Saturday, December 27, 2008

Elf in a Bag

GL and The SF had decided to run away for Christmas - yet to whence dost we goest? Argentina had been in the running, however it turned out that Christmas can be quite hot and humid in that part of the world. The conundrum was solved when Barbara and Ron invited us to Springfield for the Holidays. Our situation became even better when it turned out that Ron was a college bowl football fan (see "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode at Amy and Robert's house with no television at Thanksgiving dinner.)

Traditions past, present, and a touch surreal began with the building of the Gingerbread House. We began with a three-generation sojourn through the Springfield Wildlife Preserve, locating a very cooperative Great Blue Heron and several interested white-tail deer. On Christmas Eve, the Blessing of the creche ("Holy Water is not magic, just sacred") at St. John's Episcopal became a family affair with both kids chosen to participate. Then when Father Williams released the elf from the garbage bag, it was a mind-altering encounter for many of us. Apparently elves have no particular gender. We learned more than we had ever realized about the relationship betwixt angels, elves, Santa Claus and God's helpers.

Christmas morning had us out on the lookout for Children's Advil and we arrived on the home front just in time for the opening of the presents. So what do you give a geologist? Answer is here.

The Day After we were on the road again, heading up to Saddlebred Country to visit with Jan and Don, including a trip to our new favorite steak house, The Longhorn. The next day Bonnie visited the H.S. Truman Library as well as the Truman Home after dropping Mike at the Mid West Genealogy Center - it don't get any better than this.

Summary: There was much to do in Missouri, even without visiting Branson. Every day was an adventure - the weather was cold (one morning we woke up to 4, yes, 4 degrees) however the roads were clear and sunny. Let's run away every Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let There Be Lamp

Prior to Thanksgiving, some extensive furniture acquisitions and moving and the transfer of electron transmissions from Comcast to the Qwest-DIRECTV partnership within the ol' homestead produced a flurry of comments by the extended family of the GP. Yes, they all loved the Media Room - however what was that we still see in the Conversation Pit? What was the bad-looking lamp with the too-long lampshade doing in there? Brother Pete had discovered a fowl underpinning to the entire event (see photo at left). Even Brother Jerry from Perkasie was appalled - what are we going to do about that #*%@ lamp?

Fear not, brave family - unbeknownst to you, the Magnifique Marmot (Ms Bonnie) had been out shopping for months and yesterday she hit the jackpot at Tuesday Morning, one of her favorite stores. The lamps she has been tracking for months were on sale - take a look at this in situ photo - these are $225 MSRP lamps, and Bonnie got them for a song - following a little negotiations - would you believe less that $40 each? Wow! Is this woman a shopper or what?

We are both very happy with them as they preserve and enhance the masculinity of the GP's conversation pit. The lamp-lighting occurred just in time for this month's Last Thursday Book Club meeting - I can't wait to see what the guys say!

In truth, this lamp switch out was in the works for some time. Meanwhile we thank all of you for your comments and continuing interest.

For our Christmas-Holiday image, we offer a semi-traditional Southwestern crèche - from the Elena collection.

Happy Holidays to all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Senate Bill 3683

Senate Bill 3683

I am deeply concerned that Congress completely abdicated its responsibility by signing a truly blank check over to the Treasury Secretary. This past week, Treasury Secretary Paulson deepened that concern by announcing that he has completed a remarkable about -face (summarized elsewhere, e.g. by the November 13th Investor's Business Daily front page headline as linked here: In Major Reversal, Treasury Won't Buy Bad Mortgage Debt). Treasury should have formulated a comprehensive plan earlier in the crisis.

However, the lame duck session of Congress offers us a tremendous opportunity to change course. We should take it. On Monday, November 17, 2008, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced legislation to amend Section 115 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) to require an affirmative vote on the part of Congress to approve Treasury's plan for the remaining $350 billion and require a freeze on any remaining funds of the first $350 billion, stating, "It is imperative that we not allow that amount of money to be added to a deficit approaching $1 trillion this year without any input from the legislative branch."

