. Ouch, again. ☹
Domestically, the last 15 months of open boarders have shepherded in >> 2 million illegal US entries, Gas Prices have gone out of control, Inflation has spiraled, The Supply Chain is staggering, Afghanistan has been disastrously abandoned, Debt has surpassed the imagination and Crime has exploded with Drug and Human Trafficking growing precipitously.
The current US President is already broadly tagged as worst ever, surpassing even Carter. There is a convincing argument he OK’d the Russian incursion with inviting words and absent proactive action. His VP is similarly maligned and despised domestically and on the World front. Where does this all end? How deep a hole might yet be dug?
With all the aid pouring into Ukraine for defense, what could possibly go MORE wrong? ☹
Not surprisingly it seems the (Ukrainian) defenders are running out of space to operate. Let us hope operations do not spill into adjacent territories and ignite an even larger and more Global event.
Several months ago, I wrote about three Leaders (Putin, Biden and Xi) who needed wars to distract from mounting Domestic political failings and personal unpopularity. Two of them now are up and running with Xi is in the wings, watching and waiting.
Weak leadership provides a catastrophic platform and opportunity whereby events can quickly overtake the players.
Realistically, these are gloomy times. The world needs to move quickly toward measurable de-escalation.
As for myself, I have little meaningful effect on problems of this scale. So, I will focus on things that might be accomplished. 😉
Every day offers the opportunity for work, exercise and the chance to find and enjoy those positive scenes and events that surround us all.
Are you able to find such opportunities? Are you, your friends, colleagues and loved ones able to find truly effective distractions and diversions?
We need not ignore the reality of events. You can keep abreast of both troubling and inspiring News.
But be sure you find time to clear your head and do not obsess unhealthily about those things you cannot practically affect or control. And above all, keep your chin up!
It has been longer than usual since my last posting, mostly caused by the impacts of time-consuming travel and sightseeing I will review, below.
My journey ranged through Sweden from Stockholm on the Baltic up to Swedish Lapland then next to England, roving around the Northwest from Northern Wales, around the Manchester area and up to Cumbria in the Lake district before exiting the country through Heathrow in the South.
I was fortunate to visit and meet with many friends, new and old and reconnect with relatives, acquaintances alike.
There is much to report of interesting sights and unique experiences enjoyed in these travels. But before I begin this review let me again first reflect upon what the last several weeks the disease of Cancer has wrought upon just my own extended family.
These experiences with Cancer are not unique. For many readers they are familiar and even common.
In the last six weeks my own family witnessed the final loss off one battle with the disease, a few wars of others proceeding with difficulties and a just single soul receiving good news in having no further immediate findings of infection.
Such stories are not unusual or rare. Indeed, they are common experiences in our world.
Those lost are now at rest. The memories of their lives remain within us all.
And those remaining fight on. We can only hope they achieve the best outcomes possible, and their journeys bring them as much joy and peace as can be imagined.
Now let me break from these thoughts and move to happier and lighter ground.
My own recent travels were filled with novel experiences, fun and new adventures. They offer interest and excitement for young and old alike. So let me recount this Winter journey, here…
On December 23rd 2021, a pair of us set off to SFO clutching our negative Covid tests obtained a day earlier from San Jose airport testing facility, firmly in hand.
The Parking Facility I regularly use had unannounced switched to appointment-only for the Holiday Season and was fully booked upon my arrival. The surprise caused some urgent frantic searching for new and available sites that was eventually resolved by SFO’s own Long-Term location, just a Monorail ride distant from the International Departure Terminal.
The flight out was long, uneventful and we arrived later afternoon in Stockholm airport on December 24th after a short layover in Frankfurt. Eventually we came upon the shuttle pickup area for the Car Rental off-airport site, donned warmer clothing and boarded the bus to fetch our Avis SUV rental vehicle.
It seems that across the World it is tough to find workers during Covid times, and especially on this Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, after an hour working with Avis’s one-man show, we obtained a (NOT as requested) Spanish-built Hybrid SUV and after a life-threatening ice scaping session in sub-zero temps we got underway North to Hudiksvall, a few hours’ drive away.
The Hybrid (albeit new) SUV provided an adventure within itself. I will say no more than over the rental period we had issues with several things falling off, breaking, locking electrical connectors, irrationally failing displays with software bugs, issuing road-side alarms to Emergency Services and on and on. Even when we were joined in our travels by a Swedish native, we were constantly challenged to interpret the exclusively Swedish-language Handbook and resorted to solving problems via Google lookups. The vehicle is NOT suitable for being in a Rental Fleet. Enough said. ☹
We arrived Hudiksvall as planned, moved into our expansive Airbnb, hooked up with loved ones and on Christmas Day were treated to dinner, seated overlooking the lighted lower town and expansive frozen bay connected by a wide finger of water tied directly to the Gulf of Bothnia. A great beginning to the Swedish leg of our journey. 😊
The next day my son and I went Ice Fishing. There was little wind and the outing became productive when we teamed up with a knowledgeable local who guided us to catch our three-each limit of Grayling with a temporary loan of his electronic fish-finder.
There were just a couple of small groups of fishermen passing through on this local Lake. No tents or Ice Huts were employed, and we belatedly enjoyed the traditional wood fire set directly on the ice for a little warmth and light. As the sky darked by early afternoon (there are perhaps six hours of good Northern daylight this time of year) we packed-up and went home.
The next day we fulfilled a promise to host a traditional, ten-person US/UK Christmas Dinner for my son’s extended Swedish Family. The event followed a complex shopping trip by four of us to find appropriate, relevant and similar ingredients in defiance of the language challenges. Mission accomplished for both child and adult attendees.
The dinner followed traditional greetings and introductions, gift exchanges, shared cooking and preparations and final seating arrangements. Despite all the challenges presented by Vegetarian, Vegan and Tea-total participants the meal went off with amazingly familiar servings, tastes and flavors. 😉
A large turkey meal, wine, champagne, beer followed by a Trifle desert was sampled and enjoyed by all following the traditional popping of English Christmas Crackers. We made a fine sight donning the Crackers’ paper hats, sharing their jokes and party favor surprise gifts. A fine time and introduction were had by all.
The evening was followed by travel preparations and my visit to a local fishing shop. It always amazes me to see the variation of tackle and gear available to address the local opportunity, styles, climate and target species. Late that afternoon my son and I set off for nighttime Ice Fishing.
It is a little colder on the ice after dark. Perhaps still only 10-15F, not too bad. I was suspicious things may not go well when I realized we had brought no torches (except phones) and even starlight was scarce.
The ice was perhaps only 14” thick but we drilled our corner of this new Lake with fishing holes till it resembled Swiss Cheese.
Our traditional log fire on the Ice was picturesque, useful and so we kept on drilling with that manual auger. Eventually the clouds cleared to reveal bright, sparkling star-filled skies.
Suffice it to say it was a great experience, but not a single bite was had. 😊
I returned a rented Ice Auger to the store the next day. The owner confirmed that night fishing is VASTLY different and especially challenging. No kidding. 😉
The next day our group of four were to drive North to so-called Swedish Lapland.
We passed on the overnight train and flight travel options. Both these solutions meant ditching our (albeit just becoming very troublesome) SUV rental yet still needing to rent another vehicle upon arrival. So, we opted to drive halfway to Umea and then run to our destination (Lulea) the next morning while it remained light.
Driving on one and two-laned snow covered freeways in flurries of yet more snow is not for everyone. But two of us were experienced with this practice and we ultimately willingly switched-off the responsibilities for the entire Northward journey and then the return.
We set off late afternoon from Hudiksvall on December 30th and arrived later evening in Umea. The journey was dark and unremarkable. The most memorable part was locating the Hotel itself and getting to our rooms.
The hotel was fairly central in the town of Umea. We got to explore the city streets and squares more closely on our return leg.
Our hotel was part of a much larger 10-12 story building featuring businesses, shops, a couple of hotels and an expansive, open covered lobby. The hotel was the entire Third floor and required an automated check-in at central kiosks situated on the ground floor.otel was on the Third floor with an Hote
Three of our party circled the building in our SUV while I explored access to the Lobby and discovered the setup just described. Apparently, our loaded AWD SUV did not particularly like steep icy hills and backslid in my absence till reversed into a side street in preparation for a faster run-up to mount the climb. Pretty exciting experience, I am told. 😉
We were finally checked into a very modern, perhaps typically stylish Swedish hotel with an all-window 180-degree view across the low-rise town. We separated into couples, and each disappeared into the evening to find late-night food and drink as offered in picturesque, well-lighted Umea.
It is a very modern, well-furbished University town.
We found a traditional Irish Pub in an open square, ate and drank there then retired early to complete the morning journey North.
This next day was New Year’s Eve. We set off to Lulea in daylight and were able to view the countryside as we ventured further North, stopping every hour or two for coffee and the local experience of being in Sweden. We even slowed on the freeway to snap photos of a reindeer grazing on the frozen roadside.
We arrived around midday in Lulea which sits on a frozen half-mile-wide Bay (again) off the Gulf of Bothnia, East of Oulu in Finland which lies across some ~80miles of water, and quite close to the Finnish border, just a few tens of miles to the North.
The large, early 1900’s refurbished Hotel we had booked was situated mid-town. Our room faced an impressive open, lighted, deeply snow-covered square, sited on the main street through the town.
Unfortunately, we had arrived the day new Covid restrictions were to be implemented which threatened more closed and limited restaurant seating availability for the New Year celebrations that night. The show and fireworks promised in the Main Square opposite our Hotel had already been cancelled.
