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Happy New year!

Happy New Year!

Celebrating the new year in Australia is definitely something special. Everywhere we went the air in the city smelled like barbecue, and people were queueing to get into the free parks all afternoon. There is definitely a lot of pride by the people of Sydney in their preparations for the big show. We spent a good part of the morning hiking around Bondi beach and the surrounding area. Then we just chilled at the flat for most of the afternoon, watching the families queuing to get the best position to view the fireworks.

When they opened the gates to the park right below our flat at 6:00 it had the feel of a giant family picnic!

Eucalyptus in the Air

Lincoln's Eoxk

One great way to get over jet lag is to just get up in the morning and get going again. Although we only made it until 8:30 last night we did manage to sleep until about 4 AM. Our Blue Mountain tour started at 6:30 AM so we were wide awake and ready to go with no trouble. We had a great guide for a day long tour out into the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. After a 90 minute drive from Sydney we stopped for Tea and Scones before our visit to Echo point to see the three sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. Legend has it that their father turned them to stone rather than let them marry three brothers from a rival tribe.

Three Sisters

Aboriginal legends in Australia are just as believable as the native american legends in the USA. However if you look closely at the picture you’ll notice there are actually four pillars of stone, the smallest one is their little brother Dave. Made famous a few years back when the locals started a social media campaign to #RememberDave.

There are a lot of great hiking trails in the area, including one which will bring you right over to the three sisters. We were on an easier tour instead of a several mile hike we got in line at Scenic World and rode the gondola across. This gave us a great, if fleeting, view of some waterfalls. From there we took another gondola on a steep descent into the rain forest.

Once you are in the rainforest they have three options: a 10, 20 or 30 minute walk through the forest on a nice safe boardwalk. At the end you can ride up the train (the steepest in the world) to the top. All in all it was very scenic and a nice walk but I think we would have preferred to skip the lines for the ‘rides’ and just walk the trails on our own.

After a very nice lunch of fish and chips we made our way to Featherdale to have our picture taken with a Koala and to feed the Kangaroos. Before we arrived I was calling it the ‘petting zoo’, but in the end it turned out alright. Coming face to face with a real Kangaroo is definitely cool.

Koala

In addition Featherdale had lots of really interesting native animals including a Tasmanian Devil – it doesn’t look anything at all like the one from the bugs bunny cartoons. But its jaw muscles are among the strongest in the animal kingdom. We also saw a Cassowary - think a turkey crossed with a Velociraptor. In fact they say it is a holdover from the dinosaurs. They have a hard crown (called a casque) on top of their head which is probably used as a sound box or radar for picking up the low frequency calls these creatures make. The Cassowary an endangered species but almost nobody has heard about them because they are not nearly as cute as the Koalas. They can jump six feet in the air and sprint 30 mph! I would not want to be chased by one.

To round out the day we had a quick tour through Sydney’s Olympic park. Still a very vibrant area to this day. And then a water taxi ride back to the Circle Quay in the heart of Sydney.

Note 1

The picture of me at the top of this post was taken on another little side trip to a place called Lincoln’s Rock. It just demonstrates the importance of perspective when you are framing a photo. I can assure you that I was never in danger of anything more than a broken leg had I managed to somehow slip off that ledge.

Note 2

The title of this post is also an explanation for how/why the Blue Mountains got their name. You can see there is kind of a blue haze in the background. This is because the mountains are full of eucalyptus trees and there is enough eucalyptus oil that evaporates into the air that refraction causes the air to look a little bit bluer. Australians also like to talk about how fresh and clear the air is in the blue mountains, in fact one enterprising Australian apparently even put blue mountain air into cans and sold it in China!

Hello Nemo!

Airbnb view

I’m sitting by the window of our flat in Pott’s Point with the view you see in the picture above. (Except its morning now). We are starting to get past the jet lag that comes from being 15 hours ahead of home base with the help of a couple of event filled days that kept us moving and awake. Today we are going to do something more relaxing in advance of the huge new years eve celebration tonight.