Sen. Inhofe provides the text of his rationale at - his legislation, Senate Bill 3683, may be our best opportunity to change course. When 70 Senators voted for the EESA I realize they did so in good conscience but with some reservations - Congress should have oversight over the Secretary's actions. Please now encourage your senators to vote to place some congressional control over knowing and approving how any additional monies would be spent under the EESA bailout.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Straight-Talk Motorcade Redux

Straight-Talk Motorcade Redux

Less than two weeks until the election, and on Wednesday [22 Oct 2008] I receive a phone call from someone I didn't know: "Hello, I'm Jim Gibbons with the McCain Campaign, and I got your name from Marta as someone who would be willing to be a driver for the McCain motorcade." Well, I had done this once before ... OK, when would this be? "Well, I have two days we need to cover: this Friday from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm, and Saturday from 6:30 am to 3 pm. I think there may be early releases on both of those." Hmmmm. On Friday evening, I planned to take Bonnie and go to the Lady Lobos scrimmage at the Pit. "Put me down for Saturday morning." "OK, meet us at the Marriott Pyramid at 7 am on Saturday - do you know where the Marriott Pyramid is?" I kinda did, and as a driver I didn't want to give away my directional ineptitude. "Sure."

At swimming on Friday, Barry Howard told me he had been given the opportunity to drive this weekend and told them to allow a younger guy to get the photo op. Getting to the Marriott at 7 am means leaving the house by 6:30 am which means getting up on Saturday at 5:30 am. It was cold Saturday morning. I arrived at the Marriott at 7, and was glad to see Hoppy Hopkins, as all the other drivers had participated in the previous evening's drive from Cutter Aviation to the Marriott. Thus I was the only new face for everyone else this morning. Hoppy was wearing a light-colored sports coat, I was dressed all in black - however we both had our McCain pins.

Chris Livingston told me that there was a room down around the corner with food and coffee set up, and eventually we all went down there. However, I did not feel like eating at this early time. Hoppy said he needed to eat a muffin to help
absorb his coffee. Jim seemed to have this motorcade better organized that the previous - for example, there was an actual Information Sheet for Drivers with all of our names and cell phones (OK, everyone except me had a cell phone), and some tips:

Things to keep in mind when a driver for the campaign:
  • Stay with the vehicle! Because of security, it is important that our drivers stay with the vehicles unless told otherwise. If you are planning to step away for whatever reason, inform Secret Service and or campaign staff.
  • Don’t lock yourself out of the vehicle! PLEASE, do not do this. Keep the driver’s window open, unlock all the doors, don’t close the door, etc. Make sure you are never locked out of the vehicle.
  • Obey traffic laws. Staying on schedule is important. However, not at the risk of breaking the law or causing an accident. So follow all traffic laws when not in the motorcade. We are not running red lights, not tailgating, or taking undue risk.
  • Driving a 15 passenger van IS NOT like driving a car! Full size vans are longer and heavier. SO, give yourself more space when breaking and take your turns a wider. Always remember, your passengers are not as secure in a van as in a Keep your passengers’ well being in mind at all times.
  • Pay attention! Motorcades are dangerous. Pay attention to not only the vehicle in front of you, but two or more vehicles in front of you. You are welcome to use your camera, but not while the motorcade is moving.
  • Utilize the staff or passengers to communicate! Feel free to ask the staffer in your vehicle or a passenger to make phone calls to relay important information or to answer your phone if you’re concentrating on the road.
  • Have your phone charger! A dead cell phone is useless. Cell phones are used extensively. A dead cell phone will cause havoc, if we can’t reach you or you can’t reach us.
  • Have something to drink and read! You may want to make sure you have a bottle of water or something to drink, a snack, as well as something to read. There could easily be extended periods of down time, so having something to pass time helps.
  • Dress attire is business to business casual. Most campaign staff will be wearing suits. However, dress the way you feel most comfortable, yet professional, since you will be in a car most of the day.

This time, I drive PRESS 2. Always interesting to hear the conversations. In this case, the AFP correspondent was told that at the White House they are referred to as "A F'ng P." And the Getty Images rep was complaining that he (and others) was asked to get off the Straight Talk Express campaign plane for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in order to make room for other staffers who had been working the campaign continually but not riding on the plane. He could follow the campaign from commercial air, and he dreaded getting back into that hassle. The other press pool folks were discussing ordering special T-shirts that would read "Joe The News Photographer," etc.

e drove from the Marriott, finally leaving about 9:45 am, to Expo New Mexico (the facility previously known as the New Mexico State Fair). The talk was outside, and had been 'warmed up' with local politicians for about an hour before we got there. Lindsey Graham introduced the Senator, and this time we could hear some of the remarks as we turned the motorcade around and waited behind the Expo buildings. We were taken into the area to be ready for our group photo shot, and could peer through the black cloth curtains to see the crowd and Senator and Mrs. McCain. Again, a fun experience.

