Tuesday, April 26, 2016

USA Border Crossing

Friday morning was a bittersweet time leaving my friend Russ to head south?  The time spent was wonderful sharing stories, philosophy, catching up on our lives and having a pint or two along the way.  I would be leaving Russ and Rose's warm home hitting the road once again in search of other horizons.  I am driving down my last hours in British Columbia, another ferry crossing and then the border station back into the USA.  Drive through Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, and on to the Portland area of Gresham where I have several friends to visit.

I left Campbell River at 7:15 am with mixed clouds with rain showers during the drive to the ferry terminal.  As I drove along past the town of Courtenay I saw an odd sight.  It was a very tall tree rising above the rest of the forest with dark ominous clouds in the background. The tree appeared to be dead as all the limbs had no leaves but the limbs looked like many arms (10 or so) protruding out of the body of the tree.  It was at least a hundred feet taller than the forest with the dead branches looming over the roadway like a monster in some B horror movie.  On the top most limb was a lone bald eagle sitting there like the gatekeeper to some unknown world.  It was raining lightly which made it more surreal and struck me as odd as I drove past.

Another observation from seeing the lone tree, it was like a tree of life, some leaves at the bottom and some gone in the upper limbs.  Are the leaves like friends, some blown off and gone forever while others survived the struggles, the elements like wind, rain, and fire to remain with you even if from afar.  Just one of many thoughts to ponder as one drives alone for many miles at a time.

The ferry ride was uneventful, with the only interesting to me was seeing a helicopter lifting sling loads of supplies off the lighthouse island and dropping them on the deck of a ship anchored just off shore.  I saw the helicopter make 4 loads to the ship from the island as we approached and sailed by. I disembarked the ferry just after noon and headed for the border crossing back into the United States.

The rain had stopped but still overcast with a light wind but warmer temperatures than the morning drive as I saw the first sign telling of delays crossing the border which was about twenty to twenty five minutes.  I proceeded to move into the queue of vehicles waiting for a spot to one of the eight lanes for the passport check.  Some of the guards were actively inspecting the vehicles contents so I figured with all the items and crap I have loaded I might be in for a long day getting across.  I am watching my lane and all the vehicles being checked and how much time is spent going through items in the vehicles.  I am realizing with each vehicle going through I am in for a long delay as he is going through everything in the other vehicles. I’m next so I flash my “new” passport card (like a credit card) to the remote sensor next to the cameras as you approach the guard shack.  Photos taken, card scanned, the vehicle in front of me slowly exits after an extensive search so I slowly approach the guard inside his hut.

I’m upbeat and friendly, “Good afternoon sir, how’s it going for you today.”  No answer.  He took my passport and immediately started asking questions, “Where are you coming from?”  Alaska I respond with a smile. “Where are you headed?” Portland then eventually to San Antonio, Texas. “Are you carrying over ten thousand cash Canadian money?”  I wish, but no sir I’m not.  “Are you carrying any firearms, registered or unregistered?” No sir.  Besides the Flamingo in the front seat are you transporting any other birds?”  Smiling replied, “No sir, just Placido Flamingo and me on this trip.  The rest of the flock is vacationing in Mexico this time of year!”  I thought I saw a little hint of a smile when he said, “Would you roll down your passenger window for me?”  (Rolls window down) He tries to look inside but it is slap full of stuff with my Margaritaville chair staring him in the face.  

He looks at me and says, “Do you have an inventory list for all these items?”  I responded, “No sir, I was just happy I could get everything in here after shipping 600 pounds south.”  He walks back to the back and pops the back, spots a bottle of Jim Beam, closes it and walks back to my window.  I see you have “Jim” traveling with you.  I did not respond.

His next question and my answer I think finally broke the Ice (no pun intended).  “What if I have you pull over there and we empty all your items and go through everything?”  I smiled my big Southern smile and replied, “I am laid off of work, and I have all the time in the world.  Where would you like me to pull to and I’ll be glad to help you look at anything you want!  It will give me a chance to rearrange things to better access some items that I loaded in the wrong place.”

He looked at me, smiled, and said “San Antonio huh?  I loved it when I was stationed there in the Air Force.  Welcome to the United States of America Mr. Whittington, Welcome home!” 

I proceeded to drive about 200 feet and saw this sign.