The flat that we rented has this spectacular view of the harbor and the city skyline. But it lacks one key ingredient for the three days we happened to be here for. Air Conditioning! The weather in Sydney is very unseasonably warm. When Jane did the research we learned that the average temp is in the high 70’s this time of year, so AC didn’t even cross the mind. Unfortunately our first day here the temp was nearly 100 and yesterday was mid-90’s. So we come home at night to a very warm place to sleep. Luckily even the heat can’t keep us awake come 9-10:00 at night. I slept pretty well through the night last night so I’m hopeful that midnight is an achievable goal. I’m definitely looking forward to wishing everyone a Happy New year when it is only morning of New Years eve in your time zone.

Our first day in Sydney we explored the Botanical Gardens and the area around the Opera House and the bridge. It was miserably hot and we were way out of whack with jet lag, so even now, I’m not sure how clearly I’m remembering everything. We had a nice lunch at a place right on Woolloomooloo bay - yes thats a real name. Lots of things in Australia have the ‘oo’ in their names. This is a combination of Aboriginal pronunciation and the teaching of phonics (Not sure phonics was a thing in the early 1800’s). After our late lunch we walked to the Opera house, we were able to get into the lobby but no further as their was an afternoon performance going on.

Opera house

At this point we had planned to hike over to the bridge and go up one of the towers. But we nearly cracked in the heat. A short rest and some re-hydration gave us a second wind and so we continued to wander around, eventually making our way to the bridge. We made our way to the top of the tower just 15 minutes before closing and were rewarded with some really spectacular views of the harbor!

Harbor view

By this time it was after 5pm Sydney time and the middle of the night to our bodies. Our feet were tired from walking so we gave in and grabbed a cab back to the flat. We worked really really hard to stay awake until about 8:30. But sleep took us, at least until about 3am!

All the Christmas Presents are Early

We leave the house tomorrow morning and we won’t be back until January 26th. (Note to would be robbers: The house has security and is well watched by neighbors and webcams) Jane and I have been waiting for a JTerm when I’m not teaching so we can do our Australian adventure during their summer, and this is the year!

So, all of our Christmas presents are things for the trip. We didn’t wrap them up and put them under the tree because we leave the 27th and we each got a new roll-aboard for the trip. We had to test-pack and re-pack to make sure we could make it. This is the new travelling ultra-light experiment and I have to say I am pretty excited about it. Once you do a bit of reading and planning it turns out to be pretty easy to travel for four weeks with nothing but a light roll-aboard and a daypack. Yes I’m a regular poster child for Osprey Packs

All Packed

Its funny that the most difficult decision for me was to decide on the tech that I am bringing. I’ve gone back and forth between Macbook Pro (2016 13 inch edition) Plus iPad mini to 12.9 inch iPad pro plus Kindle Voyager. Amazingly there is only 300 grams difference in weight between the iPad Pro and the new Macbook Pro. However, I’m really excited about the experiment of writing daily blog posts with nothing but the iPad Pro.

I think I have the ideal setup (for a Geek like me) with Working Copy plus a dedicated server for my blog and Jenkins which will detect and automatically rebuild every time I commit a new post! I’ll be Syncing photos from my Sony 𝛂6000 to my iPad and then writing posts with iA Writer. when Working Copy pushes them to my github repository, Jenkins swings into action and runs Pelican to rebuild the static website that is my Blog. (I know because I’m practicing on this post)

We are very excited for this trip and feeling no guilt because Josh is off on a JTerm adventure to Italy and Kaia is, well, married and on her own :-) (sorry Kaia) I’ll be posting about our adventures here regularly, so stay tuned.

