Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Dad and Shenanigan Outrage

My dad was a gentle man.  He showed no malice toward man or beast.  On one occasion, when he was young, he was invited to go deer hunting.  Borrowing a gun, off he went with his buddies.  Soon he found himself alone and tired from tramping through the forest so he sat down to rest.  Leaning his gun up against a tree and lighting a smoke he sat quietly, deep in though.  It didn't take long before a deer approached, looked him in the eye, and then slowly wandered on.  My dad did not lift his gun.   At the end of the day he returned the gun to its owner and never again picked one up.

George Abel

Throughout my childhood my dad modeled kindness.  He was a man with a huge heart for family and friends as well as strangers.  He exuded patience but had no time for the  swindler.  Despite his Republic Party affiliation, I know, if he were still alive, he would be outraged with present day Republican shenanigans.   
This election has not been the typical back-and-forth push of one set of principles against another.     Most of us acknowledge that differing opinions are healthy, deepening  political  discourse.    Instead, in this election cycle, we have watched fear mongering, hate and anger, walking in lock-step with mean.   The vehicle, the man, chosen to make America great again is vile and uncouth.

My father would be outraged that his Party has stooped to this level of low.    We have a mean bully as our president-elect.  A man who, while demeaning others, has filled his pockets with wealth, dishonestly earned.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled
masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched
refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the
homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp
beside the golden door!"

America has advanced a man to the highest office of our land who holds none of the values I admire and all of the traits I abhor.  He has none of the fine qualities we have had with President Obama or my dear father.  Who could have imagined the populous would turn a blind eye to his heinous attacks against people of color, women, veterans and the disabled.

"A nation ringed by walls will only imprison itself."
~Barack Obama

Our nation's White House is the official residence and principal work place
of the President of the United States.
It has been the residence of every U.S. president
 since John Adams in 1800.

It is a sad day in America!  To those of us who prayed for a kinder nation, we are feeling a deep, deep loss and great fear.   For those who thought making America great again could be accomplished by a man with malice in his heart, there will be disillusionment.    


"The sacrifice 'of' self for the greater good is the greatest calling
imaginable, and it is the bedrock of the greatest nations.  The sacrifice 'for' self
is the most pathetic calling imaginable, and it is the quicksand within
which nations perish."

~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Smiles Per Mile

There are traveling events that unfold, unexpectedly and delightfully…like new friendships. 

Jim and Connie and Ed and I were camped near one another at Dead Horse Ranch State Camp Ground in Arizona, back in the spring of 2015.  As we eyed one another's vans and bicycles, we struck up a conversation which continued around a campfire that evening.  The following day Connie and Jim went one way and we another.   Facebook kept us loosely in touch, but mostly we didn't know much about one another's travel plans.  Or for that matter, about one another.

Connie, Fran, Ed & Jim
Keystone, Whidbey Island, WA

We did know Jim and Connie were traveling in a Sprinter and were bicycle riders.  They were in the process of purchasing a new, slightly larger van.  Their home was for sale so they were cutting all ties to a permanent address.  They now "reside" within a Post Office Box in Texas as they put on the miles…44,000 miles this year.

The following year (3/16) we received a text from Jim, "We're in Death Valley. We see on Facebook you are in Joshua Tree.  We could meet you there."   They did, to our delight, and we deepened our first short meeting with three days together at Joshua Tree.  Then we all separated again -- us for New Mexico and Jim and Connie for Texas, but as is the case with RVing, our routes were unplanned and unpredictable beyond vague destinations and deadlines.

Joshua Tree riding

Jim and Connie's new van and full-time home…

Connie with their new rig

A few days later, after spending the night at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona and then a morning visit to Tonto National Monument,  we were headed down from the monument when a text came through from Jim,  "Are you at Roosevelt Lake?"   Me, "Very close, yes."  Jim, "Us too."

 We hooked up again, enjoyed lunch together and then caravanned together for another few days.