We need not have worried as eventually, we easily reserved seats to dine that evening at a pleasant close-by Sports Bar. After this we moved a block away to a Wine Bar overlooking the frozen Bay where we saw in the New Year while enjoying a brief but impressive firework display out upon the ice some hundred yards from our door.
Following a hearty and impressive breakfast (in a spectacular vaulted dining room) at our hotel we set out this New Year’s Day on a ten-minute drive to historic Gammelstad.
This was the ex-local regional Capital before Lulea was built-up. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was originally constructed around a 15th Century church and provided worshipers essential housing when they visited during the freezing Winters.
There are over 500 buildings in mostly very well-preserved and maintained condition, many of which seem to date from the early 1800’s and are built with traditional local methods and stylings.
When access to Gammelstad (or, Old Town) by water became difficult it lost its status and fell into disuse as the local Capital. So nearby Lulea was grown and expanded leveraging its easy commercial access to the Gulf.
We spent a few hours wandering there, capturing unique and picturesque photos, enjoying the solitude and scarcity of tourists. The 10F temperature kept us moving along until we sought out a coffee-shop before returning to Lulea.
Later that evening we went as a group of four out into the countryside for a Dog Sled trip. This was something VASTLY different. 😊
The temperatures had dropped to zero degrees Fahrenheit this night. A second group of mostly French-speakers joined us and so two sleds for 4-people were set up, each pulled by a dozen dogs.
We were provided one-piece coveralls that completely covered our (now, obviously) underprepared Winter clothing. With these were offered boots to those who were inadequately dressed there, too. Gloves were largely our own devices but were on-hand if needed or desired.
Unless you covered them with zipped-up coveralls or viable glasses, our faces were fully exposed at the eyes and forehead to some degree.
So, at around 7.30pm in the pitch dark we set off; a snowmobile, followed by one sled then the other in a tidy line, dogs yelping and sleighs bouncing their occupants who were stacked tightly front to back in their 12’ transports.
What fun. What an experience.
After 10 mins the sleds stopped and my son was seconded into driving our sleigh. A flashlamp to light the way for us and the dogs was strapped around his forehead, then the driver took off and jumped aboard the snowmobile stationed ahead.
The snowmobile took off on the Lake and the dogs charged after it.
And so, we zig-zagged around for ~20 minutes, crossing paths with the other sled, one following the other, the dogs always wanting to outrace the other team.
When we stopped next the dogs lasted only minutes before howling and nipping, wanting to run again. They just do not want to be still. They yapped their way through the photo-ops and then we were off again.
Eventually we left the flat open Lake and entered the fields and woods surrounding. The drivers were changed out and I took my place steering and driving the sled. A lamp was strapped around my head and we were off, weaving through undergrowth, between trees, rushes and bushes.
The vegetation moved in and we dashed through small gaps under branches, lurching side to side. Then my lamp went out.
The lamp was on a timer. It is tricky to reset through thick gloves while running over flats but impossible to attend when in pitch black, navigating through tunnels of vegetation, violent turns, bumps and beneath low-hanging branches.
I realized the dogs were doing all the steering and navigating up ahead anyway, so I waited till we emerged in starlight, then braked the sleigh on flatter terrain and reset the lamp. This was probably the best fun of the entire trip. I will be looking to repeat this experience, but perhaps with a more reliable lamp. 😉
Eventually we crossed a road, returned towards camp and ran the dogs back into their yard.
The trip was over. Next followed the passengers and drivers hugging the dogs, taking pictures then being escorted to a traditional tent for small hot drinks and biscuits around a log fire.
Suddenly one of the operators (oddly, a French girl from Brittany, with whom I spoke briefly) re-appeared and escorted us all from the tent and 300 yards back down the trail to the frozen Lakeside to view and photograph the Northern Lights which had made a surprise and belated appearance. The promise of the outing was complete.
Finally, we shed our heavy overalls, said our excited goodbyes and bundled ourselves back into the car for the brief ride back to our Hotel in Lulea. So ended that memorable experience.
The Next morning (of January 2nd) we set off back South in daylight for another overnight stay in Umea. The endless frozen landscapes and snow-laden trees provided picture-book scenes the entire way.
The four of us played “I-Spy” for hours on end while enjoying the views, garage-stops for hot drinks, and gas fill-ups during snow flurries in ever-chilled sub-zero temperatures.
We quickly reached Umea again, but this time already knew the Hotel building and address from our travel when we originally headed North just days earlier. We were booked in the SECOND of the two Hotels in that same multi-story building.
So, the four of us quickly Checked In and went to our two separate rooms. This Hotel area was dark and featured interesting décor with fanciful, dream-like colored 3-D images over every room door entry and massive chandeliers hanging in the giant open carpeted spiral staircases. The rooms themselves were different. I would call them GOTH by design; a quite different boutique styling.
It was still early afternoon, so we split up and explored the city. There were Malls, new buildings and stores everywhere. It is indeed a modern, well facilized University town.
The next morning, we ran back down to Hudiksvall. The journey was littered with “I Spy” games of deepening complexity and the witnessing of a traffic accident involving the SUV immediately in front of us.
It appears the snow-coverings caused the driver to mis-read the section of the road to being one-way, two lanes when it was single lane 2-way. We braked and watched as an on-coming vehicle rattled that SUV against the truck it was unwisely attempting to overtake. It seems the safety framework between the sets of wheels on the truck’s trailer prevented the SUV from getting underneath the container being hauled.
The SUV and oncoming car took considerable damage, but the drivers involved were as unharmed as the truck and did not appear to be in shock or dazed.
Continuing we arrived in Hudiksvall by midday, grabbed a quick lunch and said our goodbyes to our travel partners. We then sought out our swish yet practically deserted local Hotel on the Bay waterfront, checked-in and ran out for an Indian meal to celebrate our Anniversary before the restaurants closed. We finished the day with a champagne toast and retired for an early-morning start.
The next day we grabbed an early breakfast from yet another spectacular Hotel spread and headed the few hours down to Stockholm for our expensive ($250, each) 1-Hour PCR Covid test appointments at the airport. These were required for UK flights and entry.
Upon arrival I ditched the baggage at the airport and returned the woeful Avis Rental car with a quick explanation of its gross unsuitability for fleet use. They listened. But not much interest was shown at the still sparsely staffed facility.
Following this the Covid tests were an absolute joy ( ☹ ) and I am sure the nose swab was taken from inside the very back of my skull. Truly eyewatering. 😉
It looked like there were half-a-dozen Covid testing sites in the Airport. Travelers were scurrying about asking questions and directions, grabbing last minute (apparently surprise and unscheduled) tests for their upcoming flights.
With baggage checked we hit the Airline suite and grabbed a couple of drinks and snacks before heading to the Gate for our flight to Manchester, UK.
There were a couple of Mask-type (no cloth masks were allowed) and Mask Protocol issues at boarding which frustrated some belligerent passengers and alarmed others. But eventually everyone was appropriately covered so we boarded and departed on-time.
We arrived in a wet Manchester late afternoon to find no customers for the Car Rental shuttle. Our booking with Hertz fell apart when we reached the facility: As pre-warned there were no representatives, but also no identifiers, directions, pointers or access to our Rental or any Hertz vehicle for that matter.
After over 45minutes wandering the darkened Hertz parking areas and Rental Facility, eventually with the equally mystified help of others, we finally accepted the inevitable and picked up an SUV from an extremely helpful Avis employee. This vehicle was suitable and operated as intended throughout our UK visit. 😊
I hope the Hertz folks at the Manchester Airport learn to stay a little later, leave viable instructions and access or at least provide a manned phone service.
We spent our time in the UK with gracious relatives as hosts and after our 2-day mandatory arrival quarantine were out and about after official Covid testing, but not before hearing that one of our recent Swedish travel buddies had then just tested positive for Covid. ☹
This temporarily delayed our initial travels to visit others and we added-in many extra Lateral Flow Covid 30-minute self-administered tests before meeting with anyone who might be vulnerable.
Once we were loose, we enjoyed several local neighborhood walks, then trips out to the Thomas Telford Canal Barge Aqueduct in North Wales, Llangollen, Nantwich, Chester, a local Falconry and a run up to Cumbria in the Lake District.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was opened by Telford 1805 and used to transport (by barge) Welsh coal serving the Industrial Revolution. It is the longest such structure in GB and the highest Canal structure in the world. The Aqueduct still routinely carries barges on the Llangollen Canal, standing just 12’ wide, spanning some 350 yards and sitting 130’ above the River Dee. It also provides spectacular photo ops. 😊
After walking its length on the precipitous towpath, we ducked out of the rain for hot tea, biscuits and Welsh Rarebit in the nearby Café, a converted local Baptist church. There they offer a broad selection of cakes, baked goods and meals, yet still advertise and make available Baptisms, right below their site in the chilly waters of the River Dee.
Following this we drove the couple of country miles upstream to Llangollen, a truly picturesque Welsh town hosting the Dee beneath her massive ancient stone bridge (which was built in 1345 and modified in the 16th and 20th Centuries).
A stroll across the bridge and along the riverside walk allowed us to watch, photograph and even speak with the few excited kayakers that were thriving in the inflated rush of the surging river now enhanced by intermittent recent rains.
As light failed in the late afternoon, we sought out one of the several quaint pubs offering local beers with riverside views, then visited a local bakery to purchase recommended pasties and sausage rolls for the return journey to our Host. It was an impressive daytrip.