We won't see our photo op result until a couple of weeks after the election. As seen in the drivers-only photo, we ended up dressing every way from blue jeans to suits. Well, I dressed comfortably: no suit, no tie - and at least I didn't lock myself out of my van. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Barbarians at the Gate

Barbarians at the Gate

Tom: earlier this month, you replied to my concerns about “spread the wealth around” with your opinion given as follows:

In my oh so humble opinion, we definitely need a serious
redistribution of wealth. We've seen the number of people in the
middle class decrease while the poor have increased and more and more wealth is concentrated among a few very rich. This is exactly the phenomenon that spelled doom for the Romans. Wealth becomes more and more concentrated in a few hands at the expense of the masses. If McCain wins and more and more people are poor and without health care, etc., violence will increase, public schools will go down the tubes, the American dream will vanish, and hello revolution and civil war.

Is that what rich fat cats who bank roll the McCain lies about Obama want? Come on! Ties to terrorists? He's a Muslim because of his middle name? How stupid are we? If we don't change course soon, this country is headed for a revolution that's going to be ugly for us all.

I want to provide a response. I know it would be better in a dialogue or discourse, however let me at least give a few of my reactions.

Redistribution of wealth equates to socialism. And yes, we have some of that now: we pay a negative income tax to people at the bottom, and we heavily tax those at the top of the income ladder. We have numerous welfare programs. You want more distribution of wealth? Tell me where socialism has worked – one can certainly point to places where capitalism has even overcome communism – Russia and China are two huge examples.

The overall theme of your response appears to be that if we allow more poor people to exist, then we are asking for revolution. “Poor” is such a subjective term, however I would interpret this to mean folks who don’t have (or have considerable trouble with obtaining) the basic needs of food and shelter. Do you think that just giving money to people gets them out of this “poor” category? Only if the money is given forever, throughout their lives. That is a welfare state, and to some degree, we have that in this country now. Have you seen any of the statistics that after the welfare rolls were purged during the Reagan administration that people actually went out and got jobs? That’s how people can stop “being” poor, not by waiting around for their government handouts during what should be their productive years.

I would not agree that increase of poor, and wealth at the top, was what spelled doom for the Romans. I would argue that it was, if you want to put a word on it, apathy – apathy coupled with, or even brought on by, the excesses of the welfare state. Here’s what says:

The historian Vegetius theorized, and has recently been supported by the historian Arthur Ferrill, that the Roman Empire – particularly the military – declined partially as a result of an influx of Germanic mercenaries into the ranks of the legions. This "Germanization" and the resultant cultural dilution or "barbarization", led to lethargy, complacency and loyalty to the Roman commanders, instead of the Roman government, among the legions and a surge in decadence amongst Roman citizenry.

To me, a better example of poor causing a revolution is the example of the French Revolution of 1789, however there the "rich" were indeed the ruling class and the "poor" had no say in their government.

Perhaps you would argue that wealth causes decadence. I can point to numerous cases of wealthy people working hard – some are even Democrats! However, there is a more important point here. Your response appears to imply that people are poor or middle class or rich essentially throughout their lives, and that those are their permanent classes (thus the concern of Republicans that Obama is encouraging this ‘class warfare.’) However, if you think about it, you will see that (for examples) your in-laws the Elders, and the Genonis, and the Ganongs, and the Blackledges all started as “poor” – we were all making about $220 a month, and we all had just about enough to get by on as we had babies and young careers. You state that if McCain were elected, the American dream will vanish – well, we all lived that American Dream. We all worked hard and improved our status a little each year as we rose through the ranks of the military and then into the military-industrial complex, and voila! We became RICH! (at least by Obama’s yardstick). This IS the American Dream!

What we did then can still be done today: moving from poor to rich by applying oneself: working your way through college as Paul did at Montana State, or applying for an appointment to a service academy as Tom and Gary and I did. Giving money to poor people, or furthering the welfare state, is very much in opposition to what the American Dream is all about. Giving people 110% mortgage loans with no money down and no proof of the ability to repay the loan may be the dream of some liberal Democrats but it is not the American Dream. It is a blueprint for the Fall of the America-We-Know-And-Love.