Wrapping up the RV Adventure

We are on I-94 heading across North Dakota today, the amount of road construction almost makes us long for Hwy 2 in Montana. Our anticipated day of uninterrupted four lane travel has been marred numerous times already by lane closures that stretch on for 12 miles apiece. We are hoping to make it all the way to Minneapolis today and turn in the RV about 12 hours early. If the going is too slow we can spend one more night on the road and bring it in tomorrow morning, but I think we are all settled in for the final push. Its been a great trip, better than any of us anticipated. We all agreed that there is a lot of appeal to traveling by RV.

The other night around the campfire we were reminiscing about our anniversary adventures:

  • 5 year - a week in Door County, young new parents.

  • 10 year - a cruise aboard a Carnival Funship! Once on Carnival is enough, and an infamous catamaran trip.

  • 15 year - a Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean, exhausting!

  • 20 year - Cruising the Hawaiian islands on Norwegian, injuries galore, getting saved by a lifeguard, and losing bicycle breaks on the way down the mountain!

  • 25 year - Alaskan cruise on Princess plus an extended trip to Denali, whales and bears and moose!

  • 30 year - RV trip to Banff and Glacier, fun and very relaxed. (but scarce wildlife)

That is a quite a list of cool places to visit, and a lot of years of great friendship! None of us had really though about how many cruises the list included, so it was definitely time for a land adventure. Who knows where our next adventure will take us in five years. If we all make it to our 50th anniversary what will we do then? We’ll all be in our early 70’s by then, so chances are slim that we’ll make a return to mountain hiking. But, who knows by the 70 will be the new 50. Whatever the case may be we are lucky to have such great lifelong friends.

So, I’m finishing up this last post of the vacation just 160 miles from Minneapolis. Today has been a wild day of quick stops for gas, Burger King takeout (our first fast food of the trip) and switching drivers at rest stops or an off ramp. We are mostly out of the windy North Dakota, Northwest Minnesota winds, in fact we have a nice tail wind pushing along now.

As I have said many times before travel always changes me, or gives me a new perspective. My world of computer science is pretty clean and indoors. It was great to get out and appreciate the natural world. Its sad to see how the glaciers are receding and I hope we have the will to do something about climate change. On the other hand it was very hopeful to see how people in both Canada and the United States treat the national parks. You can tell that the people who visit have a certain reverence for the parks and what they represent. They are clean and free of litter, people that you meet on the trails are generally smiling and greet you in a friendly way. It definitely makes me want to continue to explore the great things our national parks have to offer.

The Hike to Iceberg Lake

Ptarmigan Falls

We were just passed Ptarmigan Falls on our way back down when from behind me I heard, “Oh Crap!!” I thought Brian must have hurt himself so I asked “What’s wrong?” He said “I just remembered I have the keys to the RV!” Uh Oh! I thought, Jane and Holly are not going to be too happy when we get back. We had started the hike together that morning going as far as Ptarmigan Falls. At the falls we decided that the guys would continue on to Iceberg Lake, while the women returned to the campsite at their own leisurely pace. Nobody thought about the one and only key to unlock Willard when we parted ways. The rest of the hike we brainstormed ways that Jane and Holly would break in to the RV, we had visions of Jane boosting Holly through the front screen window, or failing that to recruit one of the small neighbor kids for that duty. Alternatively we figured they were just over at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn cooling off and using the free WiFi. It turned out that they did use the WiFi, but we found them in good spirits lounging in the shade outside the RV waiting for us.

Although the hike out to Iceberg Lake and back was a good 10.2 miles and our longest of the trip, it was definitely worth the effort. Iceberg lake is part of a cirque. What is a cirque you ask? It is a half-open steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside, formed by glacial erosion. Think of a giant ice cream scoop digging out half a mountain and you get the idea. The image doesn’t really capture it, but gives you an idea.