In the following days we ran out for coffee in the well-manicured town of Nantwich which hosts some fine, time-misshapen Tudor shop facades, restaurants and Hotel at its center, a quaint indoor market and church of real historical importance.
The origins of St. Mary’s Church began in 1130, but most enhancements occurred around 1340 with a 20-year delay in that building believed caused by an appearance of The Black Death.
Nantwich has great shopping facilities and numerous pedestrian areas. Its smart, well-cared-for appearance is ensured by enforced local ordinances and a caring community. It again proved well worth a visit; I have been there several times before.
Most places visited on this trip were quieter, with few people circulating in the Winter months when children are (often, usually) back in school. Additionally, the Covid scares and flare-ups keep many indoors, hiding and separate… the Omicron variant ruled during this period. 😉
I prefer Winter travel. Often facilities remain readily available, there are no crowds, less crushes and services are generally provided unhurriedly with more consideration. And pricing is typically far less inflated.
This was all true in both Sweden and the UK.
We next made time for a traditional visit to the historical, Roman, walled City of Chester and followed a familiar format, ditching the SUV outside of town and riding the barely occupied Park-and-Ride shuttle to the town center.
After a little shopping, coffee and walks around the brightly lit Tudor-styled pedestrian areas we hiked down to and along the side of the swollen river outside the city walls to find some local Snugbury’s ice-cream, and then marched back uphill to the City Center.
We again toured the impressive Chester Cathedral, passing through its vaulted body, the protected enclosed corridors surrounding the open interior quadrangle, explored centuries-old side-rooms and the cavernous refectory. Again, there were few late-day visitors but us and those staff employed to show and operate the facilities.
The Cathedral’s construction dates between 1093 and the early 16th Century. Though it still has a large active worshipping community the recent pandemic years and closures have left it with a 500,000 GBP funding shortfall. Cutbacks are inevitable; they were forced to close the famed Falconry housed in their grounds.
As the light began to fail in the city the streets quickly quieted even more, so we shuttled back to our SUV and returned to our lodgings in Northwich for dinner.
During our following travels about the local area, we decided to explore the local Blakemere Village which had always been previously ignored. What a find. A few large Antique shops, extensive Interior Design facility, multiple Cafes, Restaurants, Segway trip provider, Gardening Center, Playgrounds, Falconry and more.
That day we dug out a few select gifts and ornaments from the Antique shops, visited a Café and booked a next-day Custom Show for three at the immaculate and well-stocked Falconry.
The following morning, we arrived early for our Falconry experience. What a show. We each flew a Barn Owl, Harris Hawk, giant Long-Eared Eurasian Owl and Turkey Vulture. Another memorable event.
Not only were we face-to-beak with these magnificent birds perched on our hands we were provided with a great learning experience and wonderful photo ops.
It seems owls hunt by distant sight and sound, operating with no sense of smell. They can hear prey beneath four feet of snow triangulating with their offset ears, but as their sight is motion sensitive, they see little that is up-close.
Turkey Vultures have no head feathers so they can efficiently bury their beaks deep inside carcasses. They are one of the few birds with nostrils; this enables their sense of smell to detect prey a mile away. Their legs too are devoid of feathers for the same reason as their heads and they urinate down them to remove waste that might otherwise attract bacteria.
The huge Eurasian Owl is not native to the UK. It was introduced, but then hunted out. To feed it drops from perches opportunistically onto foxes, small dogs and even sheep. This behavior, together with having feathers highly sought-after for clothing accoutrements will quickly get you hunted to extinction. 😉
The Harris Hawk is well-favored by Falconers as a starter-bird in the UK. Its impressive, large and skillful.
Surprisingly, our instructional and highly experienced Falconer for the day favored flying the Turkey Vulture above all others. And he routinely flies all manner of Hawks, Owls and Eagles; some twenty types of working birds, at least. It appears the intelligence, grace, versatility, nimbleness and sheer (6’ wingspan) size of this vulture make it the most impressive option for him personally.
What a memorable day out with the photographs and videos remaining to recount the experience.
My wife was scheduled to return earlier to the US than myself. So, we researched and found the most convenient (only a simple Lateral Flow Test is required for US entry) certified rapid Covid testing could be done in Birmingham, on the journey South heading towards Heathrow.
However, before this we discovered that folks where we were headed back home (in the US) had recently contracted Covid, so a delay was in order to let the quarantine period play out.
A few days later we headed down to Birmingham. The COVID testing station was hidden in the back end of a massive yet muddied gravel Parking Lot out to one side of the Airport. Location found; the test was done. By the time we checked-in for an overnight at the local Hilton the negative result had arrived. Mission accomplished.
The stay at the Birmingham Hilton just outside the airport, was a doozy. 😊
Suffice it to say there were very few guests in the Hotel that was finishing a major refurbishment by using the massive pandemic business slow-down as an opportunity. Major decorations had been completed and wholesale electrical rewiring had occurred. It was obvious that no shake-down of the wiring work had occurred and we were guinea pigs.
The stay caused us to reluctantly change rooms. Oddly, were “upgraded” to a room which featured the very same facilities we had originally booked and paid. It just was not worth complaining about this detail as much worse troubles were afoot.
Our stay uncovered non-functional central heating, blown fuses, power overloads, inoperable space heaters, unwired outlets, a shorting outlet, unusable non-standard bed-side sockets, an hours-long major work-noise session and a hazardous, inconvenient extension cord make-shift solution which was belatedly installed for us to operate our own electronic devices. Aaaargh!
The staff were stellar and sympathetic, though they did fail to answer most phone calls from the room for help and guidance. They even ignored their EMERGENCY line when I called to check my suspicions and findings. Ouch. ☹
As an ex-engineer myself I detailed many of the problems to them, most of which they acknowledged with a “We know, “ response. Shades of Fawlty Towers, here. 😉
Later, gazing at the giant space heaters in the Lobby I explained that they had obvious issues with their Electrical Contractor and simply were not ready to be open. They agreed. Sigh. No consolation to myself and their very few guests.
In all honesty, when the hotel’s problems were circumvented and workarounds in-place this all made for a comical and memorable addition to the trip. 😊
That evening we headed out to some old stomping grounds from my youth. Many Top Pubs from back then are still top-ten venues around the Birmingham airport area, even today. Amazing, after all these years. Location is everything.
We dined at the Malt Shovel and were surprised that everyone was unmasked. Great food but typical of modern English Pubs. Over a decade ago successful pubs all switched to really being Restaurants with modernized, more sophisticated (and expensive) menu offerings that offered full bars. Traditional Pubs and Basic Pub Foods (Ploughman’s Lunches, Pasties, Pork Pies, Fish and Chips and little else) are a thing of the distant past.
Following this we ran out to the Cock Inn at Wishaw. The same formula was in place. A large, surprisingly crowded exclusive restaurant midweek, and just we two and another couple in a small, deserted bar, set to the back of the building.
The exteriors of these two Pub buildings were basically unchanged from decades earlier. They still presented their traditional outside Pub-like appearance and color-schemes, whereas the interiors were tarted-up to match modern color, decorative and furnishing expectations.
At the Cock Inn I mentioned to the barmaid I’d last been there some 40 years ago and recalled losing a pair of gloves. I asked if anyone handed them in at the bar? Lots of laughs, but no luck with the gloves.😉
The next morning, we drove into the Airport where my wife boarded an Express, non-stop bus that took her directly to the required Departure Terminal at Heathrow for her trip back to the States. Very convenient. A smart solution.
As she boarded the Bus, she looked across at ANOTHER Hilton Hotel, inside the airport, and just 100 yards away. “We should have stayed in THAT Hilton. “ Good point. If only we had known. And life moved on. 😊
I returned across the street to the Parking Lot, got into the SUV, paid the 18.00 GBP (~$24.00 USD) for my 25-minute stay and drove the few hours back to Manchester.
Over the following week I enjoyed daily local walks, meetings with friends and made one last major foray up North to visit family in the Lake District. The trip was a quick overnight, leaving early one morning and returning later the next day.
As you approach the Lake District and Cumbria the dry-stone walling starts to appear in the fields. Once off the freeway the faster roads that carry endless Summer Tourists Westerly to the region make travel speedy and efficient in Wintertime.
I was headed to Broughton-In-Furness, to the deep Southwest of the Lake District. The night before I left the Omicron Covid surge was again featured on the News with the announcement that Barrow-In-Furness was currently THE most infected location in the UK. Well, it WAS 8 miles from my destination, so off I went. 😉
The last hour or so of the journey is truly spectacular. Dark green fields abound with dropped Winter foliage enabling huge vistas in every direction. Mountains, rolling hills, fields, wandering flocks of sheep and endless dry-stone walling. Quite a site. A memorable wonderland.
After running the latter miles on fast winding country roads with little clearance to stone walling and sparse but speedy passing traffic, I arrived at my destination. Broughton features perhaps just several dozen picturesque hillside cottages and houses at its heart. It is served in its center by a small grassy village square which is bordered with a store or two, post office and three nearby Pubs.
The afternoon was filled with family catchups and a country walk till the daylight began to fail. In the evening we tried a Pub in the square for dinner and arrived to find we were the only people sporting masks.
It seems the prevailing masking rule was simple across England: Shops and Stores REQUIRE Masks; more Optional gathering locations for people (i.e. Restaurants, Pubs, Workout Places etc.) DO NOT. That explained why masks were few to none just days earlier at the Malt Shovel and Cock Inn near Birmingham.