City of Rocks State Park, N.M…

White Sands National Monument, N.M…

Then, it was goodbye again…

Just two days ago (11/16), a text, "Fran, we're catching a ferry in Pt. Townsend tomorrow AM, would like to drop by.  Don't have your actual address."  And so it happened again, another meeting, another deepening-our-friendship visit.

We met in Langley and then shared RVing at Camp Casey State Park.  What a wonderful tonic for the grim political climate we've been immersed in.  Thank you Jim and Connie for elevating our spirits.
Ed, Jim, Fran & Connie

Keystone, Whidbey Island

Ed and I watch, as they drive away, wondering where and when we will meet again…

In conversation regarding keeping track of travel and exercise statistics, Jim chimes in with…


"The only parameter I'm interested in is smiles per mile."

~ Jim McEver

Friday, November 18, 2016

Too Much to Mourn

This past week has been fraught with grief.  What with the election results, the deaths of a number of celebrities, and our dear, long-time friend, Jeff.   I hand-delivered the following to Jeff.  We never talked about it again, but we did have more visits and more beer and more laughs in the short time he had left.  I will always hold Jeff close to my heart.  I don't think a memorial is planned.  

(Note to Jeff:  When a friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness it is both a great sorrow and a great opportunity. It gives us time.  Time to ask where they buried their gold or to tell them how much we love them.  I’m pretty sure you don’t have a pile of gold so the first question is moot.  The second, well, that’s the significant one.  I want you to know how very important you’ve been to me through the years and how much I’ve treasured our friendship. 
So, here’s what I would say at your memorial service but instead I’m delivering it directly to you, with love)


“I hope to arrive to my death, late, in love, and a little drunk.”  ~ Atticus


We were flying down the mountain playing follow-the-leader.  You were our leader and you were leading us on turns of riotous speed.  Jeff the crazy-good skier and us just crazy.     Wild memories swirl around in my head...flashbacks of you and our madcap high school days. 

Graduation sent us off in different directions.  Special occasions united us, and then,  following my relocation by a few years, you relocated nearby.  Suddenly we were separated only by a ferry ride.  Keeping in touch became easier and has endured all these many years.

Observing you, with your Buddha focus, move from one all-consuming interest to another, left me in awe.   Your investment was not of weeks or months but years of deep study, dedication, investment and personal development. And then, as suddenly as it began, you would move on.     I’ve watched you shift from skiing, to cars, to motorcycles, to flying, to photography, to rock n’ roll, and finally the stock market.  The single chain linking each activity was a deep, but light-hearted, Buddhist patience.

You are a gentle and kind man, with a quirky zeal for living.  This enthralls me.  You’ve modeled a life well lived.  

The author, David Foster Wallace, explored in his novel The Pale King,  the concept that what people think of as boring and ordinary is really the stuff of life.  Wallace played with the idea of finding peace and wisdom doing the ordinary.  I think this concept sums up your life.  With rote determination, you have dug deeply into your passions, finding satisfaction in the simplicity of study and practice.   Playing a cord over and over.  Skiing until the turns became simple.  Capturing the perfect scene or mood as you took photograph after photograph.  Always searching for mastery of your ardor.

Your life hasn’t always been easy, living frugally so you could pursue your devotion-of-the-decade.  Eating and living simply.  Seven-grain cereal for breakfast and rice for dinner.  I asked you once  if you ever changed the menu and your reply was “I add broccoli, when I can.”  Cheerfully, you’ve sacrificed money to hold yourself whole and to control your destiny.   

Once, at a restaurant in Pt. Townsend, our waitress was not happy.  Her service was slow and without a trace of a smile.  As we were paying, you said, “Let’s leave her a really big tip and turn her day around.”  So we did.  Who knows if we succeeded in turning her day around, but her sad story became our happy story.  

You are loved by your friends.  You are loyal and fun and always good for a trip to the pub.  Your intellect is well-developed and stimulating.  I’ve seen you pin down a conversation with marked exactness.  I feel fortunate for my friendship with you which has spanned more than 50 years.  Throughout these many years love has settled deeply into my heart for you, a compassionate and profound man. 