American the Beautiful, Gotta Love it!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mt. Washington British Columbia

Wednesday Russ and I drove to Mt. Washington for a few hours to possibly hike if the snow has melted enough to make the trails passable.  We both think that high up where the resort is will still be snow covered as the ski resort closed for the winter season last week and the summer bike season will not open until June several months away.

It was about a forty five minute drive south of Campbell River to the turn off up the mountain.  The sun was out, it was warm about 60 degrees with little to no breeze.  The landscape was changing from the farmland at the turnoff to an alpine meadow with mixed forest tracks of thick groupings of trees. There were several high mountain lakes with partially thawed areas with ducks or geese swimming. We made our way on several switchbacks as our elevation changed the higher up the mountainside we went.  The air was fresh and took on a slight chill as the car climbed its way toward the summit.

Looking east you could see the Inside Passage and the BC mainland across the channel.  There was a blue hue much like the southern Appalachians of North Carolina.  Great reminders of the part of the country I grew up and was so familiar to me in my younger years.

As we approached the summit we came across the sign for Mt. Washington.

We climbed the mountain till we arrived at the ski lodge where we walked around a bit taking pictures of the ski slopes, lifts, tubing runs and found a place for lunch that was still open between the seasons.  It was nice with an outside patio where we had a leisurely lunch.  Several people joined us on the patio and talked with us while everyone ate or just took in the beauty of the mountains and the surroundings.

Shortly we left the main lodge area and drove around to Raven Lodge on the south side of the mountaintop.  We were able to take several photos of the mountains, Twin Peak where Placido Flamingo insisted of getting some time in the snow and take in the beauty of everything around us.

We met a couple who were hiking and were on their way into the back country for some snow camping.  We talked with them a bit and they told me of another great place to camp in California near the Salton Sea and Palm Springs.  They had their backpacks loaded and were going to hike in several miles to camp for a couple days.

As we left Raven Lodge there was a nice waterfall back in the woods slightly off the roadway.  I took both a photo and short video so you could hear the beautiful sound of the falling waters on the rocks as the whole mountainside was losing its winter snow pack.

Video of the waterfall sounds.  It was quite refreshing as the temperature was almost 70 degrees out that afternoon.


All in all it was another great day outside taking in all the beauty that was before Russ and I in his home area around Campbell River.  Spending time with friends, reflecting on things does good for the heart and soul.  Another reminder that life is short, be involved in it with those you care for and love and don't miss the opportunity to let them know.

I could see many horizons from this high advantage point today and am reminded of one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs, One Particular Harbor:

And there's that one particular harbour
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within

A most mysterious calling harbour
So far but yet so near
I can see the day when my hair's full gray
And I finally disappear

Campbell River will be in my rear view mirror in the morning and I search out other horizons in my path.  Until next time . . . 


The Campbell River Experience

Campbell River is a coastal city in British Columbia on the east coast of Vancouver Island at the south end of Discovery Passage, which lies along the important coastal Inside Passage shipping route between Seattle and Vancouver shipping docks to Alaskan port cities.  The  population is just over thirty one thousand people with the number growing in summer during the tourist season.  Known as the "Salmon Capitol of the World" there are many areas to fish the different salmon species including salt water and fresh water adventures.  This area enjoys a mild climate with temperatures ranging between 28°F to 73°F year round with November receiving the most rain during the wet season.

I came by ferry from Vancouver via the Tsawwassen ferry terminal arriving in the town of Nanaimo at the Duke Point terminal.  The sailing took 1.5 hours and the time spent was comfortable in large seats with windows to take in the views.  I am a couple weeks early for whale watching but this is the route the migration takes between California, Hawaii and Alaska.  Today there were many sea birds diving into the water catching bait fish.  The wind was not strong but enough to create mini-white capped waves during the crossing.  After going up on the outside deck to see the sights I settled into a seat near the forward port side windows.  I had a great view of the island I was going too (Vancouver Island) and looking back the city of Vancouver getting smaller on the horizon from whence I came earlier this morning.  It was cloudy over Nanaimo with light rain hanging over the hillside but looked clear to the north in the direction I was headed.  It was a quick disembarkation off the ferry and onto the highway.  Russ told me to bear right which upon the highway to Campbell River instead of the left veer road leading into downtown Nanaimo.  The drive was pretty with the highway passing various farms, forests, and varied in terrain with rolling hills along the way.  This highway was just off the coast a few miles and gave quick glimpses of the Inside Passage waters to the east.