The next day I headed back to Manchester for an overnight before packing and heading the following day for my rapid Covid Test certification in Birmingham Airport, then on to Heathrow.
I found my next Hilton Hotel in Terminal 2, buried deep inside Heathrow Airport. My negative Covid test was already in-hand, so I checked in and grabbed a free luggage cart from the airport. With this I unloaded my bags from the SUV and left the cart parked in my room to facilitate my rapid exit and flight check-in the following morning.
The Covid case at home quarantined-out so I flew homeward to the US as scheduled in great style and comfort, on a <20% occupied flight, reaching SFO on-time to be picked-up then driven the 75 miles to my home in Santa Cruz. I arrived back on January 18th. My journey was complete and only seven negative Covid tests employed.
Inevitably, the following days following my return were full of appointments, catch-up action items and maintenance tasks. When all was done and I remained proven Covid-free, I began to write this review.
Now, before I close this tale, I will as usual note the important News and Current Events I witnessed and followed during my travels. And this time these are…
Most notably, the heavy footsteps of impending War being heard around the world. We have three world leaders who are failing with their Policies, Economies and personal Images: Biden in the US, Putin in Russia and Xi in China.
Each needs a distraction. All are perceived poorly in their own lands.
Biden is quite universally viewed as not competent and weak across the World. If you think his US Polling is bad you should tap into international opinion. He has already warned Americans to quit the Ukraine, sent troops in preparation to Europe, shipped $100’s of Millions in arms to Ukraine and seemingly invited “something of a Russian incursion” across the border.
Ukraine leadership believes Putin’s 100K troops at the border is insufficient for all-out attack and Russia is merely testing for weaknesses, while stirring up US Domestic unrest. We will see.
China will be motivated to take the Russian side in these events, even recently partnering for a joint Soviet/Chinese Moon Base in the next decade. US fumbling and failures are being carefully scrutinized.
China wants direct control of Taiwan. If you think the US has chip shortages (esp. for the Auto industry) now, wait till you see what happens if an invasion occurs.
Furthermore, it is hard to imagine that North Korea and Iran will not be equally opportunistic if the US stumbles.
And the retooling of the US military, its hierarchy and standards, already leaves us with a lowered state of readiness.
Each country mentioned above is currently restrained by peculiar personal considerations and needs. Let us hope these bonds hold fast and individuals are not further motivated or assisted to break loose.
As I wrote some months ago: Everyone is dressing for war and that is an unbelievably bad sign.
So much for World Peace. :-/
On the Domestic front there remain many issues:
In December, illegal immigration crossings of the Southern US border crossed the 2 million mark. The associated Human Trafficking, Drug Importation, Drug Usage explosion and Crime escalation come together with that statistic.
As for Inflation, it is reportedly just over 6%. And that is using the faked-out “basket of goods” measurement technique copied by Bill Clinton from the UK back on his watch. This current approach makes no account of Gas and Housing costs. A more realistic method (as used in the 80’s) has real annual inflation currently running over 18%. Ouch.
Well, enough of the misery of current News. Let us reflect on the joys of travel and recent experiences. 😊
As always, I urge you to make the most of all opportunities, despite any current norms, restrictions and the general pandemic situation.
Travel is still possible, even if quite simple local excursions. So, follow reasonable Pandemic practices, Vaccinate if you choose and make the most of what is possible. Keep an element of joy in your life.
Lastly, should you have connections with current Cancer sufferers, please look for ways to ease that burden and lighten their load.
However, before I dive into the chronicle of my recent travels, I should briefly check back in on the important subject of my last BLOG, namely the discussion of Cancer.
Many of you will be familiar with the subject. If you are not, you will be eventually. Such is modern life and current medical progress.
For my part, as I write I am 11 weeks past a partial nephrectomy performed with robotic surgery at the Keck Institute of USC in LA. I have no Chemo planned and am simply on the watch for future new and reoccurring signs. My strength is largely returned and like most people the memory of events is fading.
For all practical purposes I have already moved on. Inevitably, tomorrow can be another story for us all.
What is NOT fading into the past is my awareness of the stress, anxiety and fears that illness from cancer brings to others. When people meet with me, I become quickly attuned to their seemingly universal underlying beliefs in the sinister nature of cancer. It is clear most suspect that eventually the next shoe will drop: another phase or bout with the disease is on the horizon. This is what so many transparently expect.
There is also the awareness of how traumatized are both friends and relatives by the occurrence of the disease in those they know. They obviously fear what they cannot see or control and dread what might lie ahead for these others and themselves.
It is difficult to watch the thinly disguised anguish these traumatized observers endure.
Inevitably, I too must watch ongoing difficult battles being fought against cancer by people I know. There are new combatants, some recently afflicted and others longstanding. With the awareness of their struggles comes the knowledge of the pain and distress of their loved ones and friends. The tentacles of cancer reach far and wide.
There are also many victims who willfully ignore obvious symptoms; some out of denial, others for fear of what they might discover. Delay invariably compounds problems.
So, if you are currently involved with a sufferer, I hope you can bring some solace to their door.
And if you witness symptomatic suffering being ignored, encourage victims to investigate and quickly.
As for this piece, let me now move off to lighter discussion ( 😉 ) regarding my most recent travels…
Given the backdrop of Covid-related inconveniences my latest month of travels have been restricted to the Domestic front: first up to Redding (CA) for a regular Drift fishing trip Euro-nymphing for rainbow trout, regular weekends sailing on the quiet San Francisco Bay followed by an extended journey across the US Southwest.
The low, cold and turbid waters of the Lower Sacramento (CA) dam release yielded well for my Birthday fishing trip in mid-November. I rounded off my special day with a visit to a lively Sushi and Mongolian BBQ bar in Redding. A fine day out and splendid celebration. 😊
As for sailing on the Bay, it remains lonely. The diminished sail-boat traffic of the Covid era has not fully returned and we are now headed into the naturally quieter Winter Season.
Commercial traffic has improved a little: A few more ferries run these days though less Container Ships are queued up below the Bay Bridge waiting for their turn to move dockside and progress their cargoes slowly through the weakened Supply Chain. I suspect vessels now embark at later times to arrive for more predictable unloading opportunities, rather than sit off-shore anchored-up, just waiting.
Finally, when late November rolled around the time for an early Holiday Season Trip was upon us. So, we confirmed our plans, finalized the bookings, checked the weather, packed our bags and set out…
As a group of four we left before Thanksgiving to see the Canyons of the Southwest: Grand, Antelope(s), Bryce and Zion. And I think I have found myself a personal (albeit qualified) winner in the contest for the most spectacular viewing.
The journey began with masked-up travel through SFO (airport), for a United flight into Las Vegas to pick up the rental car and overnight before moving onward.
The Bellagio Hotel (and Casino) in Vegas rekindled old memories and provided people-watching opportunities galore. Sitting just off the main lobby under the massive Chihuly-designed, vividly colored glass-flowered ceiling, it seemed like the entire world passed before my eyes.
An endless stream of Covid-masked vacationers ambled by the piano-bar, gazing at the massive Christmas tree, wandering about its surrounding displays. Children of all ages were in awe, stopping to pose and take photographs then paddling along their way, passing down wide overdecorated carpeted corridors to exits providing them access to other Hotels along the Strip.
The next day we rose early navigating the Bellagio check-out and car reclaim, then heading to the familiar Tusayan Village just outside the Grand Canyon National Park.
There followed trips and hikes around the sites and stops, on the opposite side of the Canyon from the already closed (for Winter and storm season) and higher Northern Rim. This was my third visit. I always arrive a little off-season when temperatures have already dropped. But this time there was no sprinkling of early Winter snow.
The Grand Canyon was formed by the mighty Colorado River cutting 5,000’ deep into a plateau over a period of some (est.) six million years. Exposed rocks at the bottom of the canyon are a billion years old.
This rim would be the lowest elevation we would visit on our journey.
We arrived where the usual spectacular views were laid out below, a mile deep and crisply clear on a chilly yet sunny day. Parking at the Visitor Center I visited Maher Point, Yavapai Point and Museum and walked down to the head of the Bright Angel Trail quietly slipping down into the Canyon from the side of the Art Gallery in the Village.
The trail quickly passes through a much-trafficked arch then can be seen winding back and forth in several hairpin bends to appear again a few thousand feet directly below where it snakes off across flats and through small, lightly wooded areas to vanish suddenly in the distance over the edge of a distant plateau, deep below.
Later that day we drove out, parked and hiked a mile to enjoy a sunset viewing of the massive Horseshoe Bend which once again lived up to its legendary reputation.
That evening we found a large rustic restaurant back in town to host us where we savored our traditional Thanksgiving meal alongside a giant 30’ x 40’ segmented screen which rolled spectacular videos and shots of year-round Grand Canyon images taken from aircraft and ground locations.
The next day we ran into a couple of resting moose, laying quietly beneath shade trees just off the walking trail. Another pair of giants later ambled slowly and deliberately just feet in front of our halted vehicle.
We wound up our Grand Canyon viewing and Photo Ops at Navajo Point, then latterly the Desert View Watchtower before driving off towards Page (AZ), passing and visiting numerous Navajo roadside stalls and markets along the way towards Antelope and Bryce Canyons.
Crowds had quickly thinned and numbers diminished everywhere we went as soon as Thanksgiving had passed. It is critical to view these marvels when seasonal heat is not oppressive, the Holidays are done, traffic is massively reduced and well before the bitter Winter cold sets in, yet most services and places remain open, sufficiently staffed.