Photo by Jeff Douglass


"'Learning how to think' really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.  It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.  Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

~ David Foster Wallace

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A New Day!

Being home with family and friends and in our loving community is one of the best decisions Ed and I could have made once the election results poured in.  We cut our Thistle Adventure short and headed home.  We are recovering, surrounded with love and hugs.  We have stomped our feet in frustration, cried with sorrow, and experienced both anger and fear.  We have  mourned.  And now we have reached a resolve, waivering at times, but a resolve nevertheless:  

We will do whatever we can for our people, our country and our world.

I woke up this morning with this thought:  Trump is only one sorrowful, angry and scary man.  We are an entire nation of good people.  Yes, some identify with Trump's hate, but most of the nation does not, even many of those voting for Trump.  We are better than this ugly wave that has come over our nation like a tsunami. 

We can protest, like Gandhi, with peaceful resistance, as is already happening.  We can be strong, help one another, and continue to say no to Trumpism.  We can deliver to his angry supporters what Trump will not --  hope and kindness.   The Trump supporters, for the most part,  are simply crying out for help and they thought Trump might be the answer.  He won't save them from poverty or disenchantment or change.  But we fellow world travelers, we can show a better path.

We can be quietly and stubbornly strong and simply not accept the dissolution of our nation's good by a man who does not understand goodness.   We can share our money and our time in a million ways to fight for justice, affordable housing, and treatment for our ills.  We can stop calling others stupid.  We can volunteer to teach language to an immigrant who needs to learn English.  We can pick up trash in our parks to offset  budget shortfalls.  We can drown our kind and good politicians with letters of support.  We can smile at strangers.  We can say thank you. We can give a few dollars to a homeless person.  We can vote in two years to take back Congress.  We can pick up a hitchhiker.  We can serve at a food kitchen.  We can make music and art.   We can intervene when we see bullying. 

   Yes we can!

It's true Trump come January will have power, lots of power.  But he has no humanity.  Never forget, collectively we have lots of both -- humanity and power!   And, we have a little time before he's sworn in to strengthen our resolve and to get organized.

One more thing, we have humor, a trait Trump does not have.  Humor has saved many a day!  


"The best thing about the good old days was that…
I wasn't good and I wasn't old."


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tonight I Pray for my Country

Today Ed and I hiked the Misery Ridge Trail feeling optimistic about Hillary Clinton being our next president. We laughed and talked as we hiked, enjoying the views and the day and our world and our country's prospects for peace and prosperity. We enjoyed stomping the misery of this awful campaign season in the butt.

How misplaced our optimism.

I have always trusted the voters to do the right thing...eventually. I guess eventually is a bit further off than I thought. For half of this country to think Trump is even remotely qualified to be President is terrifying. And then to realize they knowingly voted for a liar, racist, sexist, and rapist as well, for President of the United States, is enough to make me want to sit in a corner and weep. Is misogamy so engrained in this country that fighting it is stronger than electing a totally vile person. Trump will never be my president. He is a person devoid of ethics; lacking respect for others; without an ounce of self control; and unprepared in all ways to lead our country. I have no respect for the man, president or not.

So tonight I pray for my country. I pray for my family, my friends, and myself. I pray for the strength to overcome my fear and distress at this election's outcome. I pray for an easing of my sadness at watching this opportunity for women dissolve. I also pray for people of color, immigrants...the "other" on Trump's enemy list.  I pray that I can forgive the people who voted for this vile man. I pray I can forgive the people who would not give up on their Bernie fixation and voted third party or not at all. I pray the ignorance in this nation can be replaced with wisdom and anger with hope.

The final word tonight - Donald Trump wins. God help us all.


"How do we go from our first black president to a president endorsed by the KKK? How?"

~ Rob Fee

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stomping Away Misery

Misery: "a state or feeling of great distress or discomfort of mind or body"

This election cycle has been the true definition of misery! Tempers, nerves, fear and anger have all been stacking up as the weeks have drug on and on and on.