The highway was a limited access one with several traffic lights along the way.  They seemed somewhat out of place impeding the normal flow with four or five miles between lights and then you had to stop briefly, resume getting up to highway speeds only again to slow down or stop at the next one.  There was not much traffic so they seemed not needed but during the tourist season it may change a lot from what I was seeing on my drive.  I stopped in the small town of Courtenay on my way to get some fresh flowers for Rose, Russ' wife, a southern tradition going as a guest into someone's home.  I arrived mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day and evening talking as we fixed dinner.  It was an enjoyable evening after several days on the road with no one to talk with.

The day after arriving was pretty much a down day activity wise with time spent pulling things out of my vehicle so I could better arrange things for later in the trip.  I moved items that would not be needed to the middle inside area.  Camping gear, food, and other items that would be needed daily were put into the back area easily accessible every day.  I pulled my tools out for a little work around the house while I am in town.  Another southern tradition leaving things better for your hosts than when you arrived.  Everyone usually has a "honey do" list so it was no problem to do a few small things during my stay. Russ and I mailed a package went to the store and returned home to talk a walk.  We went around the neighborhood into an area of land owned by one of the native corporations which had kept it as green space with bike/hiking trails, wooded areas for wildlife habitat and only allowed foot, horse, or bicycle traffic.

We tried to walk everyday and the normal route was exactly four miles from the house to a local pub where we stopped for a pint, conversation, and enjoying the great weather outside in the patio area.  It was another half mile walk back to the house.  Several days we expanded the walk to about six miles length as it was less that two hours total time to get the exercise and drink.

Friday night Rose decided we would have seafood since it gave her an excuse to eat fresh seafood since Russ does not like that type of food.  No fish, crab, scallops for him, almost seems sad that he has not taste for fresh catch of the day living so near the water.  We decided to make a fresh Cajun style dinner using live dungeness crab, fresh salmon, scallops, onions, potatoes, corn, and other items to make our gumbo dish.  Russ ate his favorite, spaghetti.

Saturday was somewhat of a chore day with us having to get our fishing license for Monday morning. Rose needed to go to Costco for supplies for her food truck business to restock for the next week so we all drove along the coast highway to Courtenay where she dropped Russ and I off at a local brew pub, Gladestone while she went shopping.  We brought along Placido Flamingo which was a conversation starter and curiosity grabbing attention from the normal quiet place.  We spent a couple hours there had a flight of their brews, a couple more that we liked and talked like old friends do.  Russ pointed out a couple things in my thought process I had not considered so the afternoon brought with it an epiphany or two.  All in all a great afternoon. Listened to music in the evening while Russ talked with his brother in France their weekly Saturday night conversation.

Sunday morning was a time for Bailey's coffee and talking with Rose until Russ woke up then we started doing things around the house.  Showed Russ how to use the pressure washer on the deck and trellis to clean off the dirt and stains from no maintenance on it.  Rose nephew is coming in a few weeks and she wanted to have a little project for him to do to occupy his time and learn something new.  Russ and I went for a hike on the tribal land called Beaver Lodge and walked just over five miles where we ended up at the local pub.  We stopped in for a pint and Rose walked up to join us as it was such a beautiful afternoon.  We stayed about an hour and walked the half mile back to the house.

Russ wanted to take me out fishing so Monday morning we awoke to head down to the dock to meet Harry our boat captain on the vessel, Dirty Harry.  We took Placido with us and had a great morning on the water, catching fish, rocks, and watching the wildlife.  Harry told many stories from his thirty years chartering fishing both here in Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala.  It was an interesting day.  Another walk that afternoon and nice fresh fish dinner that evening.

Tuesday was my laundry day and chores around the house until Rose finished her food truck rounds. Went up on the roof and bleached the moss and later in the afternoon she went with us on our walk. We again went up into Beaver Lodge land and made our way back to the local pub called, Royal Coachman.  On our walk there is a small farm in the neighborhood which had pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, and horses. The people with the pigs must be great people since I did not see any signs for "pigs to rent". (reference to Lonesome Dove - Augustus McCrea = “If I had a mind to rent pigs, I'd be mighty upset. A man that likes to rent pigs won't be stopped.”)

Wednesday Russ and I drove to Mt. Washington a local ski resort for some elevated good times and conversations.  I will write about it in my next posting so stay tuned for that.