Hot days, large crowds and traffic delays severely dimmish even these spectacular viewing experiences. Things can then be miserable. Our visit timing hit the sweet spot throughout the journey. 😊
Following our arrival in Page we enjoyed three major outings: two visits of Antelope Canyon(s) and a UTV trip into the local mountains.
First came the UTV trip. We ran in side-by-sides for 2hrs in a gradual climb to the locally named 6000’ high Hot Dog Point (HDP) overlooking the Paria River a few thousand feet below which runs down to the distant Lee’s ferry and joins the Colorado River. The precipitous views of the Echo and Vermillion cliffs was something to behold and photographed well.
The so-called Honeymoon Trail runs beside the Paria River away from the Ferry and upstream, far below where we were perched. It was named for the journey made by early settlers returning home with newly acquired brides.
The UTV ride back followed a much faster trail and we returned our rented off-roader just an hour after leaving HDP. We then spent 20 minutes trying to rid ourselves of the deep red trail dust that covered everything we wore, even including the insides of sunglasses and goggles. 😊
Next, we made trips to the Upper Upper Antelope and the Lower Antelope Canyons. The former visit gifted us a private Navajo guide (as required on these lands) who regaled us with tales of the Canyon’s ownership and interesting aspects the Navajo Culture.
He was himself half Apache, so in his words not true Navajo. There is no such name as Navajo in the Native language as the people call themselves Dee Nay (spelled here as pronounced to me) and name their reservation land similarly, too. The name Navajo was just a Western Import unwantedly bestowed upon the people by Spanish invaders.
As for the culture itself, it is entirely Matriarchal. It seems with all the (specifically) household say and management directed by women, men often find reasons to stay away, absent themselves frequently or simply leave. There are tribal Elders and a Counsel where men are normally featured and valued, but as for Chiefs, the Navajo have no such thing(s); claiming their stated existence is simply considered a lie.
I trust our guide was being fully accurate with the snippets of information (listed above) that he provided. 😉
He took us through the Upper Upper Canyon after we had climbed 100’ down ramshackle staircases. Antelope is formed by flashfloods carving ancient lake-bed sediment into smooth, deep sculptured channels in the red and buff-colored strata of soft rock. Distant rainfall run-off can suddenly roar in, pouring into the narrow channels and over steep canyon walls.
This Canyon was mostly >40’ deep with the high walls making it difficult to survive any flash-flood. Our guide told us of the time he was caught and extracted a Texas couple from such and event. They were extremely cold, shaken yet thoroughly inspired by the time the torrent subsided and they waded out though chilling waist-deep waters to clamber up a scalable cliff face.
The Antelope Canyon series were discovered less than 100 years ago by (the story goes) young girls locating sheep that had wandered down through crevasses which were found to burrow deeper the further they were explored. Native children first played in there and eventually they were turned into tourist attractions as early visitors explored, photographing and publishing the novel images of these mysterious water carvings and light effects in Nationally famous journals.
Next, we visited the much more famous Lower Antelope Canyon. There have been original pictures taken of illusional light effects and wall carvings sculpted from water-action within the bowels of this feature that have sold for as much as $6M and $4M, respectively. Even Microsoft has used images from within for Screensavers; visitors and people from across the world have adorned their homes with their own photography and professional works of this natural marvel.
You descend carefully supervised into this canyon, backwards down a brief sequence of robust steel ladder staircases that run to perhaps 100’ deep with a narrow opening spilling in light across the 100-200 yds or so of its length. At its very bottom, the walking width can vary from a usable foot wide to several yards, weaving and zigzagging to open areas with gradually increasing elevation changes.
There are surfaces, walls, colors and illusions of light and shape to photograph at every turn. Guides help create further illusions and point out shapes appearing as George Washington, The Ghost, Seahorse, Dancing Lady and dozens more impressive Photo Ops.
At its end, the canyon floor gradually and imperceptibly elevates as you crouch slightly, weaving upwards through channels, finally clambering up the last dozen steps to eventually stand and walk upright out of a crevasse in the rock. Quite an adventure and a spectacular way to emerge once again into full daylight.
When the flooding water courses through these canyons it can rage with currents reaching over 100 mph in the tightest spots to (still irresistible) just 10’s of mph in the widest and most tame runs. And the shapes that are carved and light effects that result must be seen to be believed.
So much for the unique experience of Antelope Canyon(s). A guide told me that when he helped place a Verizon tower atop a distant sheer 10,000’ high local Navajo Territory Mesa he could look down and see countless similar unexplored canyons carved below. There is still much to explore and discover in this region.
So next we moved on to the Town of Bryce, just 5 minutes outside of the drive-in National Park entry gates.
Bryce Canyon is again spectacular. I know some who say it is their favorite of all Natural wonders. Indeed, it is strange, unique and mightily impressive. 😊
The main viewing is from multiple expertly positioned sites around a grand Amphitheatre (about 2 miles across) of so-called Hoodoos. Bryce can be seen on the distant horizon from even further away than Page. It towers to almost 10,000’ and the lowest areas of the rim are around 5000’ with the base of the canyon at most a few thousand feet below.
The region was formed as an ancient ocean bed, covered and exposed some 6-7 times every 15 million years. There are massive sedimentary deposits from these incursions that have been eroded since the earth mantle last raised up and displaced the waters. Each day the altitude brings frigid air that freezes moisture in the rocks to be melted by the warm sun the following days; this has resulted in massive erosion which produced thousands of odd-shaped and often precariously balanced individual columns of rock (Hoodoos), vertically colored and stratified by the eons of varied sedimentary deposits made upon the ancient ocean bed.
A massive basin has formed at Bryce, filled with the world’s largest collection of these Hoodoos. And as you look further into the distance towards the horizon you can see the (6-7) layers of unique strata depositions made during the separate periods when an ocean was present.
Visitors come out all day to walk the rim and visit their own choice locations to view the Sunset and Sunrise. Photographs are best made in the middle day to avoid massive shadows from peaks entering the frame and detracting from the overall image. As usual with such grand landscapes it is often better to have SOME foreground reference (people, trees or things) that helps convey the massive scale of the views.
As for our party we viewed the sunrise at the (locally) recommended Bryce Point and followed up through the day with visits to other Points: Sunrise, Sunset and Inspiration. Walks and climbs at these altitudes get your attention when moving around the rim. We were again spoiled by the sparsity of visitors and welcome privacy following the Thanksgiving weekend.
Later in the Day we drove some eight more miles further out and climbed to almost 9,000’ to enjoy both Farview and the famous Natural Bridge. Again, magnificent and unique photo ops if you have the skills and equipment, though even an amateur’s efforts cannot fail to impress with such subject material. 😉
So much for Bryce Canyon National Park. Following this last outing we packed our bags and began the two-hour scenic route drive to Zion. There were mini, Bryce-like Hoodoos and occasional red-rock vermillion cliffs adorned by the midday sunshine all along the way.
Temperatures remained consistent throughout the entire trip: Mid 40’s early morning after sunup, warming to at best mid 60’s in the sunlight and out of the breeze. However, the higher altitudes of Bryce Point before a sunrise viewing did manage to slip temperatures down to the high 20’s while we were there.
Along the way to Zion were numerous exotic (Ostrich, Beef, Alligator, Bison, Wild Boar etc.) jerky-buying opportunities and a large, fenced-in sedentary Buffalo Herd for viewing and Photo Ops. As we drew close to the Park, a wildfire drove smoke 100’s of feet into the cloudless sky and the roadsides were littered with the rotting carcasses of several unfortunate mule deer, victimized in traffic incidents.
Finally, we approached the empty traffic lanes of the Entry Posts for Zion and entered the National Park itself. What a stunning find. The huge rolling rocks and colored mountains that rise both sides of the snaking pass are truly spectacular. I find Zion to be my first choice among all the Canyons viewed on this trip through the Southwest.
Bryce has the highest elevation of the canyons we visited. As for Zion, the walls of the canyon run up 1000’-1500’ above the floor with its highest peaks matching the lowest elevations in Bryce and its canyon floor matching the high rims around the Grand Canyon.
The Canyon walls of Zion run from pale beige through every shade that sediment can present to stunning deep clay-colored reds. What a spectacle.
We drove along the Canyon floor, then into long tunnels bored through the massive peaks and fell out the other side of the park immediately into the Town of Springdale and our waiting Hotel.
After checking in we found the local Visitor Center inside the Park a mile up the road offered plenty of souvenirs to shop. Rangers sat unmasked outside the buildings under tents, providing advice and suggestions to maximize your visit.
The seasonal Shuttles that ferry visitors throughout the park had stopped operating the day before as the post-Thanksgiving guest numbers had completely fallen off. Cars were now allowed inside the park for trips and viewing, not just to access the famous Lodge.
While there we rented eBikes two consecutive days and made the 20-mile roundtrip up the Scenic Route to the Temple turnabout and walked the short hike from there into the Narrows, which is so often subject to dangerous flash-flooding.
The whole region was once again the product of ancient water sedimentary deposits, but this time the massive rock structures and canyon bed was formed by the mighty Virgin River that over the last 15 million years has driven rainy season currents that put the mighty Colorado to shame.
We were once again spoiled by the fortunate time we had chosen to visit. We dodged the sweltering heat of Summer, avoided Seasonal Holiday crowds and were just ahead of the biting freeze of Winter. There were very few cars replacing the recently terminated shuttle service.
All our travels along the Zion Canyon bed were comfortable, cool and spectacularly scenic from dawn till dusk.