It appears at this juncture that you will get your dream, in that Barack Obama will indeed be the 44th President of our United States. I know he is articulate, I accept he is intelligent, I concede that he has displayed superior political attributes to include excellent organizational skills. I sincerely hope he surrounds himself with good advisers and governs wisely – wisely in encouraging what facilitates the American Dream, not what undermines it with handouts under the guise of "economic justice."

Thanks for your consideration. Please provide your response by clicking on "comments" below.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party

The ever elusive and often mysterious Bonnie was up to something as 10 October grew ever closer. Others seemed to know that change was in the air. As it turned out, the invitation said it all, but of course I was not allowed to see the invitation in advance:

When I showed up at Bonnie's house on the evening of 10 October, there were signs that something was underway.

Yes, guests kept arriving - Barry Howard, Ron and Claudia Weber, Tom and Sheila Genoni, Pam and Ron Walters, and then the families of the grandkids: Beth and Ron with Garrett and Mollie, David and Tricia with Charlene and Ian. It soon became a full house, and one of political intrigue and insight.

My campaign manager had the Soup Kitchen in great shape, with
three choices of healthy soup, including Sheila's contribution of green chili corn chowder - plus delicious sourdough bread.

As it turned out, the Presidential Trivia questions proved too difficult except for Pam and Tricia, the only Democrats in the crowd. I understand the readers of this blog are sharp and thus I offer the trivia questions for you, interspersed with photos from the gathering. Please leave your comments at the end of this article.

Great party, Bonnie!

U.S. Presidential Trivia
1. Who was the only president to be
elected unanimously by the Electoral College?
A: George Washington
2. A New Hampshire delegate to the Electoral College wanted to preserve George Washington's legacy, and thus another president received every vote from the Electoral College save one - who was the President who almost tied George Washington's record?
A: James Monroe, the 5th President (1817-1825)
3. In the 2000 Election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore, yet won the Electoral College. Three other presidents share this distinction of attaining the highest office in the land without the backing of the majority of the voters. Who are these three presidents?
A: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), Benjamin Harrison
4. Who was the first president to attend a Major League Baseball game?
A: Benjamin Harrison, on 6-6-1892, and the game went into extra innings. He found it boring and never came back.
5. Who was the first president to throw out the season opening pitch?
A: William Howard Taft, 4-14-1910. Extra credit: What baseball player did he throw it to: Walter Johnson
"The first time I faced him (Walter Johnson) I watched him take that easy windup and then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him....every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park." - Ty Cobb
6. Only one president since Taft has not thrown out a season opening pitch - who was that?
A: Jimmy Carter
7. Who was the first president to successfully throw the ball from the pitcher's mound all the way to the catcher?
A: Bill Clinton - and surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky caught it for him.
8. Who was the first left-handed president to throw out the first pitch?
A: Harry S. Truman (4-15-1946)
9. Much has been said about Barack Obama's middle name. What two men had already deleted their first names by the time they became president:
Answer: Stephen Grover Cleveland and John Calvin Coolidge

11. What president was
often heard singing "Daddy's Home" while in the White House shower?
A: Ulysses S. Grant
12. Who was the first president to attend a NASCAR race?
A: None - every president has refused to attend since NASCAR started in 1955. OK, Ronald Reagan, July 4, 1984.
13. What president had only a letter for his middle name?
A: Harry S. Truman - named for both of his grandfathers.
14. In 1812, George Clinton died in office, causing what first in American History?
A: For the first time, the country was without a Vice President. No one noticed for 3 years.
15. You probably know the tallest US President (Abraham Lincoln, 6'4"). Who was the shortest president?
A: James Madison (5'4" and less than 100 pounds) He was never photographed during his life wearing a tank helmet.
16. Grover Cleveland paid someone $150 so
he, Cleveland, could take care of his mother and sisters. For what?
A: He was drafted in the Civil War but paid for a substitute to take his place.
17. William Henry Harrison (the ninth president) made the longest U.S. inaugural speech on record, March 4, 1841. What happened exactly one month later to the day?
A: He died from pneumonia - he had made the speech in the snow.
18. Next: John Tyler, our 10th President, accomplished this rather amazing feat when he was in his 70s. What was it?
A: He fathered his 15th child. He was sometimes called "his Accidency" because of the "devolved" duties. Interesting that one of Tyler's children died in 1847, the last in 1947.
19. William Howard Taft weighed over 300 lbs. What fixture in the White House did he have workmen replace?
A: The bathtub, after he had become stuck. The new one could hold four full sized men - not that there is anything wrong with that -

Only Pam, Tricia, and Barry Howard were awarde
d a prize for their trivia knowledge. However, a good time was had by all, as seen in the following.