But, finally, tomorrow, Election Day is here --Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Will Hillary Clinton win, as I hope? Will the Democrats take back the Senate? My fingers are crossed. Could we throw in the House too? Not likely, but please, pretty please! And then on down the ticket with wins for Democrats, putting distance from the toxicity of this campaign. 

My political stance is no secret.  I switched from my birth-party many years ago because I wanted a party that would support me as a woman. I needed a party that didn't fight equal rights. I've never looked back. I became a Democrat on a single issue; I remain a Democrat on many issues.

My personal feelings are that we have only one qualified candidate for President, and she is exceedingly well qualified. What a pile of misery has been stacked on top of this one woman's shoulders by those who hate her and fear her. Attack after attack after attack. As a feminist, the misogyny directed at her has been painful and maddening and inexcusable.

As a member of Pantsuit Nation, I definitely would wear a pantsuit tomorrow, if I had one. Pantsuits aren't exactly Thistle attire, but I do have a white shirt and I will wear it to show my solidarity with the suffragettes, with women, and for the long fight of women to earn the right to vote. I can't express strongly enough how powerful the election of a woman president is to me.  Just the thought of Madam President makes me want to both cry and shout with joy.

Ed and I voted several weeks ago before taking off on our trip, but we plan to spend election day in a special way to symbolize the end to this election cycle.   We've planned to return to Smith Rock State Park for another hike. It will be the perfect tribute to this day.  It will be our show of strength and our hope for the future. The hike will be on Misery Ridge Trail. It is rated "most difficult" and goes up and over the ridge. Hillary Clinton's race has been "most difficult" as well and she's going up and over the ridge.

We will stomp our way along, kicking away all the misery Hillary has suffered and all the misery the American people have suffered.   Ed and I will celebrate the beauty and the good of this nation.

We will put misery behind us and move forward...stronger together! We will celebrate the results of early voting's good news, holding the faith of victory!


“As women, we must stand up for ourselves. We must stand up for each other. We must stand up for justice for all.” 

~ Michelle Obama

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's the Season...for Thoughts of Politics

It's the political season and I simply can't help but think of how our nation could be better. I see, woven throughout our differences in this nation  a fiber of pride and patriotism. Some folks try to claim these traits for their own, as others shun them, but the threads are deeply tangled and embedded. America is a nation we love, yet a nation we love to hate as well.

I struck up a conversation recently with a National Forest Ranger, which I like to do when the opportunity arises. I know it can be a stressful job, so I go out of my way to say "thanks". As we talked about his work as a ranger, Ryan, a polite young man, who was conducting a Forest Service survey alongside the road said, "a man just drove by and flagged me the bird". Ryan showed sadness as he spoke and in a hurt tone continued, "he doesn't even know me."

Why does anyone think this behavior is ok? Reacting to a person's job, color, age, or any other reason, by striking out in frustration, as happened to Ryan, is unkind. Was the finger waver acting out his perceived superiority or was he angry with feelings of impotence at a system too huge for him to understand? I don't know and can only guess at what motivated him to be rude. In his column once, years ago, George Will made the case that ethics would be well served if we would follow Miss Manners' rules of good social behavior.

Ryan told me, as the conversation changed topics, he would be better off working for the Department of the Interior rather than the Department of Agriculture. When I queried him about this I learned that each agency shares in the profits of its negotiated contracts and since BLM is doing oil contracts (up in sales) and Forest Service is doing forestry contracts (down in sales), their funding reflects this. Ryan's agency is experiencing grave budget shortages.

Both the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, through their agencies, are responsible for managing public lands for varied uses. The agencies begin each day with conflicting goals as they set out to please all their constituencies, as well as supplementing their tax-short budgets. Talk about an untenable position. It seems like the system is designed in a way that pits one interest against another and leaves the agencies in a damned if they do or damned if they don't position.

