Friday, July 30, 2004

Hollasaugadougatuck 2004 revisited

I'm sitting in the cozy confines of my folks house in Indianapolis, having arrived back this afternoon from my week-long vacation on the western shores of Michigan. I had a great week as usual and have many stories to tell and memories to relive as the present fades into the past.

This was my first year to organize the trip and so the first couple of days were fairly stressful...it was Monday before I could really begin to think about relaxing. I'm very satisfied as every person who attended told me how much fun they had and what a great job I did. I wanted people to rekindle that excitement we all felt when Curt Churchman first started organizing this trip and the group had about 15 people, so I reached into the past and revived some of his cool gags. I had goodie bags waiting for everyone upon their arrival (an old Global Churchman standard): Kids got wall walkers, crazy balloons, bubbles, lunch bags, glow in the dark bracelets (Troy Michael quickly informed me his was not a bracelet but a light saber instead), twizzlers and t-shirts. Adults bags contained polypro water bottles, t-shirts, Sharpies, Tic-Tacs, Viagra pens (high quality pens from John, our Pfizer rep) and Cialis notepads (Kathy Michael , our resident executive sales rep from Lilly was not to be outdone). Thanks to the recommendation of my good friends and Holland, MI residents the Kronner's we also tapped into an excellent keg of locally brewed beer (Amber Ale) from the New Holland Brewing Company.


Every day was just plain wonderful; people who hadn't been coming regularly showed up this year, people who'd been staying for just a days stayed longer, and the kids just get more fun each year. We missed the Ruebecks, the Sautins, Trina and also Christy and we're hoping to get them all back next year. But I'm happy to report that the aforementioned Kronner's not only fit in well but helped us to have an even more enjoyable Michigan vacation experience by letting use bikes all week and giving us great suggestions for fun activities. They were officially sucked into the group when they showed up last night for the final meal, making it three times we got to see them. We ate great food too, as Teresa and Kathy shopped the wonderful Holland Farmer's Market at the beginning of the trip; Lots of berries, corn, peaches, and salad greens. Yum, yum.

Yesterday was just outstanding. We spent the day at Saugatuck Dunes State Park and had an outstanding time. We swam in the lake, made a great sand castle, enjoyed the serenity of the beach (almost nobody else was there..except for the busload of Orthodox Israeli teen boys who showed up as we were leaving...I'm kicking myself for not figuring out how they were there), hiked on great dune forest trails and climbed the big dunes. It was a full day of fun.

This trip has sort of worked its way into my being, if that makes sense. I've been doing it long enough that I can't imagine not going. It's a chance to spend time with great friends, renew friendships with those I only get to see once or twice a year, see how life is progressing (despite my attempts to make time stand still) through the growth of the kids, relax on the beach, remember friends who aren't amongst us anymore, reminisce, take long solo walks in the morning and generally refuel the engine of my soul. This year I was hoping to bring Annie, although since I brought along my friends Gwen, Heidi, Birgitt and Sonja before I guess I couldn't claim it would have been the first time I brought a girl. But that was not to be, for Annie had to work due to the time she took off for our trip to France (yes, I do realize I've yet to post a full account of that trip...it is forthcoming).

I might wax and wane more tomorrow, after I catch up on my sleep. One more day in Indy and then it's back to the mountains and work. I really must win the lottery one of these days.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Ever Again

I've just got a few minutes left on my guest pass at the Douglas/Saugatuck Public library so I'll make this entry quick...

I'm enjoying the second week of a two week vacation that brought me back to Indiana for a week and then up to western Michigan to participate in the 13th annual vacation with my friends from the "Holland" group, which seems to be growing like the Borg. Days on the beach making sand castles, reading books and enjoying good conversation are hard to beat. It's pretty awesome. There were 39 people for dinner on Saturday night! I'll write more later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Back Home Again, In Indiana

I was hoping to just plug my digital camera into my Mom's desktop and run with it, seeing as how both my Mom and I have Canon digitals. Unfortunately I can't get her software to recognize my camera so I can't post any photos of all the fun stuff I've done so far. Here is a quick re-cap:

I arrived in Indy Saturday afternoon and spent the evening with my folks. On Sunday they had a very nice family cookout for me and my Dad's brother and his wife, along with two of their daughters (Uncle Mike, Aunt Mary Ellen & cousins Michelle & Jennifer)and one of their daughters husband (Jim)joined us for the fun. Monday we tried the Bloomington adventure and Monday night I visited my Ultimate buddies for a cookout. Yesterday my sister Leslie (superwoman in my eyes), her two girls (Tara & Brooke) and me headed over to Holiday Park for a picnic and an afternoon of fun. We played in the playground and went for a nice little hike along the White River. We also walked through a great and well maintained wildflower bed. Brooke was too pooped to make it to the nature center. Last night I snuck over to Riverside park for a little pickup Ultimate.