And the friendly Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, Bars and Services of the small town are all geared entirely to the support of the privileged Visitors to Zion.
On our final night in Zion, we drove out to a newly rated official Night Sky Viewing Spot to watch the stars with little-to-no night glow interference from the Town of Springdale or the very few local buildings inside the park. It was quite a show. A truly vast display of stars, planets, galaxies and constellations.
The next morning, we watched the sunrise tumble down the vermillion cliff-face behind our hotel room, grabbed the offered breakfast, packed and set off back to Vegas for our last night, once again scheduled in the Bellagio Resort.
After checking in there I wandered the Casino area for a short while and viewed the punters eagerly placing bets, anxiously awaiting the outcomes. Many seemed to lose, some won quietly but others reveled in their victories.
One Craps table exploded in congratulations and celebrations as the dice settled to cheers, handshakes, hugs and thankyous. “That is what we live for,” called out one gambler. A joyous event, yet a sad statement of the values and needs of they who imbibe.
After a little more wandering our group met with two more friends who were in town for a weekend outing. We all dined at Spago’s in the Bellagio and were treated throughout the evening on the heated outdoor balcony to the famous Water Fountain Shows, just yards away.
There was even a surprise visitor to our table. The Head Chef and Owner of Spago’s, Wolfgang Puck, joined our ranks and graciously stood in for a Photo Op. He is a great Host and wise Businessman who mingles well with very appreciative guests.
The evening closed back at the piano bar in the Hotel Lobby, people-watching again, reminiscing and listening to a pianist who has entertained more than one US President. These were the closing throes of a memorable trip.
And eventually, we reluctantly retired.
After a few hours sleep we reclaimed the car, checked out and returned our vehicle to the Las Vegas Car Rental Center, grabbed a Starbucks and breakfast in the airport and clambered aboard the flight back to SFO. This was quickly followed by a short flight and long drive home to Santa Cruz in the Monterey Bay.
That trip was over. And now the planning for Christmas and New Year’s travel has begun.
So next, entirely changing subject there are the issues of Local (CA), National and Global political shenanigans and events to consider. Unfortunately, there are many troubling news items percolating as long-term problems…
First up is my Home State of California. For some reason we like to regularly declare water shortage emergencies, hereabouts. It turns out that there is less a Water Shortage Issue, than there is an issue with Water Collection.
California has made few improvements and no Additions in this area in the last 40 years. Yes, they have collected FUNDING to facilitate such work, but it appears that money wentelsewhere. You have probably guessed that the population of the State has grown around 50% over this same period.
So, you might rightly ask, why would a naturally water-poor, dramatically growing State NOT take the necessary actions? There is more than just the Mismanagement of Water, in notorious California. ☹
On the National front we have a laundry list of crises: Southern Border Illegal Immigration, Drug Smuggling and Exploding Drug Usage, Human Trafficking, Gas Prices, Record Inflation, The Afghan Withdrawal, Violent Crime Escalation, Promotion of Racism, Expanding Supply Chain Catastrophes, Massive National Debt Growth, COVID-19 Mismanagement etc. And always few to no answers.
Every Government Policy pursued begins fraught with foolishness, Executive Actions are lead-ins to inevitable failure, and Administration Positions are blatantly flawed even at their introduction.
The only question remaining is whether these calamities are Intentional, the result of Gross Incompetence or a mixture of BOTH?
Whomever is charge simply cannot govern. ☹
And frighteningly, we now have >35 States reporting Voting Issues with the 2020 elections. So what reason is there to suppose that there is ANY chance future elections will be other than heavily compromised?
On the Global front, everyone that matters are dressing for war…
China has large and growing inflation problems and a massive property bubble. When you additionally infect the planet (with Covid) so consequently diminish general product demand, your government cannot hide the issues forever, even when disconnected from World Markets that would otherwise readily illuminate your crisis.
Chinese territorial expansionism (in the South China Seas, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan etc.) by passing Internal Laws, the making of Global edicts and taking actions, exacerbates problems the World cannot ignore indefinitely. Let us face fact, China’s leadership could really use the distraction of a War.
Russia has witnessed first-hand American frailty in leadership and has eyes on the balance of Ukraine. Putin also needs to distract from leadership credibility and economic issues at home. So, the Russians are lining up at their border.
The US-created power vacuum is now recognized and visible throughout the World. Both Russia AND China will want to push their luck to maximum advantage around the Globe.
And nobody needs a brand-new War to distract the Public from his failures more than the already sunken President Joe Biden.
Have you ever seen folks dress up for a party and then not attend? Possibly. But have you ever seen Leaders NEED a War and not get one underway?
For myself, this about completes the content of the Blog. Next time there will be tales of how my upcoming international travel fares in the teeth of a ramping Covid profile that always seems to thrive in colder weather.
Have you planned a break for yourself? It is likely the turmoil of this era is also weighing on your loved ones and friends.
Perhaps you should find ways to bring a little joy and comfort to the lives of others?
Everyone needs time to kick-back and regenerate. Find yourself an opportunity to relax and enjoy this Winter Season. And Happy Holidays!
In my last BLOG I did pontificate that the social turmoil and chaos shows no sign of abating and would at least be ridden solidly by politicians into the 2022 mid-terms. Unfortunately, this is proving true and if anything, deeds and misdeeds are worsening.
So, I want to begin here with a (happy) review of my recent trip to Alaska. 😊
If you visit there, you’d better be outdoorsy as that’s mostly the menu with everything happening in spectacular natural surroundings.
I was previously last in Alaska during September 2020. It proved to be a great escape from the Covid-plagued behaviors and restrictions of my California home. At least it was once the airport Covid clearances in Anchorage were completed, permitting entry to the countryside and greater State.
This trip, restrictions and checks were gone. The Season was the largest (by visitors) for the last couple of years and the Sockeye (Reds) Salmon runs were prolific. So, the agenda was filled with much fishing and more sightseeing of the massive State. This year the locals had businesses to run and clients to enjoy.
The visit was in early August 2021; Alaska starts backing down for mid-September. By end of month (Sept.) those providing the holiday services and support are often leaving for their own vacations and warmer climes.
It’s the same again this year. Once schools are in some form of session, the vacation traffic drops and the evening air begins to cool; time for Holiday Season to be cleared-away, everything cleaned and then stored during Winter.
We stayed in a lodge near Kenai. It backed onto a small creek that fed the rolling Kenai River just 300 yards away. On a couple of evenings moose swam across the water 25 yards below us as we relaxed after dinner. They wandered up alongside the dining area and eventually disappeared slowly into the wooded undergrowth.
I fished for Sockeye and Silver Salmon while there. Both proved plentiful and fun to catch. Only one day did we (just) miss our limits of whatever we were fishing.
The first few days out were on the easily accessible Kenai and then later the Kasilof River where the haul-out of the boat is via a >100 yard long, pick-up-truck powered towline that drags the drift boat 30 yards through a groove in the thick slimy brown mud of the tidal riverbank and up onto a wooden ramp. Interesting and aged technology.
Other days featured floatplane rides out to the remote Kustutan River (+30 mins away) and Crescent Lake (about 45 mins flight). The latter trip was sprinkled with constant views of and access to Brown Bears. Got some great pics of Moms with cubs and video of one sow that routinely swims under water, snagging salmon carcasses and slow-moving fish for her pleading and playful off-spring. And the Trout and Salmon fishing there was prolific, too. 😉
Managed a (Fjord) Cruise out of Seward for the obligatory views of Whales, sedimentary Rock Pinnacles (a la China South Seas kind), Puffins, Whales, Otters and then of course the great Glacier.
That giant blue piece of ice is a mile wide and hundreds of feet high where the gorge opens into the bay. It runs 14 miles back and offers a chilled and breezy micro-climate at its foot that makes eager passengers huddle for quick phot-ops and look to a speedy return for inside viewing opportunities. A single other passenger vessel sauntered up to join our viewing at the glacier’s extended base where resting harbor seals lay around in droves.
The return journey was delayed as one of two engines lost power aboard the spotless, 6-month-old ship. But the extra half hour journey addition back to Seward on the 400 passenger vessel passed easily as we enjoyed glacier-ice margheritas and sunset views.
We made a couple of day runs out of Homer, departing it’s massive (20’-30’) tide swings and the great spit that runs out into the ocean while providing convenient harbor access to the Gulf. The fishing delivered large Halibut the first trip and an extended second day out grabbed us more of the same plus a great haul of cod from further out to sea.
The vessel in Homer was skippered by a woman in her early 20’s and crewed by her younger sister. They certainly knew their trade. The second trip must have brought in well over 600lb of fish for the six of us fishing. All those fish were fully filleted and bagged before we completed the 2-hour run back into Homer. Impressive.
We did manage to visit the Salty Dawg Bar on the Spit and pin our obligatory signed $1 bill to the ceiling, joining the 70,000 other predecessors. The Café right across the road offering Fish and Chips was well worth a visit, too. 😊
If you’re ever in Homer, see if you can find that autographed (Ian & Vivian, Santa Cruz) banknote. And good luck!
All good things must end, so we eventually made the long spectacular ride back to Anchorage, boarded our flight and acknowledging the season was approaching an end, flew back to San Francisco and drove home to Santa Cruz.
We are already booked for our 2022 return; this time we’ll bring along our little family group to renew our acquaintance with the many good new friends we made in Kenai and on our trips.
Since then, I have completed a few weekend sails on the San Francisco Bay. The official sailing season is done and the Delta variant and time of year seems to have taken a toll on sailboat traffic hereabouts despite the spectacularly warm and generally clement late-season weather.