The environmentalists get in a turmoil because the agencies are not doing enough to protect the land for wildlife; ranchers for grazing; miners for mining; foresters for logging; and recreation folks for each person's specialized interest. And none of this speaks to wildfire fighting, dams for electricity, road building, protection of Native American sacred sites or the multitudes of other urgent management issues. What we have is a swirling dervish type of mess.

A few days later I engage in a conversation with two Department of Interior employees. As I approached them I could feel their tension. When I held out my hand for a handshake and to deliver my customary thank you, I felt their tension melt. Criticism seems to be what is most typically directed at our government employees and they are skittish. I asked if I could take a photo and the man wielding the chainsaw said, "Let's see, I have my eye and ear protection, my chaps, boots and gloves. Sure, go ahead."

I am grateful for the work done by the agencies managing our public land and every time I step into a pit toilet, clean and with toilet paper, I am even more grateful. I'm angered by the man who flipped the bird at a young ranger, leaving no one feeling very good and resolving nothing. Our government isn't all bad, nor is corporate America all bad, nor are either all good. Both provide things we need and want, yet both require continual nudging as our world changes and power structures shift.

Easy answers will not be found...ever! But good manners would be an excellent place to start. We just might find polite behavior leads us to respectful conversation that just might lead us to finding solutions.


"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."

~ Judith Martin, Miss Manners

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

John Day

I've been reading Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire - a story of wealth, ambition and survival, by Peter Stark. An excellent read.

In the early 1800's, John Day a forty-year-old Virginian joined John Astor's Overland Party as a hunter. He had harrowing experiences along the way, including being left behind because he was too weak from starvation to travel and almost dying.  Then, once recovered enough to travel again, he and his traveling companion, Crooks, were robbed and stripped naked by Indians, then set free to wander for an entire week without clothing before they found help from trappers.  All of this misery and fright left John Day mentally deranged, much like a modern-day soldier. At one point he tried to commit suicide. His last years were lived out in Astoria.

Yesterday our travels followed the John Day River; passed through the town of John Day; and then  the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  Our first stop in the monument was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. This 14,000 acre National Monument showcases 40 million years of Oregon History. It is comprised of three units: Painted Hills, Sheep Rock and Clarno.

From the Paleontology Center we traveled along scenic highway 19 to Mule Shoe, a BLM campground situated along side the John Day River. We are camped entirely alone with only an occasional car passing by. Fee: $2.50. Stunning beauty!

Our home for the night...

Tomorrow we explore!


 Overland Party:

"In their wandering, hunger-ridden route, in all their wrong turns and suffering and dead ends, Hunt’s Overland Party happened to discover the best way to cross the last third of the continent. The route finding occurred in the most haphazard, unsystematic fashion—motivated by a drive to profit rather than by exploration or science—but they had done it...That crucial discovery...would become the Oregon Trail."

~ Peter Stark, Astoria

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hell's Canyon Revisited

We just love being here...


"We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature."

~ Henry David Thoreau, Ealden: Or, Life in thee Woods

Aloha Laundry

A hospitable couple, Bob and Carolyn, are running their Aloha Laundry as a retirement business. When we walked in we couldn't believe what we saw. A festive Hawaiian theme with walls painted bright colors and a welcoming, well-appointed waiting room. Unexpectedly clean machines, without the usual "out of order" signs pasted on every other one, were neatly lined along two walls. Not only did the machines glisten, the whole place was shiny from a daily rubdown -- restroom, kitchenette, and the many tables available for folding clothes all showed loving care. The floors were mopped, wastebaskets emptied, and the windows washed.  

As travelers we visit many laundromats, and this one is the best we've experienced. I typically drag my feet when it is wash day because I really detest laundromats. But this one won my heart in every way, especially its delightful owners. They have thought of everything to please their customers, including exercise machines and free internet. Coffee was brewing, cookies and popcorn were available, as well as Halloween candy. While we were there neighborhood kids came in on their daily rounds for a friendly hello and a piece of candy.