Today I convinced my folks to go for a nice long walk in their neighborhood. It was fairly early, around 7:15 AM, but the sun was shining and the flowers in all the yards kept us smiling. It was good to get the blood moving early. My Mom volunteered to watch my nieces again so we decided to make it another family day. My Mom, Dad, Tara, Brooke and me all piled into the car and headed downtown to the canal. It really is amazing how the downtown is being transformed into a vibrant center with all kinds of activities. The canal walk allows access to so many things, like White River State Park, which contains the National Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, The Eiteljorg Museum (currently undergoing a huge addition/renovation project), The Indy IMAX,The Indiana State Museum, The Indianapolis Zoo,The NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, White River Gardens, and Victory Field. The canal also hosts the USS Indianapolis Memorial and is next to the Indianapolis Tennis Center, which is currently hosting .The RCA Tennis Championship. As you can imagine, there was alot to see and with a 3 year-old and a ten year-old we knew we had limited time. We rented a four person surrey and did our best against the 92 degree F temperatures and hot July sun. It was super fun, with all of us walking away from the day exhausted.

Tonight I got to have dinner with my friends Garrett, Teresa and their awesome daughter Jena (Garrett is a commenter on this site) at a new Thai restaurant on the northside called Sawasdee...outstanding food and excellent company. I looked across the table at Jena and just was amazed at how much she has grown...I can't believe she is seven. We'll all be heading up to Michigan on Friday for the start of our annual weeklong vacation on the shores of Lake Michigan. Yeehaa.

That's it for tonight.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Freaks Come Out At Night

...Or what I did to kill two hours in Spokane, Washington.  I'm back in Indiana for the first week of my second two week vacation in a month and a half.  I think it is safe to say I'm pushing the limit with my employers (not that I meant to, it's jsut the way the vacations fell this year. Two weeks in France last month and now a week in Indiana and a week in Michigan....yes, you ARE right, I cannot complain).  Anyhow, with all the last minute planning for the trip to France, I forgot to actually purchase my plane ticket back to Indiana.  I tried to wrangle a frequent flyer trip out of Northwest Airlines and using my Merrill Lynch miles but in the end I didn't have enough miles bacause my departure date was too close. I was left with the only other viable option, purchasing my ticket through Priceline. And the best deal was to leave from Spokane, which is a little over three hours due west of Missoula.
 
My original intent was to leave Missoula early and get a cheap hotel room in Spokane but I didn't get packed in time.  Plan B was to try and sleep for 3 or 4 hours and then leave Missoula around 1:00 AM so that I could arrive in Spokane at about 3:15 AM (Missoula is Mountain Standard Time and Spokane is West Coast time so I gained an hour traveling west).  But it was well over 80 degres in my house and I just couldn't sleep, so I went with impromptu plan C...Ileft Missoula at 10:30PM.  The drive over was actually quite nice, other than hitting a huge piece of re-tread and almost hitting a full size deer.  I stopped at Lookout Pass on the Montana-Idaho border to stretch and look up at the stars:  Out there in the middle of the night like that you can see the Milky Way and the night sky is so black and full of stars. I stopped again for a short snooze in one of the "truck pullout" spots along the highway...not really a rest stop, just a place for truckers to pull over when they get too tired.  I got into Spokane around 1:30 AM and located the Airport with no problems.  So there I sat, at the airport, trying to decide whether to park the car and sleep for a couple of hours or just what else to do.  I decided to try and locate some off-site  parking, as my quick calculation of prcing revealed I'd be paying well over $60US to park for two weeks.  I drove down a little road that lead to HWY 2 and saw some lights off in the distance so I turned left and headed down the road.  I wound up coming up to an area that had alot of flashing red, blue and yellow lights.  Witht he ol' silent "what the heck" I turned and came across the Kalispell Indian-owned Northern Quest Casino.  At 2:00 AM, things were hopping. The parking lots were full, shuttle buses were unloading guests from somewhere and signs and berriers indicated new construction was fully underway.  This was too good of a people-watching opportunity to pass up, so I drove past the complimentary valet parking and self-parked my car.  The doors were manned by people that were way too happy for 2:00 AM.  Once inside, the lighting was such that it could easily have been 2:00 PM in the afternoon. The place was absolutely packed, and the front entry was lined with blackjack, roulette and craps tables.  The huge casino was also stocked with seemingly unending rows of various types of slot machines. There were traditonal slots, alien themed slots, gangsta slots, racing slots, bad girl slots and many, many more.  People appeared tethered to the machines, until I realized that they were actually plugged into the machines by a sort of pre-paid gambling slot card, attached to their clothing generally.  As an untrained observer, this looked totally eerie to see these people, many of them bleery-eyed and chain-smoking, sitting like zombies, pushing buttons to the machines they were stuck too.
 
