Archive for April, 2014

From Jackpot to the Magic Valley

April 27, 2014

You probably aren’t panicked about this, or anything, but I never got us (David, Eric, and I) safely home from our weekend get-away to the City of Rocks two weekends (and two blogs) ago. You’ve been worried, haven’t you? No? I do have a few more photos to share, granted, it has occurred to me that, given modern technology, smart phones, and the like – just about every other Joe Blow on earth has photos to share, too. Yeah, but do they have THIS photo:

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of us entering Jackpot, Nevada, a gambling town in northern Nevada sitting on Highway 93 about a mile south of the Idaho border.

Jackpot, Nevada, middle of no-where. Population: 1200 – of which, save a few stragglers out on the nearby golfcourse, I’ve likely about captured the entire population in this photo.

That tall tower on the left is Cactus Pete’s Hotel and Casino and off to the right is the Horseshoe Inn and Casino (owned by Cactus Pete’s). Otherwise you can stay at the West Star Resort on Poker Street or the Four Jacks Hotel a bit further south on Highway 93.

We had reserved a room at the Horseshoe for Saturday night (April 12) on account of to consider this a ‘weekend’ get-away we had to be away at least one more night. Jackpot is about two hours south of the City of Rocks. Cactus Pete’s brings in respectable entertainment from time to time, too, and I was game to see a show. Eric and David were game too – for about any show, really. Oh WOW! The Chippendales 25th Year Anniversary Show is in town! – an all-macho-male erotica troupe of ten hunky guys putting on a big sexy strip show! Check out the link here. (Great photos! You could piece them together for your own virtual show. Gr-oww-lll!!!)

“The Chippendales dancers’ distinctive upper body costumes include a bow tie and shirt cuffs worn on an otherwise bare torso.” Whoopee! “Established in 1979, Chippendales was the first all-male stripping troupe to make a business performing for mostly female audiences. Through the quality of its staging and choreography, Chippendales also helped legitimize stripping as a form of popular entertainment.”

“We’re not going.” Declared Eric and David.

“AWWWWWWW.”

They played poker instead, which was fine with me. I was exhausted anyway, from all that hiking in the City of Rocks we did earlier today, and I fell straight into bed after dinner. As for Eric and David’s success at the Poker tables, let me just say, they were both back in the room before midnight and neither one are furthering their fantasies about quitting their day jobs and becoming professional poker players.

It’s Sunday morning now, and we’ve hit the road north back toward Idaho Falls, through Twin Falls, or the area known in Idaho as the “Magic Valley.” It’s magic all right, with the smell of concentrated cow manure strong enough to burn out the insides of your nostrils. We must have passed about five enormous cattle feedlot operations. I tried to just ignore them at first but finally snapped a photo of one.

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In these operations the cattle are fenced in – in a big mud-shit hole (surrounded in the fenced area by huge mounds of collected manure) and the rancher just sets the hay bales along the outside perimeter of the fence – with holes in the fence barely large enough for the cows to stick their heads through to get the hay. We passed the largest feedlot you could ever imagine, which was back from the road about a half mile. You could barely see it; we gasped to glimpse the size of it – you could surely smell how large it was. I have now solemnly sworn to serve only pastured beef raised in humane conditions at our house (and I’m sticking to it). The images and smells of those feed lots still make me sad, and sick!

The feedlots aside, (YUCK YUCK YUCK) there is a very magical place in the Magic Valley, Shoshone Falls – a waterfall on the Snake River located about five miles east of Twin Falls. At 212 Feet high and about 900 feet wide, they are known as the Niagra of The West. The Shoshone Falls are actually 45 feet higher than Niagra Falls.

Depending on the volume of water present in the falls it may take on many different forms. When the water is high it will rage over the cliffs in a solid broad wall of water, and drop low enough (depending on time of year and diversion of the Snake River for irrigation) to where three or four delicate streams braid down the nearly dry cliffs. (Check out this great informational link about the Falls)

A park overlooking the waterfall is owned and operated by the City of Twin Falls. Here we are, standing on the overhang checking out the falls and the canyon. I see Eric is wearing his bomber hat and another one of his fashionable t-shirts:

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offering invaluable care-for-the-liver advice.

Here is a picture of the canyon below the falls (taken on Sunday, April 13, 2014.)

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Gorgeous! With a beautiful sky to match.

In 1974 daredevil Evil Knievel attempted to jump the south ridge of the Snake River Canyon – about 2 miles down that canyon from where we are standing.

And here are pictures of the falls:

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“Braided streams.”

Okay, so today the water level is low and although it’s still beautiful, it’s a bit underwhelming compared to the experience we had here three years ago, June 11, 2011. Granted, we were standing here at the same time the Snake River in Idaho Falls was overflowing its banks, flooding the riverside parks. But hey! We took photos and videos of it then. And I still have them on my i-Phone. Of course. Here they are:

The canyon:

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The Falls:

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My video of the falls:

David’s video of the falls:

And one last shot of a very magnificent rainbow.