Thursday (today) was a nice one with going back down to Courtenay to Costco for supplies for Rose's business.  We also stopped by a small brew pub in Cumberland called the Cumberland Brewing Company.  We sat outside and had a light lunch while watching the artsy people in the small town.  It was a nice few hours and the food was wonderful.

On our last walk today Rose again joined us and we talked about my leaving and the fun we have had together on this trip.  We enjoyed a pint at the Royal Coachman before walking home for a nice stuffed pork chop dinner.   Just as we arrived back at the house to cross the street into the driveway we heard loud music coming over the hill above us.  "Born to be Wild" was blaring and could be heard about a block away.  Shortly a moped came over the hill with two people passing us music playing as they slowly went down the street.  A little surreal moment for sure.

My time in Campbell River British Columbia has been wonderful.  Spending time with my friend was like nothing had changed since our last meeting.  The laughter, the sometimes serious discussions about life and living were lively charged banter between us.  The stories told, some Lewis Grizzard memories and more stories had both of us laughing in stitches several times this week.  Thanks Russ and Rose for the hospitality, the warmth of your home and the kindness to this battered and somewhat disheveled person.  The time was well spent, the attitude adjusted somewhat and on the right path right now.  I'm off for other horizons and more friends along the way.

If you ever have a chance to visit this great little city of Campbell River I would highly recommend the time and travel to this beautiful place.  The people are friendly, the town clean and a healthy community feeling is everywhere.  Farewell to this wonderful place and I hope to return again soon.

Tomorrow morning, off to distant horizons, back in the USA, Bellingham, Seattle WA, and Portland, OR.  Jan/Nate/Colin/Donna-Lee I look forward to seeing you again soon.

What a wonderful Nice Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Long and Winding Road South to Campbell River

As I am making my way south from Anchorage to the Lower 48 on the "Where's the Flamingo" International Tour I was invited by my friend Russ' house to stop in and spend a few days.  Now to "stop in" I had to travel through one large state (Alaska), one large Canadian Territory (Yukon), one large Canadian Province (British Columbia), a 1.5 hour ferry ride and a 2 hour drive from the ferry terminal to Russ' house.  So as we southerner's say, I "do drop in" on Russ and his lovely wife Rose for about a week to visit.  

I met Russ online about 14 years ago on a gaming website where we quickly became friends after playing and chatting together for three years finally had an opportunity to meet, oddly in the Seattle airport on our way to a convention in Las Vegas.  I was arriving from Anchorage and Russ flew in from Edmonton Canada where our flights arrived about 20 minutes apart so I met him at his gate and we made our introductions and during the two hour layover found the Seattle taproom and had our first pint together with another friend who flew in from Oregon.  Our real life friendship carried over from our time online playing and chatting about many things.  Our kids were growing up, there were health issues in both families going on during that time and the time spent playing together kept us out of any possible trouble.  During part of this time period I will confess that I did spend more time than I should have online gaming.  Over the years a group of friend meet in different places around the country for a long weekend of fellowship, laughter, catching up on families or work while having some great meals and drinks together.

I left Anchorage at 8:00 am on Sunday morning driving through Glenallen, Tok, to the Canadian border at Beaver. Originally I had planned to stop in Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake in the Yukon but when I arrived in the early evening (7:55 pm) there was still light outside, everything was frozen (lake) so I decided to continue to Haines Junction about an hour away.  I needed fuel and was going to find a place to park for the night but found a self service gas station in town at 9:05 pm, refueled and fixed something to eat and continued to drive toward Whitehorse.  I found a rest area with several trucks and a camper about ten miles before arriving in Whitehorse so decided it was time to stop to sleep as it was just after 11:00 pm.  The temperature was 37° as I fell asleep after my first day driving 710 miles.

Awoke to temperature of 28° and started driving at 8:30 am into Whitehorse looking for somewhere to get a cup of coffee.  Nothing was open and I decided not to drive down the hill into the "downtown" part of the city along the river and continued to drive toward Watson Lake.  Several miles out of town had an moose/vehicle collision incident (previously blogged).  Saw many animals on or near the roadway during this stretch encountering multiple small herds of Caribou, a few moose, several foxes, and eagles along the way.  I stopped in Watson Lake for fuel, lunch, a phone call and pictures of Placido Flamingo and the Sign Forest. It was sunny and warm as I backtracked to Highway 37 south into British Columbia.  I would drive climbing into the mountains up to Dease Lake along a stretch of road approximately 60 miles with the burnt land from a forest fire.  It was in an area the lakes were still frozen but eerily alone with the burnt landscape and contrasting conditions.  