There seemed to be quite a few people who came there after completing their work shift somewhere else, as evidenced by the many people in the uniforms of gas stations, movie theatres and bad restaurants.  Then there were the young twenty-somethings out partying; the girls with too much makeup and not enough clothes and the guys with wife-beater t-shirts, bad tattoos and baseball caps, slightly askew. The best guy I saw in this group was a guy wearing a black t-shirt with a [icture of the USA, filled in with the flag and these words superimposed over the top, "Fu*k You I Live Here", only there was a "c" instead of a "*". Nice, buddy, real nice.  The other group hoping for a jackpot seemed to me to be a Vietnamese/Chinese mix. This group seemed to go for the alien-themed slots and hung out in clumps, feeding several machines at a time with their pre-paid card tehters strainging to strech from their necks.  Finally, I saw a tremendous number of extremely overweight and otherwise unhealthy women in house-dress type getups.  I spent a good hour walking around and observing until I noticed that the same plainclothes security officer kept shadowing me and decided it was time to move on.
 
After the casino I decided to drive back into downtown Spokane so I could locate this mall that everyone in Missoula says is the place to shop.  They have a Nordstrom's (ooooohhhhhhh).  As you may imagine, at 3:00 AM, downtown was abandoned to the night people.  Besides the police, which seemed to be everywhere, I saw a couple of kids on low-rider bicycles that were all tricked out, a couple of couples doing the drunk walk and a few night workers but not much else. The downtown seemed pleasant enough and the mall does indeed look pretty cool.  I headed to the local Seven-Eleven and this is where the night action heated up.  One look at the cashier and my hands began to sweat, feeling I was about to hit the jackpot when it comes to watching night-time freakiness. The cashier was a dude with short brown hair, except for this teeny-timy pony tail (we call them rat tails) that grew from behind his left ear half way down his back and had a few little feathers weaved into it.  He also had a little twitch that caused me to look about for the candid camera hidden camera.  Within 30 seconds of entering the convenience store I was joined by two young adults who were hopped up on some mind altering substance. As I wandered the store I watched them buy two boxes of powdered donuts, a bag of Doritos and a 6-pack of bottled water. They left the store and sat on the curb devouring the donutw and laughing. Next came a very drunk man, very much with the construction worker look going.  He never entered the store, instead he sort of lurked in front, with his body fighting his mind in a constant bob and weave maneuver, talking to anyone that passd by.  I was int he store for about 30 minutes and got to see skateboarders, drunks, night-shift people heading home, mullet-wearing & souped-up car drivin' late night heros and party goers.  It was great people watching.
 