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Yeah. The ‘Magic Valley’ in south cental Idaho. You really gotta see it to believe it.

Childhood Easter Accoutrements and Other Stuff

April 22, 2014

Easter has come and gone but not without my recalling memories from childhood of my family dressing up for church on Easter Sunday. It was no small feat with a family of eight children – 4 boys and 4 girls. I was nestled smack dab in the middle of the 4 boys – so my parents had 2 girls, 2 boys, then me, then 2 boys, then the youngest was a girl. It’s an ordeal just describing the number of kids, gender birth order, etc. well, just imagine the ordeal of getting us all ready for Easter Sunday Church Service. Of course, we were never on time, and so that was also a huge ordeal – the ten of us blowing in the doors with the Service in full session, cramming ourselves into already crowded pews. We were never on time to church, period, per my recollection, save the one Sunday morning that both my dad and my older sister, Steph, unbeknownst to each other, set the kitchen clock forward 10 minutes. That Sunday we arrived to service right on the button, and it seemed a miracle (who says miracles don’t happen in church?).

So this past Sunday I was amused to find our paper delivery man had slept in – like, by four hours to my calculation, since our Sunday paper didn’t arrive till 11 AM. I guess that’s what triggered my childhood memories of Easter. Lateness. Anyway, I emailed my sister Steph, wishing her a Happy Easter, and reminisced about our large family trying to pull off church with the girls in their stiff white hats with the brims piled high with pink and yellow silk flowers, white gloves, and the weather was usually terrible – so our hats would blow off our heads and halfway across the lawn as soon as we stepped out the front door. Steph replied back, “Mom always took so seriously getting us our accoutrements for Easter. I remember how much I loved that little ‘muff’ – that fluffy white contraption you could tuck your hands into to keep warm.”

The muff!

I remember that ‘muff’. It was a white tube, maybe 12″ long, 7″ wide, made of fake rabbit fur. Lined with satin. You stick your hands into each end where they can nestle in and keep warm. I wore it on Easter one year and it must have been a hand-me-down from Susie and Steph – because I can’t imagine (1) mom buying two muffs and (2) any girl wearing a muff more than once. You shove your hands into the muff which renders your hands completely useless – you’re now a double-hand amputee – I can’t imagine even wearing the muff in the car, are you kidding? While sitting next to your brothers? You need your hands to defend yourself. What, do you bop your brothers over the head with the muff when they start picking on you? Then they grab the muff and play keep-away, tossing it over your head in the back seat, you madly groping the air trying to get it back. I must have worn it on my forearm, actually – what a pain-in-the butt accoutrement. Yeah, you don your hat and muff and walk out the front door – your hat blows off – so what do you do with the muff when you shed it to chase after your hat, whilst trying to keep from getting your patent leather shoes all muddied too?

Even ‘Barbie’ had a muff as a fashion accessory. I Googled it just in case your’re skeptical – here is the link -(Hey, maybe I’d like to buy a muff for Barbie, you know, if I still had one …) My Barbies from childhood had zits, boobs punctured with needles, bitten off toes, singed hair, and were usually found naked, compliments of my brothers. If any of my Barbies had a muff it was probably last seen wrapped around one of the kitchen knives. Or maybe affixed over the end of the dog’s tail. One of my friend’s Barbie’s had a muff, for sure. I distinctly remember it. Except I don’t know how you would play with a Barbie wearing a muff. You shove the muff up on her forearm, bind her hands together, then slide it back over her bound hands. Then you jump her up and down in her stilletos, stiff-legged since her legs don’t bend. What else would you do with her? Move her around so her pony tail flies up and down. You certainly wouldn’t put her behind the wheel of her new Ferrari.

Well, since anyone under the age of 55 will not likely associate the word “muff” with a female fashion accoutrement that hails from the early sixties (specifically worn at Easter) and the Victorian era of history – I will clarify the term using the dictionary – which gives you four definitions: (1) (noun)- “A warm tubular covering for the hands” (2) (noun)- (Sports) “Dropping the ball” (3) (verb) – “fail to catch, as of a ball” (4) (verb) – “make a mess of, destroy, or ruin”.

Well, then if you Google ‘muff’ you will find a fifth definition that arose from “That 70’s Show” – Apparently, ‘muff’ has became slang for ‘vagina.’ That figures. And I suppose anyone reading this who is under the age of 50 (and every male over the age of 10?) already knows this.

“Muff.” Well, it does have a colorful history. For me, anyway.