This stretch of road, 6 hours of driving I did not see anyone, another vehicle going in either direction and climbed up over gnat pass summit 3911 ASL (1192 meters) into snow for several hours and upon decent into cloudy overcast for awhile.  Past Bell River II where there were two helicopters parked used for heli-skiing and hauling mining equipment and supplies into the remote mines.  I did see one vehicle refueling but no people as I drove by.  I arrived in Meziadin Junction to refuel about 6:35 pm seeing my first sign of people in this very small native village.  After leaving saw several black bears along the roadway as i continued to drive to Smithers, BC pulling into a rest stop at 9:40 pm.  Second day on the road = 830 miles.

The start of day 3 I awoke to freezing rain on the windshield and windows and looked at the weather forecast for the days intended route.  I had planned to drive from Smithers to Prince George and continue east to Jasper Alberta and spend the night at Lake Louise.  Get up the next morning drive through Banff and west to Kamloops and stop along the way to Vancouver to camp.  My only problem was snow was expected all through the area and snow chains were required so I changed my route from Smithers, Prince George, Lake Williams, Thompson River gorge and stop for the night before going into Vancouver.  I stopped in Abbotsford BC at 6:00 pm got a room for the night for a much needed shower and good nights sleep.  It was raining and the temperature was 42 degrees.   Three days on the road, 2250 miles. 

I wanted to make the 10:15 am ferry from the terminal in Vancouver (tsawwassen) so I left about 8:15 am for the hour drive.  It was raining and 44 degrees so I wanted to make sure I was early but the weather cleared along the way by the time I paid and stopped in line to board the vessel.  it was sunny and 55 degrees so it was nice not having to wear a jacket or sweatshirt this morning.

I met a man in the vehicle behind me who lived half the year on Victoria Island in Nanaimo and the other half the year up north where I had driven from around Whitehorse.  We talked and he was curious about the road conditions as he would be traveling back north the next week.  He saw Placido and wanted to know the story behind him sitting in the passenger seat of my rig.  Another man in the vehicle next to me started talking about where I was headed and where he came from in Portland Oregon.

We shortly loaded the ferry and departed on time at 10:15 am for the one and a half hour sailing to the island.  It was nice being on the water again seeing the sea birds and the mini-white caps on the waves as we crossed from the mainland over to the island.  The ferry had several nice large seating areas, a small cafeteria, bathrooms and upper outside deck all the way around the vessel to sit, site see or enjoy the sun.  I went down to my vehicle and took Placido up on the upper deck for some photos and talked with a few curious people about what I was doing and where I was going.

Nanaimo was starting to rain as I exited the ferry but after a short drive north it turned sunny until I arrived at the house.  I arrived on Wednesday afternoon in Campbell River British Columbia about 1:30 pm and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and evening talking with Rose and Russ.  

Rose headed off to bed about 9 and we stayed up until after 1 am talking and having a few beers catching up on things since our last meeting in Orlando last July.

After four days of driving 2,250 miles through varying conditions, tragedy, spectacular scenery, introspective pondering about my life, my loves and dislikes I arrive to what I find a welcoming home, a truly beautiful small town by the ocean with many things to see and do with a great friend.  I'll write about the Campbell River Experience in my next posting.

"Just when I think I'm near the end, I always see the road a-bending. I wonder what's around the bend.'' - Charles Kuralt

Placido Flamingo and Dirty Harry

Placido Flamingo and Dirty Harry (or spending time on the water again)

While I'm visiting my friend Russ and his wife Rose in Campbell River, British Columbia one of the the weekend conversations turned to seafood and fishing.  Russ doesn't like eating seafood or fishing for that matter but it was decided we (Rose and & I) would make a seafood dinner for supper and Russ would eat one of his favorites, spaghetti.  Our meal consisted of fresh live dungeness crab and salmon, scallops, prawns with potatoes, onion, corn, rice, and Cajun seasoning.  It turned into a very nice meal for all and Russ decided that coming from the north hinterland of Alaska where fishing is a big pastime that I should go fishing in Campbell River the "Salmon Capitol of the World".  He booked us a half day charter on the boat "Dirty Harry" and it's captain, Harry.  The trip was set up for Monday morning to arrive at the dock at eight A.M. which we arrived a few minutes early to bring our gear down the gangway to the dock slip where the boat was moored.