Alas, it was time to head to the airport. I parked the car and caught the shuttle to the airport. I rode with 4 TSA employees, heading in for the early morning shift. We got to the terminal about 3:45 and I was surprised to find I wasn't the first one there. Already there were two older couples, a thin & lanky dude sleeping and an older Native American man with a Mohawk and long ponytail.  The ponytail seemed the most interesting so I sauntered over his way, plopped my luggage down and gave him the opening "good morning line".  Turns out he was headiing up to a town called Tahsis, in British Columbia, for a week of visiting friends and fishing.  Soon thereafter the airline employees arrived and we could check-in. As I was standing in line to check in, I began to smell that awful "ripe human" smell and turned to find the same tall & lanky dude who had been sleeping before: As it turned out I may have met the one other human in the world who can talk more than I can.  "DW" is what I called him, mainly because of the fancy D tattoed on his left forearm and W tattoed on his right forearm.  The font was that sort of Gothic.  DW just talked my ear off, saying he'd been sleeping in the terminal since about 2:00 AM and was trying to get back to Seattle so he could catch another flight to Ohio.  I half-listened but spent more time staring at the couple behind him, trying to figure out if the young girl was a stripper with her boyfriend or if I was just out of touch with fashion and this was the latest in a spiraling trshy fashion trend inspired by Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera.  Anyhow, DW just wanted to talk and I was his sounding board.  He sat right down next to me in the boarding area, ripe smell and all and proceeded to tell me he was on his way to Ohio to get re-certified.  I finally decided to bite and asked, "re-certified for what"?  This is where things got interesting.  As it turns out, DW is a repo-man. He's a sort of transportation specialist and works freelances for a series of repossession companies.  He is on-call, 24/7 to drive repossed vehicles wherever the job takes him.  Just the day before he had arrived back from San Diego, where he drove a Lincoln towncar.  He was at home when his pager went off and the number was from his favorite guy, the guy named Dave who "takes care of..." DW. Dave asked him to drive his car to SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) and wait to be picked up.  He was picked up in a van by a guy who handed him instructions on where to drop off the repo...Spokane.  They then drove to a corner and waited. About 30 minutes later the vehicle, a 1992 Fleetwood RV, loaded, squeled around the corner and DW went to work. He hopped in while another guy hopped out.  The van sped away in one direction and DW took off in the other.  He drove the 6 hours over to Spokane, dropped the RV off in the long-term parking and took the shuttle to the airport. A ticket was waiting for him at check-in.  He was then catching a flight to Ohio for some special long-haul driver re-certification because his next vehicle is a semi-trailer he has to drive from Ohio to California.  It was a wild tale and seemed almost movie-like.  I threw DW off with my first quesiton...how do you know these are really repos and not just stolen.  He got a very confused look on his face, thought about it for a few seconds and said, "I just know.  I see papers".  DW spends his days and nights waiting for his beeper to go off. He says he can make $1000.00 a day but usually makes $300 - $500.00 every day or two.  He wants to "retire" and buy a house in a town south of Seattle called Puyallup and get a garden.  Somehow I don't get the impression that will happen soon. DW was strung out and reminded me of a cross between two king of the hill King of the Hill characters, Boomhauer and Dale. It was a strange morning.
 
The Freaks really do come out at night.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Arlee Powwow

Somehow an earlier post about the Arlee powwow was lost. I'm trying it again. Over the July 4th weekend I ventured up to Arlee, Montana for the 116th annual Arlee powwow. It was an amazing event attended by Native Americans from the USA and Canada and plenty of non-natives alike. The powwow is a celebration made even more important by the coincidence with the holiday weekend. Originally, during this time of year, tribes from the area would send their boys out to become men. They would hunt and also battle other boys from other tribes. The ones who returned would gather in the river valley to dance and celebrate and also to mourn for the ones who didn't return. This ritual was replaced with the Powwow. Now they celebrate with dance and honor those who've passed on. Their dance also honors native Veteran's and I was honored to meet an Vietnam Veteran wearing the Navy Cross, a Purple heart,a Vietnam campaign medal and many others I did not recognize.

I was lucky enough to witness the grand entry, a portion of the powoww dedicated to traditional dance and costume. I saw over 400 dancers enter the pavilion, from Chippewa-Cree & Blackfoot to Kootenai and Salish. They entered in a big circle with each dancer wearing the traditional costume of his or her tribe. First came the honor guard, which on this grand entry was staffed by Chippewa, then came the older men, then older women forming a circle on the outside, then the young men strutting their stuff and dancing in their unique manner, then the young women forming a circle inside the older women, then the young children. The young .Powwow boys all seemed very proud.

The skyline was full of tepees, RV's and tents set up by the Native participants. The Powwow was a five-day event, with four of the days open to the public. There were traditional games (the stick game was so fun to watch), craft booths, food and even some gambling in addition to the dancing. The elders sat and talked and the young people ran around playing games, flirting and tried to look cool. Arlee is not a big town and is on the reservation, so I was really surprised by how nice the fairgrounds were.

I read the biography of one of the older dancers, who is an elder in the Kootenai tribe, a once large nation from the area now known as western Montana and Northern Idaho, who now number around 400 and are confined to a small area near Lake Pend Orielle in northern Idaho. He remembers how the dance used to strictly be to honor others or to dance for others and how it started to become a competitor in the 1940's and now brings in more people who dance for money than to honor their people. He was very sad about that and says he still dances to honor his people or to help someone in need. He is a very kind and wise man. He also was very upset about all the trash and the health of the Indian people. He said the young people were not honoring the Earth with all their trash...and there was quite a bit of trash thrown about.