Sailing vessels are few again and the backed-up container ships littering the lower Bay and filling the Oakland docks all this year have disappeared. There are still the usual (for 2021) ten or so empty tankers anchored up below the Bay bridge. But the Container Ships are few and none down the Alameda channel as I write. Most odd.
I’m currently stationed on a boat at a club in Alameda. Yesterday I wandered down the docks and noticed an old man one third the way up a sailboat mast (where there is nothing of interest to repair or check) and apparently stuck in a Bosun’s Chair on its way up. So, I enquired and not surprisingly a little help was required.
It seems the man operating the (tail-less) winch was having trouble both pulling on the halyard that ran to the Chair from the masthead and simultaneously winding the winch. He complained that his knee surgery was impeding him (it didn’t work right) and not his 93 years.
He also pointed out the young guy was the one in the Chair; he apparently is only 89 years old. So, I helped and we hauled the Chair up for work to occur just at the first spreader, halfway up the mast.
Turns out the youngster is someone with whom I dined a year ago and didn’t recognize from this unusual angle. He is also a 3-time winner of the Trans Pac Race, the annual sail-fest that runs from Long Beach environs to Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s a small world.
And now to the News and record of recent, prominent News events…
As I have mentioned before I try to grab information from all sides of the Political spectrum. Now we are mostly focused upon a new Administration domestically as that is where much action occurs.
While having lunch today I watched an hour of MSNBC that was running in the restaurant. Wow. A few 10’s of minutes here and there is one thing, but an hour, ouch. Now I understand why a judge dismissed a suit brought against Rachel Maddow in the last six months because (paraphrase) everyone knows what she says is not really News and what she reports is more reality TV than credible News.
And this observation caused a valid and provable suit for Slander to be DISMISSED? Something here is very wrong. Do Maddow’s (newest) viewers KNOW that this is what they are hearing? My guess is that many do not. What I heard in my extended Maddow-less exposure earlier today was of the same ilk. Ouch, again.
I wonder, does exposure to today’s News Channels have a detrimental effect on listeners? Whatever your political persuasion I’m inclined to believe if you’re buying what’s been sold there is real risk of you losing all perspective and drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid.
So, let’s try here to pick out some demonstrably FACTUAL (if not universally popular) NEWS…
And I’ll try and keep it to one-liners to speed things for the reader.
By early August as many as six Governors had been stripped of powers by their Legislatures for overreach during the pandemic. Their States include Michigan, New York (no surprise here), Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and Idaho.
The Afghanistan departure was a clueless unmitigated disaster. Biden still struggles to understand it’s his Execution not the Exit that is the issue. He left people behind and got others killed in a suicide bombing. His futile attempt at payback blew-up when even NYT admitted he’d killed a known Aid worker and his family in a clearly miscalculated over-the-horizon drone strike. MSM continues to ignore this, but it meets the bar as a war-crime and even ex-Obama officials are calling it out.
As for Austin (Secretary of Defense) and Milley (Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff) they are worthless co-conspirators in the Afghanistan debacle. They did nothing tangible to mitigate inevitable problems even when the disastrous so-called Exit Plan lay in front of them. Their previous service is of little consequence if they ignored what they must have known would occur. It is an issue of Duty, Responsibility and Personal Integrity.
A MAJOR related faux pas lies in Biden telling no allies of his withdrawal intentions. This is incomprehensible. The previously privately reported international belief in his incompetence and senility is now in plain sight and openly discussed across allied Nations. He has lost friends as those countries must now seek alignments and reliable alliances other than with his Administration and Military.
And Dept of Defense Secretary Austin now says he thinks Al Qaeda may re-emerge in Afghanistan. Really? What an amazing statement of the bleeding obvious. Clearly, he does not possess adequate deductive skills for his position. CIA insight says that ISIS and Al Qaeda may re-emerge withing 1-2 years. Sadly, I will be shocked if they’re not enacting some crime on US soil well before a year has passed.
After Obama created ISIS v.1.0 from his actions in Iraq, now Biden is going for Al Qaeda reborn and ISIS v.2.0 with his incompetence in Afghanistan.
As for the surprise collapse of the Afghani Government, even my own readings in the month or so before exit identified there was at most a couple of months before total chaos. The Taliban were simply everywhere on the Map of Afghanistan and the installed Afghan president was an off-the-charts corrupt and weak leader.
At the time of US withdrawal, the Pentagon announced the Taliban were 90 days from Kabul. It was 90 hours. This is the SAME Pentagon that announced, for no apparent reason, out of the blue in the first weeks of 2020 that the Coronavirus was not an engineered virus nor was it from other than natural sources. I want what they’re smokin’. WE need a new Pentagon. ADVICE to The Pentagon: Many people will recall unprompted and strange misdirection.
I dread to think what human rights abuses are already underway in Afghanistan. When you have no feet on the ground and ZERO motivation to acknowledge the consequences of your actions, I am guessing MSM will stay quiet on this subject until some Domestic (or more likely Foreign) sources cause an outcry that is (i.e., SHOULD be) impossible to ignore.
The plight of Afghan women and girls is profoundly troubling. Their abandonment is simply inexcusable. Many have been raised in an era and culture where the constraints they are already beginning to experience were NOT the norm though the last 20 years.
Sadly, the rumors that the State Dept. was trying to charge Americans (and others) fleeing Afghanistan $2k / head for transport out, are true. Afghani’s that helped the US were often being asked to pay more. There was even some US Government attempt to justify this action… sigh.
Fortunately, in the early days of the evacuation, Brits were rescuing their own ex-pats and Americans, too. But they were approached by the American Army holding the Airport and requested to knock it off as you’re making uslook bad. There were also a number of NGO’s operating to get 100’s of people out in the latter stages. They reported being routinely held up and refused right to depart flights by the State Dept for unreported reasons.
And in the more mundane recall of Gavin Newsome, voting was concluded and the Recall failed. Hard to imagine there would be any change in deep Blue CA. Dems own the cities (LA, San Francisco and San Diego) and yet there’s no love anywhere else around the State for Gavin.
Newsome’s flaws and failures are so numerous: He’s moved from being a Coke-Head Mayor to a (well-known) drinking problem, while diddling a top Aid, using money raised for critical Firefighting for other purposes, ignoring his own Covid restrictions, illegally grabbing Covid funds for his personal business, lying about his accomplishments with the ~29 essential fire prevention tasks (he completed 25% of one item, blew-off the rest and claimed success) he’d defined for fund-raising, continued the 40-year total neglect of water collection systems in the State, freed >40k prison inmates to save them from Covid as crime grew, Homelessness exploded and filth proliferated within the Cities, and on and on and on. Who needs this guy?
Yet in came the damaged crew of his Auntie Nancy, Beleaguered Biden, Laughing Do-Nothing Kamala, Lying Pocahontas, Obama and Communist Bernie to espouse his great worth (well, to THEIR cause, really). Honestly, you travel around CA and outside of the Cities and Gavin is NOT liked at all.
But that is what mail-in ballots are for! Yes, the same system as the French officially outlawed in 1975 as it was so blatantly and easily corruptible. Yup, EVERYONE in CA got a mail-In ballot.
Better beware. Gavin will be back much later, too, untarnished and running for President before you know what hit you.
Changing the subject…
A Harvard Economist broke the bad news to CNN: Inflation has already voided Biden’s Covid Relief bills. In fact, the massive Kroger empire has advised that the back end of 2021 will see another 3-5% of what is likely escalating inflation (*).
So, Biden has self-inflicted crisis with the Southern Border, Gas Prices, Inflation, Afghanistan and Covid control. Am I forgetting something? I know the government is TAKING DOWN Trump fencing in Arizona which is to presumably facilitate Illegal Immigration and enhance the Human and Drug Trafficking industries. In Texas they’re BUILDING their own wall.
What could be the rationale for removing an existing wall? Walls are KNOWN and PROVEN highly effective in securing borders and limiting trafficking.
Looks like recent Mandates to enforce Vaccination in the workplace will keep the courts busy. This is simply NOT popular and NOT supported by Polling as I write. Clearly even many vaccinated people (like myself) would like to see more people vaccinated but DO NOT SUPPORT mandatory declarations for the workplace.
Many States are mandating vaccinations for workers. Fauci wants travelers without Vaxes to be grounded and the Army has just mandated vaccination for all. A couple of top FDA people recently resigned as they do not support boosters; the argument is that there is nowhere near the data available to mandate or even recommend that action at this point. Ahhh… yet another contradiction in medical advice.
The UK says it will not waste time on Vaccination Passports as it would be doing this for the sake of it and it has questionable real value. Tell that to folks in NYC and other places where it is already actively pushed.
And that tenacious little devil, Fauci is now being unambiguously exposed as a liar and a liar to Congress, to boot. Nothing will be done about this, but the truth is Fauci (under Obama permissions) funded a 3rd party Company which channeled funds to the under-prepared Wuhan Lab for research on Gainer (proteins were added to beef up the original virus) Bat Viruses.
At the time Fauci said the work was worth the risk of a pandemic. Hmmm. Hope he doesn’t run into a victim’s family in a dark alley.
Even Hillary’s emails had her trying to ensure we (the US) got all the details of the research that was funded and as for China, well, it’s a case of we HAVE the Bats. 😉
In mid-August Scotland announced it will allow 4-year-olds to change sex w/o parental consent. Nobody could make this stuff up.