And at least Claudia and Ron demonstrated the proper respect for the Birthday Boy with their card:

However other cards were fun as well:

Finally, we offer a few unedited selected photos of guests having way too much fun:

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Straight Talk Motorcade

Monday, October 06, 2008: During the second half of Saturday’s Navy – Air Force football game at the Fox and Hound sports Bar, Barry Howard had requested that I be one of the eight drivers for the McCain Campaign coming to Albuquerque on Monday afternoon. I can’t say “No!” to Barry, one of John McCain’s class of 1958 classmates, and a former Air Force Fighter Pilot. [Two days earlier, I had stood with Barry at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial as former Marines and Jon Voight along with City Councilman Don Harris performed the ground-breaking of the War on Terror Memorial.] When I told Bonnie about this, she implied that with my driving ability, she wished I were driving the Obama staff. A lot of confidence in my driving abilities.

Nevertheless on Monday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and headed off to Cutter Aviation. There I was met by Barry and his three other recruits (Jim Monsees, Hoppy Hopkins '59, Dick Porter), plus Chris Livingston from ABQ McCain Hqs and his recruit Howard DeLaCruz-Bancroft. Barry ensured that each driver had a McCain-Palin button. At 9:30 am, we were told to drive our cars over to the Van rental company and after more than an hour of obviously biased paperwork, we each found ourselves driving off in a white, ten passenger Chevrolet van.

We arrived back at Cutter Aviation and were soon let out to drive across the tarmac and back in, awaiting the arrival of the Straight Talk Express. But first, each hood was opened and bomb-sniffing dog was led by each van, followed by members of the APD bomb squad who used flashlights to look underneath and throughout the vans. Then we were given a name for each van: PRESS 1 or STAFF 3. I was designated to be STAFF 2, a very important van, for if anything were to happen to STAFF 1, guess who would have to step up. Barry became PRESS 1, which I guess is important if you like Katie Couric.

Tony of New Mexico's Secret Service office gave me an A-7 pin to wear. Apparently S-pins can escort people, and R-pins can be trusted as well. A-pins are, well, at least part of the entourage. Barry didn't get a pin at all, and we heard about that for most of the day.

At 12:44 pm, the Straight Talk Express [see photo] arrived at Cutter Aviation, and immediately many, many folks started pouring out of the back door and down the gangway. Two young ladies piled into my van, with a quick “Hello!” to me. “Welcome to Albuquerque!” I responded. Soon Three young men joined them, including one in the front passenger seat. I asked them if they had previously been assigned or just filled up whatever van. They said they had found that STAFF 2 was usually not full, so that was their choice.

After Sen. McCain made a short statement, we vans pulled up close to the aircraft, the rest of the people filed in, and away we went. I had never participated in a motorcade before, and found it quite exhilarating to fly through stop signs, red and green lights without regard, as the Albuquerque Police Department managed to set up blocks at each intersection. Then the police would have to leapfrog up to the next intersection, so they would go roaring by us vans. Thus we were told to always keep to the right, as the cycles would pass on the left, and during a not-so-long ago Bush motorcade, one of the police officers was killed.

Off we went to University of New Mexico, taking Rio Bravo entry to Interstate 25, which was also blocked – amazing feeling to have the Interstate to yourself and a few close vans. Exited at Lomas, then right on University, left on Central and into the campus, down the ramp to the loading dock behind the Student Union (SUB) bldg. The candidate and his wife got out of their Suburban and into the facility; the vans quickly unloaded and all the occupants scampered off with their cameras and laptops. That left us van drivers sitting and awaiting the order to re-position our vans for the exit. This was done with precision, as we moved into the area, and backed into position.