While I was at the powwow I had so much fun. The costumes and dance are so beautiful. I saw my friends Kay Kiely and Gita Saedi and Kay's son Hayden. Gita is doing a documentary on Native Americans right now, so I am looking forward to hearing about her work. I went to the Powwow with the Simmons family and Nick & Alex (7 & 5) were pretty impressed by the costumes and turtle shells, animal pelts and skulls.

But while I was there I never really looked beyond the surface. I tend to identify with my Cherokee heritage but would never express that to a true native and it was only after I left the powwow that I started thinking about the plight of the people. Looking back, I now realize how many sick people I saw at the powwow and also the large number of obese natives who were there. I looked into it a little bit and watched part of a show last night dealing with this exact issue. It seems that before WWII, many native peoples were still trying to eat a traditional diet with plants and vegetables that they had been eating for centuries. They were still largely living outside of American consumerism...I guess American consumerism wasn't in full swing before WWII anyway. During WWII, many Indian men joined the service and the poverty on reservations worsened. US Government programs, designed to supplement food during this time, introduced foods that were high in fat content and the Indian diet changed. Many of these men did not return after the war and in many cases, reservation life was already changing and welfare life was being introduced. The National Institute for Health has been studying the Pima Indians of Arizona, who are the most obese group of people in the USA and have determined that there actually is a genetic difference that contributes to obesity and diabetes in Indians and much of this is triggered by diet. Amazing. The amount of diabetes is astounding, now at over 50%. Read this article for more information.

The Powwow is a time to celebrate and celebrate everyone did. It was a great way to spend the holiday weekend. I do hope the plight of the Indian people can be addressed and hope to get involved with organizations aimed at improving life for Native Americans.

The New Allmusic.com

Oh man am I stoked. This morning I went to one of my favorite music websites, allmusic.com to do a search for the artists of a particular song and to my complete surprise the site was completely different. it has been tottally re-vamped and amped up with all kinds of advanced features making a guy like me practically explode with excitement.

Allmusic.com has been my #1 source for information about songs, artists and albuns for some time and I've always wished you could have some specific advanced search features, like being able to do a sub-search or narrow down a general search or drill down in the genre section. Well now you can! The site already had some great features, but now it's even better. They've added a ton of classical music content, added expanded artists & album information (credits, songs, charts & awards) and generally made my day.


You can now register with the site too and subscribe to specific newsletters and other email offerings. They've added 30 second music samples and a new feature allowing you to sort your search results.

Sweet!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sandpoint, Idaho

Last weekend I headed about three hours north and west of Missoula to one of the greatest little towns I've been to in a long time: Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint has a population of about 6,500 people and sits on the shores of Lake Pend Orielle (French for "Ear Pendent"), a 43 mile long and 1,000 foot beauty of a lake if there ever was one. Here's a picture of the lake:


I was in Sandpoint for the first annual Mountain2Lake Ultimate Classic, an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. I'm an Ultimate junkie, although my days of trying to be a serious Ultimate athlete on a competitive club team are quickly giving way to playing more of a supportive role and having more fun. I played on a Missoula team of players, most of whom play the sport on a recreational level and not on the competitive level. Overall Missoula sent 21 folks on 3 different teams to the tourney. There were nine teams from as far away as Bozeman, Montana and Calgary, British Columbia. The tourney was very well organized for a first year tourney and even though two of the fields were less than stellar, overall the tournament was pretty awesome.

The 17 of us who played on the Missoula Booty "Simple Green" team had a fantastic weekend, going 3-1 on Saturday (our only loss was to Bozeman). We finished the day off with a big team swim in the lake. The tourney party featured a fantastic catered meal, a nice band and games of cups. On Sunday we got an immediate mental boost upon seeing the front Page of the Spokane newspapers' Sports section...there was an article about the tournament featuring a huge picture of one of our players. We faced Bozeman in the quarterfinals and came out strong before Bozeman took the lead, but we came back to take the half and never looked back, beating them 10-8 in a time capped game that featured some incredibly sick defense and multiple scores by one of our new players, Chelci "Marathon" Bruno. It was really fun for me to watch how much fun she was having. That set us up to play the second seeded Spokeheads. Watching them drill and warm-up I had serious doubts we could compete with them. They definitely had superior athletes on
the team but we were not to be denied: I can honestly say we played awesome. We had one guy that was flying around making huge layout D blocks and all the breaks went our way. We jumped up on them early and gained confidence with each score. They tried to clamp a zone on us and we shredded it. They tried to run a set play and we defended it. We
went up 5-1 and they called a timeout. We closed the half at 7-3 and poured it on. Everyone was on top of their game and smiles could be seen all around. They made a mini-run in the second half before we ended their comeback bid, winning 13-7.