Our trip to Iceberg Lake was entertaining due mostly to two little boys hiking ahead of us. Boundless energy and a total willingness to get wet at every opportunity. At one point we caught up with them at a small stream where one of them was dunking his sweaty little head into the rushing water. His father, of course, was egging him on and taking pictures of the thing. Instant brain freeze was all we could think about. A while later they caught up with us at Iceberg Lake, which really does have icebergs floating around. One of them was just close enough to shore to be really really tempting for these two. The shoes were off and they were hopping from rock to rock determined to get to the little iceberg and claim in for their kingdom. The water was cold, REALLY COLD, so they were not willing to wade in above their ankles or for more than just a few seconds. We left before they claimed the berg, but we were convinced it was just a matter of time before one of them got completely soaked! We did catch this picture of a young brit who had brought his swimtrunks along on the hike for the purpose of getting in the lake.

Slow Down You're Movin too Fast

Grinnell Lake and Glcier

“Slow Down!” Ok, this was not delivered in the sing-songy spirit of the Simon and Garfunkel hit by the same name. Despite the fact that I was only going 15 miles per hour, apparently it was uncomfortable to those in the back. I’m not surprised as it was not a great, no, not even a good road. It was a crappy road 12 miles long to get back to the Many Glacier campground. A place that I had heard in my head the entire trip as the “Mini-Glacier Campground” was imagining something on the order of a snow cone. Tonight was to be our first RV night “boondocking it” No electrical, no water, no sewer. We switched into full conservation mode. The worst thing was we were also in a no generator zone so we couldn’t even make coffee in the morning. It really wasn’t that bad as we just walked over the the store with our travel mugs and got some.

We started out yesterday with our rental car and headed back up to Logan’s pass. One day ago it was shrouded in clouds, fog, and rain. But today the skies were sunny with just a few puffy clouds to make things interesting. What a difference a day makes. The sunshine gives Glacier a whole different look. I can’t even say better because despite the overcast weather of the day before it was still really cool. But, once we got to Logan’s pass we were set to make the hike to hidden lake. A hike in the snow!! Its June 26 and we are hiking in the snow! Layers People! We started with a lot of layers and ended up with short sleeves!


Today was, by far, the nicest day of our trip so far, with clear skies and highs in the mid 70’s! We started out in shorts and short sleeves today. The plan was to make today an easy day, saving our energy for tomorrow’s hike to Iceberg Lake (or Ptarmigan Falls). Instead we did 7.2 miles around Swiftcurrent, Josephine and Grinnell lakes. The thing about hiking is that you always feel fine when you make the bad decision that takes you just a little bit further than your feet would like to go!

swiftcurrent

In keeping with the theme of this post, it is also clear that I am not a good person to lead the hikers. My stride is too long and my pace is too fast. “Slow Down!”

Tie Your RV Down

MacDonalds Lodge

As we got in the car to head over to the hot tub at the KOA in St. Mary’s Montana, I pointed to the rope tied to the rear view mirror of the RV and the picnic table. I said it looks like we tied the RV to the picnic table to keep it from blowing away! Ha, imagine a picnic table holding back a 32 foot Winnebago in a 25 mph wind!? But 20 - 25 mph winds are what you get in St. Marys, just east of the continental divide. We had a lot of wind all day yesterday and today as we drove from Banff to Glacier. This area is known for its wind and highway 22 even had signs with warning lights for RVs and trucks for days when the wind is gusting and dangerous! Thankfully it was not bad for us at the time we drove that stretch.

Now, we are in a KOA campground, a source of some discontent amongst the group. however it has a hot tub, pool, and laundry facilities. These are all good things after a week of traveling together. Plus they also rent cars that you can take on the road to the sun. This is good as our RV would never be allowed to attempt the journey. The roads are indeed very narrow, and the rocks overhang on one side and would definitely tear off parts of the RV!

This morning we got up and were on our way by about 8:00 on the “road to the sun”. The main problem was that the sun was not cooperating! When we got to Logan’s pass we could barely see in front of the car because we were right in the middle of the clouds. But, we kept on going and in the end we were rewarded, not with sunshine, but with “lord of the rings” mystical beauty. The above photo is from MacDonald’s Lodge. Although the national park is called glacier, it could more appropriately be called waterfall national park at this point!