But, better than all of this, the owners offered up great philosophy. They proudly spoke of their child and their grandchildren, as well as mentioning two of their children who died early deaths, ages 6 and 7, of sistus fibrosis. After these tragedies they determined that life was too uncertain to waste and they'd best start living. So they began traveling, going to Hawaii often over the years (thus the theme for their laundromat) and also RVing, all sandwiched in with various entrepreneurial activities.

It's not likely we'll find ourselves in Grangeville again, but if we do you can believe we will have a huge load of dirty clothes. No way am I driving by the Aloha Laundry. 

And, if you find yourself in Grangeville with a load of dirty laundry, the Aloha Laundry is located at 817 Cunningham, Grangeville, Idaho. They also offer one day drop-off service. Say hi to Bob and Carolyn for us. Oh yes, Benton was welcome too. My guess is if we get there again they will have added dog bones as one more thoughtful service.

 (Photos courtesy of Aloha Laundry Facebook page.)


Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.

~ Tony Allesandra

Monday, October 31, 2016

Nez Perce

Dripping wet from a rainy bike ride along the Lewiston dikes, we needed hot showers more than anything in the world. Instead, in the parking lot, we stripped down and hung our wet biking clothes on the small clothes line overhead in Thistle's head. Finding the toilet, or managing to brush our teeth, was a wander through dripping jackets and soggy socks slapping us in the face. It was a wet, stinky, steamy mess.

Thistle needed cleaning, dumping and a refilled water tank, and we still wanted showers, so we splurged and pulled into our first full-fee campground of the trip -- Hell's Gate State Campground in Idaho on the edge of the Snake River.* Awww, Hot showers! On an at-home-scale the showers would have been a one, maybe. After many days on the road they were not top notch, but darn fine. The next morning was the beginning of a wonderful day as we stepped out into the world with shower-clean bodies.

A memory jog from our friend, Greg, that his cousin lives in Clarkston, led us to a coffee date with Deanna and Parker. Having only met once previously, about 40+ years earlier, we were delighted to spend time with them again.

As well as biking the paths along the dikes in both Clarkston and Lewiston, we explored the east side of the Snake River along Highway 209 to Heller's Bar, where we camped for one night among the fishing crowd. Our bicycles on the back of Thistle looked strangely out of place in this parking-lot fishing village. Despite our weird appearance we were invited to share a campfire with neighboring folks. We love how camping breaks down barriers, but not all barriers it appears. Over the campfire, conversation turned to fishing, well, duh, and we learned that the fishermen here were made up of three groups -- the flyers, bobbers and sinkers, and although they all looked the same to us, they were all clustered within their fishing preference group. Marge pointed her finger and said "the flyers are up there on that hill, the sinkers are over there, and we're the bobbers here in this area."

After three days of Lewiston/Clarkston exploration we were ready to continue south on 95, but before we got very far, we stopped at the Nez Perce National Historical Park Museum and Visitor Center where everything changed. After enjoying the museum and a delightful conversation with the ranger, at his suggestion we changed our route to Highway 12 and then Scenic Byway 13 following the Clearwater River. It's been one of those "wow" drives as we've passed through the Nez Perce well-marked historic and archeological lands as well as inspiring geological splendor.

With late afternoon approaching we started thinking about a place to stay and could see on the map little tents east of 13, along Highway 14. And here we are! Camped at Castle Creek National Forest Campground -- just us with an entire campground to ourselves and more wow scenes.

Trees are loaded with Spanish Moss...

This morning we continue on up the road to Golden, the first of two towns on this highway. Population not posted. We'll give it a 10, which is a generous guess based on the two houses we spotted. These photos represent the business district...

High up in the Clearwater Mountains, at road's end, is Elk City. We didn't drive to the end but Wikipedia tells us it is an old mining town. Current population 200 folks.


"…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some."

~ David Mitchell

*This managed to drive our campground expenses for this trip up to a total of $55.14 for 18 days. Our average is now $3.06 per night, not bad but this hot-shower-weakness-splurge did damage our record a bit.