We put our cooler of food and beer in the roll cart as well as a bag with our weather gear if needed. The gangway leading down to the boats drops about thirty feet due to the tide changes of about fifteen feet in this area.  It was before low tide so the water in the boat harbor and inside passage were dropping for another two hours till low tide.  We make our way to the boat and drop off the gear and can see the captain Harry preparing the fishing gear on the rear deck of the boat.  We do our greetings and introductions and start to pull the gear out of the cart and Harry sees this pink flamingo with a red Christmas hat and green scarf and you could tell by the look on his face what are these two idiots doing bringing along this flamingo on a fishing trip.

I explained my "walkabout" and the international "Where's the Flamingo Tour" which Harry thought was a hoot and was happy to take photos and allow on board his vessel. We took a couple photos at the dock, loaded everything and we cast off in search of Chinook salmon or "winter kings" as they are commonly called.  The main fishing season has not quite started yet but the winter kings are still around along with halibut and a couple other fish.  The main season starts in about three weeks when there will be a variety of species to catch.  Harry talked with several other captains on where everyone was fishing and who was having any luck.  Three other boat captains had chosen to ride out about an hour and half from the docks and had no luck while Harry decided to stay closer and try an area close to a local lighthouse on the ebb tide occurring.

We were trolling for the king salmon with two lines in the water at a depth of two hundred to two hundred twenty feet.  We used a down rigger with a ten pound weight to pull and hold the line with the lure about five to ten feet above the bottom.  Salmon or even halibut may see, smell, hear the line vibrating as it goes by so they head after the lure as it goes by them catching up and taking the bait in their mouth.  Once hooked the line comes out of the down rigger the fight is on to land the fish.

Russ was the first to make a catch, a double "rock fish" where he hooked two small sea anemone which had attached themselves each to a rock. Everyone laughed, a beer was broken out in celebration and we through them back in to "grow bigger".  As our line trolled over a rise in the sea floor our lures touched the bottom so he hooked the rock as it went over the rocks.

Shortly I hooked my first fish at about 200 feet depth as the rod tip pulled down and the down rigger released the line.  The hook was set so it was time to start reeling in the fish.  After several turns away from the boat the fish started swimming toward the surface and eventually jumped out of the water much like a silver salmon does when it is fighting.  It went back under and several minutes later jumped out of the water again.  Nice looking fish was on the line.

The fish was a twelve pound Chinook salmon (winter king) and it turned out to be a white Chinook which is not as common but runs during the winter months. Had it fresh for dinner that night by the way.  We re-positioned the boat for the next trolling pass and once again put out our lines in the water and about forty five minutes after catching the first fish I hooked into another one which had more fight but turned out to be a litter smaller, ten pound king salmon.

We fished the changing tide but did not catch anything other than Russ hooked another "rock fish" with this one being a triple with three rocks attached to the sea anemones.  The weather was perfect with high clouds in the early morning giving way to sun by the time the tide shifted.  The mountains around Campbell River were beautiful and inviting for a hike maybe later in the week.

It was a great day on the water, enjoying natures best, and the fellowship and stories of old and new friends.  I left latitude 62° and am now at latitude 50° so I guess there are some attitude changes going on.  I'm missing the normalcy and routines of Anchorage and the people there but trying to adapt to these changes now.  Good days and bad days but nothing quite seems to remain the same so this adventure continues.

Have an Nice Day!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

On the road of experience I'm trying to find my way

I am sure there are times in everyone’s life that it seems like the hard times are the ones that keep finding there way into our lives which create stress within that person’s being.

Every one of us needs to find that center where we can rid ourselves of those things which we may not be able to change or fix.  Lose those feelings of helplessness and pain.

Next time you are stressed;
Take a step back, inhale deeply and laugh.

Laughter will ease muscle tension and allow your thoughts to flow into calmness all around you.  Laughter releases endorphin's that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.

Remember who you are and why you are here.
You're never given anything in this world that you can't handle.

Prepare yourself for the unexpected. 
Be strong . . . be flexible . . . love yourself and love others.
Life changes and you do not want to waste opportunities in your life.

Always remember, just keep moving forward.
Never, ever give up . . .
Through the Storms of Life, you will emerge Stronger,
Your Soul Radiant . . . with the colors;
Of Courage . . . Love . . . and Bliss!

I don’t believe that a stress-free life is possible.  Stress is a response to challenges in life, and a life without challenges is too boring to contemplate. 