Waterfall

After MacDonald’s Lodge we took the Avalanche Lake hike! Wow, was this pretty, even in the dripping rain the sites along the way and once we got to the lake were well worth the hike!

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

After the hike we headed back the other direction on the road to the sun and by this time the clouds had lifted enough for us to really enjoy the scenery!

Glacier Valley

Of course no trip to Glacier, in June, would be complete without photos of the giant snowdrifts-cum-glaciers that we humans plow out of the way for the tourists!

Avalanche Lake

And finally, no trip to Glacier would be complete without a picture of Goose Island!

Avalanche Lake

Taking a Break on a Rainy Afternoon

Bow Lake Reflection

“A clean underwear!” came the shout from the bedroom of the RV. “Thanks Holly, you just provided me with the opening line for today’s blog.” After a morning of touring the sites on the road to Jasper, we are back in the RV, having lost our will to hike in the rain. In the gloom and rain of the day I would say that the Columbia Ice sheet and all of the surrounding glaciers was actually a little depressing. You just can’t help but see how much they have shrunk over the years, and we overheard people talking. “When I was here 20 years ago, this glacier came right up to the road.” Now the glacier in question is a good kilometer back from the road.

So, as we are taking this downtime to shower and cleanup a bit in preparation for our move south tomorrow, I’m taking a few minutes this afternoon to catch up a little. There is only so much you can write about all of this mountain beauty. On the other hand it seems as though just when we think we’ve seen the most beautiful site, something new comes along and surprises us. so I’m just going to include some pictures today with a minimum amount of commentary. I think they speak for themselves.

The photo at the top is from Bow Lake, right off the highway. But everything was so still it was crazy beautiful.

Close up Reflection

This one may trip you up a bit. It is a closeup of the mountain reflection, but the stones in the foreground are not a reflection. It looks kind of weird without the perspective of the real landscape!

Peyto lake

This is Peyto Lake, just a short hike off the highway, it is well worth the stop!

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls was another really short hike off the highway, with spectacular falls. The power of the water never ceases to amaze. I was messing around with shutter speeds to get the effect you see in this photo.

Emerald Lake

We hiked around Emerald lake, I think you can guess how it got its name. Emerald Lake is in Yoho national park in British Columbia. If I had written this post yesterday I would have titled it “Yoho, Yoho a Pirates Life for Me!”

Natural Bridge

Another beautiful waterfall, next to a spot you could easily drive by and dismiss. But well worth the stop.

Natural Bridge

Here’s another which gives you a better view of its bridge like qualities.

Wardrobe Malfunction at the Hot Springs

Moraine Lake

Happy Anniversary! Jane and I have been married 30 years today. People will say that is quite an accomplishment these days, I just can’t believe that 30 years have gone by so quickly. We have two amazing children that have grown into wonderful young adults. Yes, one of them is older than we were when we got married. We have had 30 years of incredible adventures, we have seen a pretty good fraction of the world, and are looking forward to seeing lots more of it. I’ve had a pretty great career doing what I love. I couldn’t have done any of it without Jane. Thanks honey!

We started today at Moraine Lake, its smaller than Lake Louise, and when you walk up to the waters edge you might think, meh, not as blue as Louise either. But if you climb up the rocks near the waters edge you don’t have to go very far before you realize its just a matter of perspective. Of course climbing the rocks was part of the fun, but once we got to the top we realized there was a much easier way to get there! After absorbing the view for a while we made our way down (the easy way) and did a short walk along the lake shore. The sun started to come out, so we made our way back up and you can see how different the colors are in the sunlight!