Next came the tourney awards. Awards were given for most spirited male and female players, most spirited team, MVP male and MVP female. You could nominate someone from your own or another team. We were the winner for the most spirited team, two of our women were awarded the MVP female awards and one of our guys came home
with most spirited male award....Missoula represented!

Finally, the finals. We faced a well rested and superior team from Moscow, Idaho. The team had people from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Canada. They were all very good Ultimate players who could easily play at the next level. We had hoped to get a chance to play them, as three players from Missoula decided to play with them rather than us. They were a far superior team as was evident by their offense, which went through us like a hot knife through butter. Even if we hadn't been exhausted, hurt and inexperienced,
the Moscow team was just better. We dropped easy discs, clogged cuts and generally played like doo-doo. They creamed us....going up 9-0 before we could put a point on the board. We actually played a pretty good second half, losing that half 6-4, but overall they were just better in their 13-4 victory. From our perspective we were disappointed
to have played so great all weekend but to have nothing left in our tanks for the finals.

It really was a fun weekend. For some it was their first tourney, for others their first trip to a finals game and for others still it was a rekindling of that fire for the sport. Our team had 4 players over 40 and 4 more over 35. It was the first tourney in 11 years for Garrick, who played like a monster all weekend. It was the first tourney for his wife Kathryn, who was just so pleasant and fun all weekend. She had to leave early Sunday to drive back to Arlee, Montana in the Jocko Valley, where she is helping transform a farm into an organic farm. She was going to harvest raspberries.

The drive over to Sandpoint was unbelievable. We took HWY 200, which winds along the Clark Fork River and between the Cabinet Mountains and the Bitterrroot Range. The highway passes through the Salish & Kootenai lands of the Flathead Reservation and the Lolo & Kaanski National Forests. It is windy and full of wildlife so we had to be alert at all times. We took the highway on the way back, passing be the equally beautiful Lake Couer d'Alene.

Here's a picture of our team, happy and exhausted after taking 2nd place
Missoula Booty Simple Green

Friday, July 09, 2004

Tara & Brooke

My Mom just forwarded a new picture of my two favorite girls...ny niece's Tara & Brooke. It is so cute I just have to share Tara & Brooke 2004. I can't believe how old they are getting and I guess that means I can't believe how old I am getting!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just Head Up Miller Crick

That's what I was told anyway. I never did find the trailhead, but I did find some beautiful Montana wildflowers including Indian paintbrushes, bitterroot, lupine and like these red paintbrushes and this beargrass

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Giggling Gillian

Mmmmm...am winding down from a really wonderful 4th of July. I'm still battling my lung infection, so any thoughts of heavy exercising were out. Some of my friends were up at Flathead Lake, some were in Idaho and just about everyone else went on a big mountain bike ride, so I was left to my own devices for the day. I decided to try and find this scenic loop hike up in the mountains that I heard about. The location is in the Lolo National Forest, near the Forest Service roads that access Schwartz Creek and Upper Miller Creek (for those of you GPS freakers out there...Garrett, you know I'm talking to you). Exhibiting my still novice status as a Montana resident, I didn't bother to take my Lolo Forest map or any other guidebooks, I just got in the car and started driving. As a side note, that is how easy it is to get yourself in trouble out here, because it's easy to think, I've got a car and I'll be on a road, how hard can it be? In reality, you can get yourself in trouble pretty easy because it is...wilderness.