At around that same time Polling showed that ~80% of voters blame Biden for what he insists is just anInflation Spike… not as per Krogers’ Supermarkets (see above, (*)) warn, or other economists foretell.
And what is the deal with Kamala? Her toxic work environment and do-nothing, vanish-when-there’s-an-issue persona has got her mostly acknowledged across party lines as unfit and seriously underqualified for any office, especially the Presidency. It’s 50 years since a VP was so despised and thought to be this incompetent.
The FBI has announced that despite claims made no coordination is evident on Social Media Platforms that facilitated the Jan 6th incidents. I HAVE seen the video of Ashli Babbit’s shooting and cannot rationalize the action with the suggested risk to Capitol staff. If her family is able (as currently intended) to sue and a jury sees what I viewed they will have a field day. The claimed situation, shooting and timing all look very wrong and highly questionable.
Falling back to the Covid action… a LOT have people have died around the world and still no accountability is even remotely on the horizon. It is certain by their lockdown actions domestically and from satellite imaging around hospitals that China absolutely understood the infectiousness of the disease in 2019 and yet were pushing the rest of the World to stay open, travel and ignore what was going on there internally. I expect Cuomo’s’ lies and lack of accounting for 12,000 nursing Home deaths would have made him a popular visitor there, had he not otherwise been occupied with sexual harassment, assault and authoring his (now withdrawn) book.
Luv-Gov Cuomo resigned and stuck around the 2 weeks following to lock-in his $50,000 /year pension before avoiding the swinging door hitting him is the ass when he left. He still may yet face criminal charges for his female-assault work.
Antifa have established another Autonomous Zone in Portland and police decided to not attend the planned riot between them and right-wingers when it was scheduled in later August. The politicians favored this (lack-of) Action Plan. The residents? Not so much.
Biden’s Pandemic Plan execution features increased disease spread and more death. There were 2x more people in hospital beds Labor Day 2021 when there WAS a vaccine than in 2020 when there was NO vaccine. Not really what he’d promised in his campaign even after Trump left him the Vax. Ahh, those mutations just keep on giving.
As for the Biden Vaccine Mandate, it may be hitting more problems than just legal and social opposition. It appears the Dept responsible (Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA; part of the Dept of Labor) for the implementation and tracking of such a program is something of a ramshackle and traditional mess.
Apparently, even if $Billions were thrown at OSHA it may be years before it could effectively support the Mandate. Ah Ha, more Administration Planning at its finest, a la Afghanistan Execution. If the Government can’t operate and implement its dictates anyway, what’s the discussion about? What IS the threat?
And Government funding for Covid-related workplace absences goes on. There are >10 million US jobs looking for workers and the data shows that once people are getting at least 75% of what they would from working, they will NOT be looking for a job.
Where I live in CA there are open positions everywhere, especially in service industries. I hear some prospective workers demand employers pay compensation to relinquish Government hand-outs, PLUS an incentive on top. Even then folks jump ship quickly to other jobs that spring up after they have already started in their new positions.
Unsurprisingly, Locked-down Blue States with such payouts are bottom of the economic recovery charts, which are topped by opened-up, Red States.
In late August, hundreds were arrested in Australia as violent clashes with police occurred during protests about renewed Lockdown restrictions. Similar demonstrations have occurred around the World, notably in France, Italy and the UK. I’m pretty sure the MSM in all these places will play down the issue to avoid escalations. But globally, people are registering their frustrations with the local controls and mandates.
By mid-September violent protests in France against Vaccinations and Mask Mandates had already been running for eight consecutive weeks.
China has been pointing out to the likes of Taiwan and others that they can no longer rely on the US to protect them given the recent performance in exiting Afghanistan.
It seems that Obama is the gift that keeps on giving. His 60th birthday bash was said to be cut back to a few friends and family from the 700 guests originally planned, once public outrage grew. Well, the cutback was untrue; the guest count was reportedly higher than first proposed and the super spreader Covid-count from the event totaled some 74 guests. The normally very quiet local hospital had several extra beds occupied by associated local attendees, too. Unwanted and suppressed photos momentarily posted and escaping from the event showed a mask-less encounter for all.
And as for the FIVE Guantanamo prisoners Obama traded for the later-convicted American collaborator and deserter Bergdahl, well, they turned up again. Surprise! They did NOT vanish quietly into Qatar (or Bahrain, or some other such place) and disconnect from terrorism as we were promised. Rather, FOUR of them now feature very prominently in the current, new Taliban Government… such leadership, care and foresight.
Next, we have the on-going saga of the 2020 elections and voting. Things clearly went awry in Georgia and Arizona (large scale Ballot Harvesting), by any measure. But the legal firm Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) that is dedicated to Election Integrity has recorded that around 15 million mail-in ballots simply went astray in the US. It is unknown where they are, and they are wholly unaccounted.
We can see how the failed Mail-In Newsome recall panned out and now must wonder what will be the impact of such ballot anomalies on the 2022 mid-term elections? Sigh.
On the vaccination front, the FDA approved the Pfizer shot, paving the way for Vaccination Mandates, which arrived shortly thereafter despite repeated claims from Biden (often, since Dec 2020), Pelosi (April 2021), Psaki (multiple times) et al that they could not and would not happen.
And guess what? The Pfizer vaccine approved by the FDA is NOT for the same vaccine as the one administered to millions. It is somewhat different and there is really NO data on what this might mean for recipients and boosters.
Well, this is an interesting, lightly publicised twist. Its almost as bad as getting buyers remorse from using the now-recognized, far-less-effective-versus-mutations (and in general), 1-shot J&J vaccine and then wondering when a booster or even a somewhat proven cocktail mix might be available to fix the situation.
And the current unpopularity contest continues…
Kamala is attacking the Texas Heartbeat Law as an affront to women’s right to control their bodies and health concerns. Apparently, this logic does not apply to the Vaccination Mandate that’s now on the table for ~100 million Americans and which she is promoting vigorously.
Joe is in more trouble after the discovery by Genealogist Bannerman and Presidential Lineage expert Gary Roberts that he has a couple of slave-owning ancestors. As the woke mob wants George Washington cancelled for similar ownership it will interesting to see if this blemish is attacked. Let’s face it, Biden is no Washington. 😉
However, President Biden is already facing growingly antagonistic crowds. College Campus football games are commonly featuring F..k Biden chants and his September trip to CA in support of Newsome brought out disparaging banners for his motorcade. He was also roundly booed during this Long Beach College visit.
And the lying continues with Joe. Last month he claimed he had a job as a trucker and this month he claimed his first job offer was as a lumberjack with an Idaho Company. Surprise, there are no such records to support either of these claims. Its just more lies on a very LONG and diverse list; several other such claims were listed in my last Blog.
Son Hunter seems to have lost a third laptop which is reportedly now in the hands of Russians and likely has similar naked pictures of himself featured prominently.
As for Nancy P., her Agenda is polling so toxically she is perceived as hurting the Dem cause heading towards 2022 mid-term elections. She also heads the Most Hated Politicians List by a country mile.
Southern California closed all National Forests in their territory through Sept. 17th, citing wildfire concerns. This adds to the nine forests already closed in Northern CA and at time of writing there are almost 2 million acres that have already been burned in the State by wildfires, just this year.
Iran has been confirmed Nuclear by the UN. Details suggest sufficient weapons grade material can be produced to arm a warhead within two months. And their new President and other hardliners have declared no interest in sitting down to talk with the US. I doubt Israel can sit still for too long.
The very SAME data that has Europeans Mask-less in schools has Dems calling for masking everywhere in the US… especially in Red States where their control is mitigated. Such different scientific opinions… sigh. ☹
And back in San Francisco a new scheme is underway to minimize the doubling (to 119 total) of gun-related crime incidents that occurred in the first half of the year (2021 versus 2020). They have chosen to PAY gun-bearing criminals $300 / month to NOT shoot innocent people or one-another.
San Francisco has already begun their pilot program and NYC is underway with their equivalent $1,000.00 / month offering. I await the results with bated breath. 😊
Interestingly, the support for gun control is falling dramatically, especially in the important Young (18-29 years) and Minorities Demographics. Less than HALF of these groups are now supportive per a Mid-September Poll completed by ABC News/ Washington Post.
When this Poll was last completed in April 2018, 65% of these young Americans supported Gun Control Laws. That support has now fallen to 45% as reported by Newsweek. The degree to which people have turned against these Laws is dramatic. I’m guessing the riots, looting and protests throughout 2020 and broadly across the US has changed many minds?
Again, switching subjects…
It seems that Joe’s propensity for short workdays, weeks and extensive breaks continues running at full steam. Even when at work he short shifts his activities. Turns out in his first nine months of office he has never once attended the weekly telecon with State Governors. Hard to imagine that communication channel holds much value with him.
And Joe has a habit of going off-script with the result that WH communication feeds featuring him have been abruptly truncated several times in the last month. He’s being MUTED and folks in Congress are asking WHO has the authority to do this? A very good question.
As for myself, I now typically receive notice of 4-5 Nursing Job Openings and associated employment solicitations each day. I have no idea how or why this could have started and am without any formal medical training. It looks like somebody’s algorithms and/or personnel monitoring system has gone woefully astray. 😉
Well, that completes a record for many of the messy news items that flew around since my last Blog. Quite a troubling offering for anyone to digest. 😉
Hope this synopsis proves useful to you staying current with the torrent of events within which we live.
As for myself, I feel up-to-date and ready to move onwards into the onslaught. Do you?
Keep your face to the wind and embrace the storm we must all endure. And Good Luck!