Moraine Sun

From Moraine Lake we headed down the Bow River Parkway towards Banff. Supposedly the wildlife is more plentiful along the parkway that the four lane freeway. There are so many places you could stop and hike or stop and view the scenery that we really had to pick and choose. Our main stop on the way down was at Johnston Canyon. We hiked our way up to the lower falls and were rewarded with some really great views. I’m always amazed at the power of these streams and waterfalls. You can really appreciate the power of water over the centuries as you see how this deep narrow canyon was formed by the water.

Johnston Canyon

By now it was lunch time and we headed for downtown Banff. Our first goal was for lunch, with a strong subgoal of finding a place where we could watch the USA versus Argentina soccer match later. We found ourselves at Park Distillery. They had the Euro on TV, but unfortunately they did not get FS1. Apparently with Canada not part of the Copa FS1 is not a priority in Banff, as this became a real theme as we went from place to place. First everyone assured us they got soccer, but when I clarified that we wanted the Copa America tournament, not the Euro things went downhill. After receiving multiple assurances that the Bear Street tavern did indeed get the Copa, we decided we were safe and could be about our business.

Our next stop of the day was the Banff Hot Springs. I will admit this seemed a bit cheesy to me, but after a few days of hiking who can resist a nice hot soak. You can rent everything you need at the Banff Hot Springs, including historical bathing suits. Holly should have done this as she forgot a critical part of her top back in the RV. Leaving her with a slightly thin top. Despite my reservations, and the fact the Hot Springs really were nothing more than a a big swimming pool full of hot mineral water the soak felt great, and we all got an extra shower! The quote of the day, was in the car on the way to the Banff Hotel when Holly was having further wardrobe problems and was heard to say “I can’t find them!”

Hot Springs

After a short tour of the Banff Hotel, we headed back downtown for some shopping and wandering around town. Basically wasting time until the game started. At 6:30 we headed over to the Bear Street Tavern to take up our seats and wait for the game to start, only to be told that it would be an hour and a half wait for a table with no guarantee of seeing a TV. Horrors! Fine then, off we go to the Pump and Tap tavern. Described by the hostess of the Park Distillery as “a dive bar”. But being that it was an English pub they did get the game. In fact the owner had purchased a package just this week to ensure that they would get the Copa. No credit cards accepted, no table service, but lots of TVs and some decent beer. They had a very short menu with a number of deep fried options.

Pump and Tap

Just before halftime we got a text from Bear Street that our table was available. Brian went to investigate. Site lines to the TV? Copa available? As it turned out there was a view of the TV, but they did not have the package that allowed them to see the Copa. We were at the only place in town that carried the game. As time wore on, more and more USA fans filed in to watch the game. Then Messi kicked that wondrous free kick to put Argentina up 2 - 0 and all we could do was be impressed at how good the guy is. Right after halftime Argentina went up 3 - 0 and our stomachs said we should find some good food, so we made our table available to more diehard USA fans and headed down the street to the Coyote Cafe.

We didn’t arrive back at the RV until after 9:30 which meant that it was a 12 hour day of touring and enjoying the sites around Banff.

Group

We are older than we think

Lake Louise

Sitting in our campsite in Banff, my feet are up, I have a Gin & Tonic next to me, the campfire is started, the sun is still high in the sky, it’s 18:00. My iPhone tells me that I have taken 35,196 steps and gone 14.6 miles today! I believe the G&T is well earned. We are thinking of ordering pizza from Temple Pizza at the Fairmont hotel on Lake Louise because NOBODY WANTS TO GET OUT OF THEIR CHAIR!!

The first thing to say, is that today is totally a gift! The forecast was calling for rain but today was absolutely beautiful! Sunny and nice all day long. We had a perfect view of the mountains and everything else around Lake Louise today.

The day started out cool, with temps down to 35 overnight. Its OK, as Willard has a furnace to keep us nice and comfortable. But we all totally overdressed for the hike today, as I think it got well above the advertised high of 67 degrees. We thought this was our warmup hike of only 10K round trip. So Brian and I said we would ride our bikes up the road to Lake Louise. According to our best information it was only supposed to be 200 meters of elevation over 4 kilometers of distance. A slope of only 1/20. Someone Lied! it was 4k of straight up hill, lets just say we were warmed up by the time we got to the lake!