However, I do believe that most of the stress in our lives is unnecessary, and that it can be eliminated by taking some simple (and some not-so-simple) steps.

By careful editing of your life . . . changing certain habits . . . you can eliminate most (not all) sources of stress in your life.  It can’t be accomplished overnight.  I’ve been eliminating stressors in my life for awhile now, and I’m still not done.  But I think it’s a worthwhile goal.  Sharpen your skills to keep stress from taking over your life.  Use them on a regular basis and don’t let them rust. 

I’ll do another post shortly on some of the things you can do to have a less stressful life and find that Zen-like peace that can fill your soul.

Have an nIce Day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Life changes in an instant on the road

My first overnight stop on the Alcan was in Whitehorse, Yukon. Slept and work up at first light and started driving again about 5:30 am going through Whitehorse looking for coffee.  Nothing was open yet so figured I would get some later down the road.  About. Ten minutes south of Whitehorse during the start of the day's first light outside I could see a vehicle approaching me about a quarter mile away.  I would guess we were both driving about 45 to 50 miles per hour as the darkness waned and the morning light creeped over the mountains to the east.

All of a sudden from my left side of the road a large moose ran out of the darkness of the roads edge and into the path of the car approaching me.  The vehicle's hood drove under the moose's belly causing the full body of the moose to impact the windshield crushing the front of the car, glass and top with the moose bouncing off the vehicle into my path!

I was able to swerve to the right stopping just past the bloody carcass on the highway.  The car came to a stop in the middle of the road just across the centerline where I had just swerved out of the way. Flashers on to warn other vehicles as I got out to render any aid I could. Luckily my phone worked a 911 call & I'm off to help. My 40 year old paramedic training flashed in my mind as I crossed the highway to the vehicle.  The car was a Compact Nissan Murano or used to be as the hood and windshield both crushed into the passenger compartment.  There was a couple in the car, both bloody, I couldn't tell if it was theirs or from the moose's impact.

They appeared to be a little older than me and I could hear noise coming from inside but could not tell at first from which one.  The man was driving and I could quickly tell that he was deceased where the steering wheel was crushed into his head and chest. The impact so fast and sudden the expression and frightful look frozen in his face and eyes.  I went around to the other side where his wife had been impacted by the glass of the windshield and frame.  She had several lacerations and her legs/knees were hurt from being thrust forward as the deceleration of the impact happened.

She was crying and screaming as I tried to help her. She knew her husband was dead as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. It was about twenty minutes and several other vehicles stopped to offer help as well.  The woman kept screaming that she was supposed to go (die) before her husband.  It was a constant chant between her own pains and moanings.  I used my shirt to cover her head wounds to stop the bleeding and talked with her until the medics arrived and extricated her from the vehicle.  She was taken to the hospital while the Mounties investigated the accident.

This journey I'm taking is about many things, in search of some meaning to things going on in my life  as well as some "Then Came Bronson" mentality of helping others along my way.  Little did I realize it would be my first morning out and about 5 seconds faster and it would have been me impacting the moose! Life changes in a instant, we come into the reality of our time/space continuum intersecting our life and everything about our life changes, opportunities lost or do not matter in the grand scheme of things or others becoming more important than one thinks.

I had many hours driving the last three days down the vast western Canadian Rockies with no or very limited communication along my route. I drove from Watson Lake down Hwy 37 for over six hours without seeing another vehicle going or coming. It was like being in a void, only my music or road noise. The weather went from sunny to cloudy then snowing and back to rain as I came down off the mountains summit. Hours and hours to think about the accident, how I happened to be there and the impact to the lady and my own life.  Did I like Jim Bronson help in the situation? I would like to think so in those lonely minutes until help arrived. Hearing my voice hopefully comforting her in that time of loss, pain, and overwhelming anxiety of the situation. I have always kept my control in many situations but lately feel like I've loss control of everything and hope to find it once again.

God bless the woman and her family in this time of loss, thank you Lord for giving me the calm voice when all around was in chaos.


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Walkabout 2016

They say that one should know their place… quite civilized I’d say,
But if that’s true, one thing for sure… in one place one can’t stay.
You need to move around a bit… comparisons be made,
Thus for a certain Georgia boy… farewell to home he bade.

He wound up far across the world… an Asian war some say,
Flew rescue choppers for a time… might say he saved the day.
Continued with this chopper thing… went to the Middle East,
Some royalty they say he flew… or V-I-Ps at least.