Anyhow, I got sort of lost, as the atlas I do have just isn't detailed enough to give me Forest Service road numbers. I followed the drainage and logging roads out, winding up on the other side of the mountains, about 18 miles east and south of Missoula. Even though I got lost and didn't find the trailhead I was looking for, I still had a fantastic drive and saw many beautiful wildflowers, streams and some amazing nature. Last year a huge forest fire ripped through that part of the forest, so I actually drove through the burn. The contrast of the blackened tree stumps and clusters of burned vegetation against the explosion of green from the new growth, all set off against a blazing July blue sky was really quite remarkable. The other remarkable thing was when I rounded a corner on this little one lane dirt road in the middle of nowhere and came across a full on little temporary village of Hmong people...mushroom hunters. Burned areas are the best for hunting here Morel mushrooms and the Hmong of Missoula are prolific mushroom hunters...they sell them every weekend at the Farmer's Market. I mean it was really surreal, to be lost, in the middle of a huge national forest, on top of a mountain and to see this makeshift place, complete with family tents, a port-a-potty (how the heck they got that up there I still don't understand), an eating tent and other outbuildings. They'd cleared an area and had fire rings and everything.

Anyhow, I made it back into Missoula in time to take advantage of an invitation for a cookout with my friends Karl, Lori and Colin, Amber & little baby Gillian up at Karl and Lori's home (they live up the Grant Creek drainage, about 2 miles out of town and there house was the site of my first bear sighting...two years ago today); I did a quick search on The food Network's website and found a spiced up deviled eggs recipe that I thought might add some pizzazz to the party and so I set about making eggs. It started to rain outside and got pretty cold, but this didn't put a damper on my spirits, which were quite high. My eggs turned out great (thanks Emeril Lagasse)and so I headed off to the party.

Now Gillian Sherrill is just one year old, but of all my friends children I know her the least and we've never really bonded. This probably wouldn't bother anyone else but not everyone else is as crazy about kids and little old people as I am...I just love kids and I take it as a personal problem when I don't get a kid to like me right away. Gillian has never shown much interest in me and she started off the same way tonight. Ahh, but tonight I had my mojo going and before long she was in my arms and we were searching for birds outside. The rain stopped and the sun came out and Gillian giggled. We ended up having a grand time and it gave Colin and Amber a little break. Gillian flirted with me the entire night (not to worry, as I said, she is only one).

The night ended with Karl, Lori and I driving to the top of a "hill" (really it is end of a mountains) that blocks the view of Missoula from those folks and critters in the Grant Creek drainage to view the Missoula fireworks down below. It was a wonderful show and the city looked so pretty from up above like that.

On the way home I got to talk to my folks, who watched the fireworks back home up in Noblesville this year, rather than fighting the crowds in downtown Indianapolis. Annie is sicker than a dog, so I decided to let her sleep and hope she's dreaming of fireworks.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Mom's Touch

Last year I bought my first home. It took awhile and it was here in Missoula, not in Indianapolis where I lived my previous 38 years, but I finally did it and I've been putting my personal touches on this old house ever since. In september of last year, My Mom & Dad drove out to help me paint the house and work on the yard. We took a plain white house, with a crappy yard, and transformed it into one of the gems on the neighborhood. Dad was a huge help with painting the house transforming it into this while Mom and I hacked away an 8-foot wide swath of grass, hauled in a couple of truckloads of dirt and created a garden. Mom worked for almost three days planting, arranging and plotting out the groth of the garden. Well, my garden in now in full bloom and, thanks to Mom's touch, it is beautiful I love spending time in the garden and everytime I'm out there someone stops to tell me how nice my house and garden look. It makes me pretty happy and makes me smile, thinking of my folks and the TLC they put into my new house.

2004 Tour de France

The day is finally here for Lance Armstrong in his quest to do what no other rider has ever done, win 6 straight Tours. This year I'm getting in on the fun with some other friends, playing fantasy Tour through Fantasy CyclingNews.com. My team name is Lucky Spoke.

For the cost of $10.00 you get 9,000 points to be used in selecting 15 riders. I like Lance, Tyler, Iban Mayo, Petacchi and Betini...we'll see how my Tour knowledge plays out.

Come play along

Friday, July 02, 2004

GMail is Here

Pretty excited about the new beta version of Google's email offering, called gmail. My friend Beth beat me to the punch and set up an account before I could get to it, but she was kind enough to send me an invitation and I jumped all over it. Originally I posted my gmail address here, but m super smart friend Bruce reminded me that I was exposiing my address to every spambot out there, so if you want to write to me at gmail, use one of my established email addresses to contact me and I'll give you my new gmail address. GMail will allow me to use keyword searches to find things from ANY email I send or receive through the account and to archive rather than throw away mail with tons of free storage space.

Check it out at google gmail