Albion, Idaho, and the ‘City of Rocks’

April 15, 2014

This past weekend David and I, and my brother Eric, visited the ‘City of Rocks National Reserve’ in south central Idaho. We can hardly travel now without Eric, besides, he is familiar with about every rock and cranny of Idaho and suggested the trip in the first place. Our only condition was wherever we went it had to be ‘south’ – we are so winter-weary. The City of Rocks is about 120 miles southwest of us, near the Utah border.

We left Idaho Falls Friday, April 11 about 4 PM. Destination: Albion, Idaho, a town of about 260 people near the east entrance to the park. We reserved a room at the Albion Bed and Breakfast –

We are south of Burley now, traveling on 500 South toward Albion. Check out the sky! “Lenticular clouds.’ David explains.

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Lenticular clouds ( I Googled it) are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form in the troposphere, normally in perpendicular alignment to the wind direction. (And, yes, we’ve had lots of wind direction.) Due to their shape, they have been offered as an explanation for some Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) sightings. Uh, you mean like the UFO sighting above that town we’re approaching?…

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I can’t resist posting one more photo – of the waxing moon rising between the lenticular clouds:

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We arrive at the Albion Bed and Breakfast just before dark. It is owned and run by a very interesting fellow named Chad, who restored/converted the Albion State Normal School, established in 1893, into a very comfortable place to stay. The school was established as a teacher’s training school but closed it’s doors in 1951. It was in quite a state of disrepair when Chad bought the property about a decade ago. He gave us a tour, describing all the improvements he had made to open it up as a bed and breakfast. Chad served us up a killer homemade breakfast on Saturday morning – here is a link to the B&B – for detailed reviews and photos (including a photo of Chad and his family).

By Saturday late morning we entered the City of Rocks. Here we are embarking on our first hike, the Stripe Rock Loop, near the east (Almo) entrance of the park,.

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We pass a grove of quaking aspen, stunning even in dormancy

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The ‘Inner city’ of the City of Rocks is sprawled out before us in the distance

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with the Albion mountains as a backdrop.

Monsters and critters seem to inhabit the granite spires. I am pretty sure that’s an owl gazing at me

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– the critter on the left of that outcropping.

Now we are looking down the back of someone’s throat – at a giant uvula

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supported by reams of muscle and connective tissue.

Go for the ‘Beef Jello/Banana’ or …

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the North Fork Circle Creek trail? We chose the latter.

There are over 22 miles of hiking in the City of Rocks. Here is a link to a map of the trails.

Granite spires and rock structures range in height from 30-600 feet. There are several enormous textured rock structures that are tailor made for rock climbing. Here is one:

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If you look carefully, you will see two climbers scaling the face of this rock. Here I have zoomed in on the same rock –

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The climbers have several companions at the base manning the ropes.

Eric poses for a photo

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Is that critter in the rock right behind Eric mimicking his pose? Hmmmm?????
(What do YOU think?)

Then we see this Giant riding a Harley with his helmeted side-kick seated behind him.

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David captured a photo of me –

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I had just shed my fleece – the clouds were clearing and the day opened up into marvelous warmth and sunshine.

We passed by “Bucket Land”

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What’s on your bucket list? A close encounter with Aliens?

Next we pass ‘Mad Grandpa Furby with Gentle Turtle,’ surrounded by their offspring

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Protected from eastern invaders by their friend, Giant Snake.

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We’re headed by car now to the ‘Inner City’ of the City of Rocks. Along the way we can hear the howls of

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a southwestern coyote.

We stop at campsite 32, walk a few hundred feet, peer through the widow arch

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and check out the adjacent canyon.

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We drive to the parking lot at “Parking Lot Rock” and hit the Creekside Towers Trail into the ‘Inner City.’

Right off the bat we meet this rhesus monkey – you see his head in profile

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peering to the west.

Then we meet this sad-eyed elephant

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perched all by himself.

And a snake

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sunning himself –

A thinker …

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(David, struck by a bolt of inspiration…),

A proud couple standing erect (shall I say?) amongst some very large boulders

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Female?… and indisputably… MALE

“No, David and Eric, don’t even consider it – you don’t have crash pads.”

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I derive such comfort from these “You Are Here’ Maps:

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Except I doubt the map would be of much use to this person right now…

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traversing the face of this huge granite rock.

We stood and watched her plant, cling, and claw her way toward the top

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connected to a line tethered from the top –

While hungry predators circled above

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Actually, A whole ‘clean-up’ crew was hovering, too wily and swift to capture in a photo.

Gotta put a wrap on this!

We’re headed back toward the car now – ascending the Stairway’s Trail. We open up to this panoramic view:

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And then darned if we don’t run into Mount Rushmore

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A Monument of characters inhabiting the City of Rocks.

Back at the parking lot stands a rock as big as Noah’s Ark – “Parking Lot Rock.” Except the sun is shining so brightly behind it I can’t take a decent photo of it.