Too hot, too dry (I’m talking booze) . . . and so he came back home,
But “home” as in the USA… inside it he would roam.
He had a business, built it up… then sold it and moved west,
Went to a place where Mormons dwell… he felt he was a guest.

And so he headed way up north… where polar bears do roam,
Of salmon, “ice”, and long dark nights… Alaska now his home.
In fifteen years, traversed it all… by plane and truck and sled,
Once more the wanderlust sets in… and so down south he’ll head.

For now he’s on a walkabout… no hurry is he in,
He’ll meet some friends along the way… and tell them where he’s been.
The West Coast he will drive on down… then eastward he will head,
Great Smoky Mountains he might see… along its trails he’ll tread.

Perhaps in Texas he will stop… at least to lend a hand,
One daughter there he’ll help to move… stay longer than he planned?
But for right now, one thing’s for sure… he’ll drive from state to state,
And think deep thoughts along the way… his life he’ll contemplate.

And when he finds that special place… he’ll know at last he’s home,
Then settle down, perhaps for good?... no longer will he roam.
For he’ll have everything at last… online or by his side,
For in the end that’s all one needs… serenity inside.

Russ Smith 4/05/2016

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Recalculating . . .

In all our lives there are things that we go through where choices were made, right or wrong that sends us on life’s journey down a path or several paths in my case.  In this walk through our life’s experiences they come at you like seeing a 70 mm Cinerama movie (three curved screens with 3 projectors) for the first time at the theater when you were a child. Mine was “How the West was Won”.  Life in full surround with everything filling all your senses, both good and bad.

Robert Frost said in “The Road Not Taken”:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

In this internet age with instant communication, directions, and our hectic schedules we tend to lose something of ourselves as we try to do for others and tweak our lives to do better with things “the next time” or search out the Zen in each of us to follow a better path.  I have found that we all sometimes need that one “word” to set our course.  Oddly I found it from a distant friend whose voice is heard around the world and forever it seems in the Atlanta International Airport. It comes courtesy of our loyal robot driving companion — the Global Positioning System (GPS) and on our iphone’s as the voice of Siri — composed and focused as we stumble our way to appointments, trips, and rants sometimes messing up and hearing that word as we make our way. 

That word is “recalculating”.

Like most technology, the GPS merely amplifies our humanness. Do we trust her or stop and ask directions?  Most men will continue for miles before being led back in the right direction. What’s more, sooner or later, it may become a player in the drama.  I’ve seen grown men screaming at their GPS when they have chosen not to listen or believe the directions given them. There are no whys in GPS land. There is just a start point and an end point, and they keep changing making it easy to navigate between home and somewhere “out there” and back again.  The end becomes the new start, and vice-versa. Apple and Google Maps, in both you can switch the departure and arrival points with a handy swap icon. 

If you space out losing faith in the satellite map — that view from the stars above, the GPS view on the screen on your dash — when you suddenly cut off too early on the exit you need, or space out in conversation with a passenger missing the exit altogether, the GPS does not ask what caused you to make such a mistake.  It whirs the screen for a split second and says: “Recalculating”.

It’s all about choices in life.  Siri made a certain logistical suggestion of a route for you to take.  You chose to follow, which it took in stride, taking it neither an indication of your unresponsiveness nor of your good sense. But then you chose to stray.  There was nothing immoral in that, either.  A line just didn’t match another line.  It happens in life.  And when trajectories don’t match — when you have one expectation and I have another — we’re still in it together; there’s nothing for it but to change. To adapt. To “recalculate”. 

And the GPS does so. With Zen-like equanimity.  “Recalculating”. It might just be that easy. You didn’t do what I thought you’d do, what I hoped you’d do, what I longed for you to do. And I didn’t do what you thought, hoped and longed for me to do.  It was impossible.  We were human.  “Recalculating”. 

Presto: a new route.  Nothing to forgive or resent; nothing to fear or control. Just a new route.  Sure, you can hear smugness or impatience in the GPS “recalculating” voice if you choose.  But you can also hear the wisdom of the heavens, from which the way finding satellites gaze down at our tangled human streets.

For this time in my life I am “Recalculating”.  On a journey to maybe go back and find that other road, the one “not taken” so long ago. Or in this search to adjust attitudes, latitudes, and balance. Possibilities I will open my arms to what’s in store for me.