We took the obligatory, but still totally beautiful, pictures at the the Chateau and then we headed out for our hike to the Tea House in the Six Glaciers Plain. Six is definitely and overstatement, and if anyone thinks that global warming is a “hoax” they are idiots. If you think global warming is a hoax, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but science is not a matter of opinion. Science is based on observation and analysis and the evidence shows that the glaciers are MUCH SMALLER than they were 100 years ago. Why would glaciers be smaller? Higher average temperatures.

Anyway, the hike was still beautiful, and Brian even managed to see a chunk of glacier break off and fall off the cliff. The rest of us heard it, but by then it was too late!


Arrival in Banff

River Hike

It was difficult to get out of bed this morning. The rain was making rainy sounds on the roof and there was a chill in the air. Windows were cracked open an it was only in the 40’s outside. Someone had to get up and start the coffee. Also, it seemed like a great time to try the heater. I’m not sure it had been used before as it had that new furnace smell to it as it warmed up our little home. This got everyone out of bed and eating breakfast. It is Father’s day today. I’ve had electronic wishes from both Kaia and Josh.

Even in the rain our departure was pretty easy. Unplug, retract, and go. It was rainy and windy as we left the campsite, the rain ended pretty quickly but the wind hounded us all the way past Calgary. We had quite the experience of refueling at the Costco gas station! We pulled off Highway 1 expecting an easy (and cheap) experience only to find the lines 6 cars deep. Thankfully there was a nice guy directing traffic who got us over to the line for the end pump. It could have been a real disaster trying to make the turn out of the station if we didn’t have the extra room. We are finding that we are limited to $150 worth of gas which seems to be about half a tank!! We can go from ¼ to ¾ on a $150 charge.

Outside of Calgary we left the plains of Alberta and climbed into the beautiful Canadian Rockies! We are really getting the hang of setting up camp. Less than five minutes today. We’ll have to move our campsite by about 30 feet tomorrow as we are camped next to the site we have reserved for the next few days. After a quick lunch in the RV we decided to take a bike ride to the Village for some ice and then hike along the Bow River. As you can see the scenery is pretty nice!

Little Dam

Crooked Pine

The Worlds Largest Buffalo

Big Buffalo

This morning we left the Pratt’s at 8:00, right on schedule. I took my first shift in the cockpit. This thing drives pretty nicely except when the wind gets gusty. Then you feel like you are constantly overcorrecting one way or the other. As we buzzed along I94 through North Dakota, we realized that we were not really in the spirit of things. No large balls of twine, no giant ears of corn! Of course, there’s an app for that! “Road Trippers” to the rescue! In no time at all we learned that Jamestown had the worlds largest buffalo monument. After a quick stop at Cenex to top off our tank (38 gallons for about half a tank), we ended up on a really bad gravel road that brought us into the frontier village from the wrong direction. Oh well, we got there.

Pratts

Now we are headed towards Bizmark for lunch and maybe a glimpse of the worlds largest Holstein! Wait, how much giant bovine statuary can we see in one day?! We shall see… the Holstein is reportedly some 40 feet tall and 50 feet long.

Picking up the story a bit later, we have crossed the border into Canada! A relatively painless and friendly process. When the border guard asked if we would be staying in Canada long term, we told her it depended on the outcome of the election. She smiled and said she was hearing that a lot. Its 4:30 now, and we have another hour to go before we get to Weyburn for the night. We are not making quite as fast progress as we thought but its been a pretty easy day except for the gusty winds. I’ve taken my second shift driving, and it was definitely much better heading into the wind than having it directly across this big beast.