I do take photos of the bulletin boards in the parking lot.

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Not too decent either. But Eric and I find the message board interesting. We tried reading them all.

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Then Eric pointed this one out:

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Thank goodness for social media. I bet he’ll be so happy to hear the news from Pegg when she finds him on Facebook. Well, all I can say is, aside from being stiff and broken all over from all that hiking we did today, being the old fart that I am does have its advantages.

Rudy got fat

April 6, 2014

When our two older sons grew up and flew the nest we entered a new stage of life. Even the pets we had when the boys were young grew old and died. So six years ago we got a new puppy. A red miniature poodle. We named him ‘Rudy.” We’ve spoiled him rotten, which is of course, our perogative. After all, he’s just a dog.

But he’s a happy dog living in happy dog heaven. Why? Table scraps. He has trained us to be messy cooks who drop bits of hamburger, cheese, turkey, bacon, cooked brocolli, even ice cream (whilst pretending it’s an ‘accident’, of course). He stands waiting-and-ready by anyone at the kitchen counter, to pluck any wayward bit from mid-air, or to lap up any mess on the floor. He will gladly help with the dishes, too. He’ll hop up on the counter when we aren’t looking, lick the plates clean, you know, so we can just put them in the dishwasher. Lick the counter clean too.

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“You bad dog. Don’t give me that look. You’re not getting up on the counter!”

I remember when we first got Rudy and I was supposedly training him. A book written specifically about poodles stated in bold letters on about page 2: Do not feed poodles table scraps. Nothing should be added to their dog food.” (yes, I can hear you now.)

Lately, for a while now, I’ve realized he’s gotten fat. I’ve started shaming him about it. “You’re fat!” But he’s so adorable and bouncy and cute, and happy, who cares? He’s just a dog.

Signs have been there that he has been, shall I say, ‘expanding’. When we walk him in the park nowadays strangers will say, “Ah, what a cute dog! What kind of dog is he?” To which I’m thinking, Are you daft? Don’t you recognize a poodle? Actually, yes they do. But features like ‘stocky’ and ‘rotund’ or any description reminiscent of a ‘butterball’ do not describe poodles. People do know poodles. They’re just not recognizing that Rudy is one.

So, enter, a fatty tumor on Rudy’s left side. It appeared a couple months ago and has grown bigger. Megan and I took him to the vet last week to have it looked at. We got good news – and bad news. Good news: It’s a confirmed fatty tumor (albeit not a large lump of butter lodged under his skin that he filched from the butter dish). It’s benign. “No – it’s not going to grow tentacles or metastasize.” (Whew!) Bad news: Rudy had gained 1 1/2 LBS since his last visit. (I must stop these visits to the vet!)

“How fat is he?” I ventured to ask. The vet’s assistant hopped right on the question – taking various measurements of Rudy – his neck and head (which, admittedly his head is the only thin part left of him), his upper and lower leg, his torso. Then she disappeared, and returned with this 3-page printout – Rudy’s customized doggie-weight-management program. Page 2 presents the ugly facts along with visuals:

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Can you guess the breed of any of these dogs? I guess it’s your generic ‘tubby-living-a-dog-heaven’s-life’ breed. The news is not good in regards to Rudy. As a male “POO” his ideal weight is 13 1/2 pounds. With his real weight at 20.9 pounds he’s at 48% body fat and “at ‘serious risk’ for arthritis, diabetes, reduced mobility, increased physical injury, Cancer, respiratory disease, kidney disease, Pancreatitis, and shortened life expectancy.”

You expect me to pay for this vet visit?

We left the vet’s office with Rudy on a strict weight reduction plan along with a bounty of doggie heath improvement products, luckily most of them samples: Special Diet dog food, to be precisely measured and rationed throughout the day, reduced to account for additonal supplements, like the sample glucosamine chondroitin chews they sent home with him for joint support. Which begs the question, what about our joints? Give this supplement to our dog and feel it’s not necessary for us? Of course, his incessant leaping off our elevated antique bed would be the equivalent in height to us incessantly leaping off the roof of our front porch. Anyway, don’t think we’re going to spring for the enzymatic powder to sprinkle on his food for dental health – (hey, only 60 bucks for a 4-month supply!). I did buy some enzymatic toothpaste with a doggie toothbrush – both of which have since been sitting on the kitchen counter, unopened.

So my plan is to have Rudy down to 13.49 pounds in 27 weeks. The weight loss graph is all printed out on the third page. I took a ‘before’ picture of him – you know, the ‘before a third of what you see here’ melts away:

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I’m not sure about that look he’s pulling off with his eyes. Maybe a “Are you sure you’re gonna do this to me?” look.

I shared the whole plan with David. “Geez.” he said. “Let him enjoy life. He’s just a dog.”

And then after a long pause, “You’re not going to start on me next are you?”