We awaited the opportunity to enter the bldg and here some of the talk, but it never came. What did come was a photo-op with Cindy and the Senator as a thank you to all of us – great! When I shook hands with the Senator, I used my 3 seconds to say, "Hi, I'm Mike Blackledge, Class of '63" to which he replied, "Oh, I saw Navy beat Air Force in football Saturday!" "Yes, a great game!" I agreed.

An exciting time, then we loaded back into the vans, and back to Cutter Aviation, again with the police escorts and motorcade/intersection blocking procedure. Again worked most smoothly. All loaded onto the Straight Talk Express, and we took a few photos of the plane.

We headed back to the van rental facility, turned in our vehicles and our keys, and shook hands all around – a good days’ work? So it was, and we each got into our vehicles and headed home. It was 3 pm and I first had to borrow Chris’ cell phone/Blackberry and call Bonnie and ask her to meet me at Golden Corral (Eubank and Central) for the Early Bird Buffet so I could tell her how I not only survived this adventure, but succeeded in not killing off a single McCain staffer. Every vote counts!

That night Bonnie and I watched the local and national news. They seemed to focus on Senator and Mrs. McCain. The van drivers were not featured. No, I have no explanation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Montana Travels July 2008

Travels To Montana with Bonnie and Mike

Day 0: (Friday, 25 July 2008) Albuquerque: Bonnie works all day and into the night de-winterizing and preparing the RV: getting it washed, filling the water tanks, stocking food and drink, packing clothes and the necessities of life to take with us: laptop, GPS, cell phone, Golden Age Passport, medications, swimsuits, ice, DVDs, books on CDs, Sudoku and RV books, maps and the jodeling marmot (don't ask).

[photo centered below] Young Marmot in Shady Acres

Day 1: (Saturday, 26 July 2008) Albuquerque to Green River, Utah
On the road by 10 am, about nine hrs total; 446 miles; route is scenic from ABQ N on Tramway to I-25, take turnoff to Cuba, then to Bloomfield, NM, toward Monticello and Moab and Price, UT. We stayed at Shady Acres Campground in Green River and Bonnie prepared chicken alfredo and salad for dinner, then we went for a walk.

[photo below] Reflections on Jackson Lake Lodge
photo below: This is the life! Bonnie, breakfast, beauty.
Day 2: (Sunday, 27 July 2008) Green River, Utah to Grand Teton Nat'l Park, WY
On the road about eight hours, 430 miles. From just south of Salt Lake City, we head NE to Jackson, WY, a town which is quaint like Pagosa Springs but chock full of RVs and pedestrians. Seeing no reason to stop, we continue north into Grand Teton park, flash our Golden Age Passport and are waved into the park and some gorgeous scenery. We see a scraggly and grizzled bison who trudges along the same road we drove. Bonnie calls ahead and we stay at Grand Teton Park RV Resort, 6 mi east of Moran (WY) Junction on US Hiway 26. Again dinner in the RV and an evening walk in the gorgeous shadow of the Grand Tetons; a talkative lady who lives there long-term tells us how her husband, a geo-thermal engineer, is always the first to arrive at any job site and the last to leave – could it be because she talks so much?

Day 3: (Monday, 28 July 2008) Grand Teton Nat'l Park to West Yellowstone, WY
We sleep in and about 10 am head East back into the Grand Teton Park. A deer leaps out in front of the RV, but fortunately was well ahead of us. We almost saw a moose (according to some ladies who were whispering and looked aghast at us for talking in ‘regular’ voices to some other tourists, from NJ) but we were too noisy. We stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, went into the lobby and out onto the deck to enjoy the views of herds of elk in the distance. We take pictures, and continue further to have our breakfast/lunch by the side of beautiful Jackson Lake with a few swimmers and many available picnic tables. Mike discovers the fun of RVing and having it all with you. We drive directly into Yellowstone from the Grand Tetons and again flash our Golden Age Passport for entry – we didn’t realize the two parks were contiguous! We drive around the lower loop toward Old Faithful and call Paul Elder on the cell phone from the Lodge parking area to tell him we’ll take another day in Yellowstone.

We hang up and head for the geyser area – it is 4:10 pm and we ask two waiting ladies when it is scheduled to go off. “Our guide said 4:15.” Wow! With a 90 minute interval, timing is everything! We stand in the shade with them and watch the geyser erupt, slowly, then more and more, well over 100 feet into the air, about 100 yards away from us. As Paul says, a Life Experience! Then we walk around the boardwalk of the geyser area, see some other activity and end up at Old Faithful Lodge where Bonnie purchases the trilogy of Yellowstone, which includes the Fires of August 1988 and Yellowstone in Winter – great videos!

Heading on around the loop we stop at the Lower Geyser Basin to marvel at the amazing colors of the geothermal springs. We learn the color is actually that of micro-organisms that thrive within the 200 degree water - Darwin was a genius! We stay the night at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park, a truly impressive large-scale operation: 191 slot park with drive-in check-in lanes like returning a rental car. We walk into town and have dinner at the Oregon Short Line Restaurant, which has authentic railroad tracks stopping at the restaurant wall where inside we walk through actual 1905 era railroad cars showing the decor and dining of the age.

below: Mike, Lynne, Paul Elder at Bozeman lake.
Day 4 (Tuesday, 29 July 2008) West Yellowstone, WY to Bozeman, MT
We drive back into the park and head around the East side of the North loop. Bonnie finds a great place to stop for our brunch along the side of a stream where she dips her feet and notes two furry brown varmints (perhaps marmots? No yodels heard) frolicking on the far side. We take our time then head around the loop and out the north entrance of the Park toward Bozeman, MT and friends Paul & Lynne Elder, arriving about 4 pm. P&L met and married at the Air Force Academy ~ 1970 when Mike and Paul taught in the Math Dept. Paul was born and raised in Bozeman where his Dad headed up Facilities for Montana State Univ. They built their dream house on a lot they owned throughout their 25+ years in Albuquerque and we stayed upstairs in their 2nd master bedroom that Helen had always “insisted” they build for us! Each day Paul and Lynne walk 3.8 miles around their neighborhood and this evening we join them for the short track (0.8 miles) after a wonderful dinner by Lynne.

Day 5 (Wednesday, 30 July 2008) Bozeman, MT with Paul & Lynne Elder.
We head out to a lake about nine miles from Elders' home, then take the scenic tour of Bozeman, seeing where Paul was raised and went to schools. We went to CostCo (apparently Montana is not that remote) and bought Huckleberry Jam – we had learned at the Oregon Short Line that one cannot have a menu in Montana without some huckleberry entrée. We end the day at the Naked Noodle, a great pasta place where we choose the type and topping to create a fun meal. Then over to the Pickle Barrel right across the street from the campus for the big $2 ice cream bowl [4 scoops]. In keeping with the locale, Bonnie selects Moose Tracks, I choose Chocolate Runs Through It (chocolate ice cream with pure rivers of dark chocolate). We sleep the sleep of satiated sinners.

[photo below] At The Docks: Gary Simonsic, Bonnie, Susan, Mike
Day 6: (Thursday, 31 July 2008): Bozeman, MT to Kalispell, MT (about 6 hours);
We leave about 10 am after a leisurely breakfast with the Elders. We head west on I-90 out of Bozeman to Missoula; take MT-93 north of Missoula along west side of Flathead Lake. We are impressed with the size and beauty of this lake, so different from anything in New Mexico. We continue into Kalispell and go west on US-2 through town to home of Gary & Susan Simonsic, known as the Aspen Loop Inn. We check into the Black & White Room, fortunately still available.

Gary met Susan when he was attending Youngstown State and worked for Susan's Dad at the grocery store. After an early career as a chemist with oil companies, which he hated, Gary heard about Los Alamos, applied and was accepted, and they headed to New Mexico. George and Bonnie moved in two doors down about three years later, and the couples raised their children and became chose friends. Gary retired early from Los Alamos. About 2 1/2 years later they moved to Kalispell, following their kids: Christin in Great Falls and Michael in several Forest Service/ski areas in East Montana.

Even though the temperatures are cold in the winter, Kalispell receives less snow than Los Alamos. The weather comes from Seattle (only colder) so they only claim 71 days of sunshine per year. They found a developer in a great new area and got a house with a full basement for Gary's train layout. Today they are as happy as can be with activities for Gary to include Tuesday Rock Climbing, Wednesday planning for Thursday, and Thursday hiking Club.

Bonnie, Mike, Glacier = National Park.

Day 7: (Friday, 1 Aug 2008) Susan packs a lunch and we head off for Glacier National Park. There we stop first at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and secondly at Glacier Park Lodge. We passed waterfalls, the “weeping wall,” lots of beautiful scenery – no it was not that cold! Gary hikes within the Park almost every Thursday during the summer and maintains a map with pins indicating which peaks he has climbed. A lot of pins, a lot of peaks - but there are over 100 available. As we drive the Going-To-The-Sun Highway, Gary points out his favorites and we are enchanted with the waterfalls, wildflowers, lakes, streams, and mountains. We stop along the side of the road where a natural salt lick occurs and we spot some mountain goats taking advantage. That night we play Bonnie's Yellowstone Fires of 1988 DVD for Gary and appreciate again that dramatic sequence of events.

Day 8: (Saturday, 2 Aug 2008) Before breakfast we go to Farmer’s Market and get Flathead Lake’s famous cherries. Bonnie gets a bag of fresh huckleberries. Then to a bakery for fresh scones. We return home and Susan makes us a fancy breakfast. We head out for Flathead Lake. That afternoon we stop at the Lakeside (Marina) Restaurant: “The Docks” beside the Lake and waitress Dolly tells us that she commutes from across the lake, and that the new owners moved here from New Mexico. We celebrate a great "snack" of tacos for Bonnie, tortilla soup for Mike, chips with three kinds of salsa for Gary. That night Bonnie brings out Big Boggle for competition between the genders. The boys were doing well until Susan caught on how to play the game, and then it was Katie Bar The Door.

Day 9: (Sunday 3 Aug 2008) Kalispell, MT to Idaho Falls, ID
We head East on I-90 toward Butte. It is very windy, making RV driving difficult because of the high profile. When we get to Idaho, Mike can't get Bonnie to stop to visit the Potato Museum … what did we miss? We stay at Snake River RV Park in Idaho Falls and enjoy our lasagna and salad in the RV.

Day 10: (Monday 4 Aug 2008) ID to Moab, UT
Our Idaho Falls RV Park slot doesn't have sewer hook-up and Mike learns to use the dump station before departing. We head out toward Utah and when we get across the state line, we stop and have our breakfast at an enchanting roadside rest stop with little bridges and many trees, clean rest rooms and many picnic tables in the shade.

When we drove North last week, we were fascinated as we came through Moab, UT and so for this return, we decide to stay the night there. We drive through/by Arches National Park and are amazed at the rock formations and how hot it is, an almost cruel contrast to the cool weather we enjoyed in Montana. We stop at the Spanish Trail RV Park just south of the Nat'l Park. We walk across the highway and have a great dinner at the Branding Iron Restaurant. We decline to walk on to the Moab Museum (probably closed by this time) and head back to our RV park. Our neighbor has a square canvas 'room' topside of his 5th wheel which houses sleeping quarters for his kids. That night a vicious wind storm arises and we go out to roll up the window awning which is flapping loudly. Amazingly, our neighbor's canvas square is unaffected by the heavy winds.

Day 11: (Tuesday 5 Aug 2008) Moab, UT to Albuquerque, NM
In the morning, we easily dump our sewer line and head out for home. We take the scenic version back, reversing this part of our trip from the way we came north: We stop at Ute Mountain Casino (just inside Colorado border at Tawoac) for breakfast. We head for Farmington, then Bloomfield, then Cuba. We arrive home by 4:45 pm, just in time to swing by the 87123 Post Office and pick up our mail packets. Bonnie needs a bucket to hold all of her catalogs and magazines.

Summary: The RV was the ideal way to tour the national parks. We loved stopping and enjoying the roadside streams and picnic areas and visitor attractions. We did get a crack in the windshield from a passing open gravel truck in Utah (durn those Mormons!) but other than that, everything worked well. We weren't really exhausted with the trip but we did enjoy sleeping in each day. While visiting some treasured and dear friends, we experienced six states, four national parks, and some beautiful country, almost all of which was new to us. We would have seen a moose if we could just learn to keep quiet and whisper. Total trip: ~ 2,780 miles at 14 to 19 mpg. The cost of diesel ranged from $4.59 to $4.79 per gallon (by the time we returned home, it had dropped to $4.19 in the big city) and we both agreed the trip was well worth every penny spent - great life experiences, great life. A great RV trip!

The variety of Yellowstone beauty …
The grandeur of Glacier …
Is this a great country or what? …