There is not much scenery yet, just a lot of wide open spaces and oil wells. At one point we saw big big numbers on the side of the hills outlined in stone. I suspected it was UFO markings – the infamous “area 15”, Brian thought they were targets for bombing practice from the Air Force base. Holly looked it up on Google and learned that it was a local high school tradition to spell out their graduation year in rock on one of the local hills.

We crossed into the mountain time zone just before we got to Weyburn, Saskatchewan for the night, which meant that we were right on schedule for happy hour. I like this RV style of camping, it took us less than 10 minutes to level up, connect the electricity and the water. We rolled out the canopy and set up our soccer chairs poured drinks, and by 5:15 we were relaxing and enjoying our campsite.

Camping

For dinner we took the bikes into town, and ended up at Boston Pizza. Jane and Holly both ordered a Bloody Caesar (like a Bloody Mary but Canadian). The waitress offered “fishbowl size” little did we know that they would actually be served in a fish bowl!

Bloody Caesars

We are on the road this morning having successfully navigated the dumping station! More on that later.

Packing up and Heading Out

Mobile blogging! Her is my view as I write this post.

looking ahead

Where to start? We awoke this morning and split our preparatory duties. The women went to Costco, the men took Tucker back home and picked up the rest of the knutson’s belongings. By 1:00 we had two SUVs FULL Of stuff to put in our 32 foot Winnebago, henceforth known as Willard.

full car

We arrived at Rent and Travel just before 2:00, our appointed time to take possession of Willard. After about 30 minutes (only) of introduction and education (which we recorded for later reference) we began the 90 minute process of moving in. Food, lawn games, photography equipment, adult beverages, hiking gear, clothing, bedding, adult beverages, grilling equipment. All the comforts of home for the next 15 days and 2,800 miles. It was hot sweaty work, but we are all packed up and on the road. Jane, of course, is taking the first shift of driving this giant beast. Brian is riding shotgun and Holly and I are trying out RV travel in the back. I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing as we go. I just saw the sign that says Morehead 198 that is our destination for the evening.

We’ll be parking at the home of our friends Dave and Carol Pratt tonight. Dave just texted us that he was going to get some beer and put some ribs on the grill to slow cook for us. We should be in Morehead by around 7:30 for our practice night of leveling, setting up, and trying things out without a lot of neighboring campers watching us mess around.

Prelude to a Recreational Vehicle

In preparation for our big RV adventure Brian, Holly, Jane and I all attended the Minnesota United FC match tonight. The match was played against Sporting KC as part of the open tournament, similar to the FA cup in England. We arrived early to check out the food trucks and the atmosphere around the stadium that the regulars refer to as the Nessi (National Sports Center NSC, get it?).

As we were enjoying our Bahn Mi sandwiches and a nice Summit EPA a dude dressed as a blue dinosaur/shark with a megaphone came to stand beside us. He proceeded to start heckling the Sporting KC keeper and his coach, as they were going through their pregame drills. We thought it was a bit odd that he sounded pretty normal when he was chatting with other people (obviously he’s a regular at the games) but his heckling voice had a definite Scottish brogue to it. As the Sporting KC players were taking their shots on goal we noticed that the last of the shots were all going over the bar and getting increasingly close to this guy (and us). The final shot was right on target as it hit him right in the megaphone. Later we learned that he was sort of a mascot called Nessi. Apparently the Loch Ness monster must look like a blue dino. It all makes sense now, even the Scottish accent.

The first half of the game was a bit boring to be honest. The ref seemed content to let pretty much everything go with nothing but a stern talking to, the Loons had no shots on goal, no corners and no points.

Things picked up a lot in the second half, including the referees use of the yellow card. There should have been a red as on of the KC players attacked a MUFC player from behind. Then KC scored first on a very dubious handball in the box. I hate it when a player goes down and they call a handball on that player when the ball hits the arm on the ground. Sacrifice your face and let yourself fall on your nose so you don’t get a handball. Benny Fielhaber took the PK and made it 1 - nil for KC. Suddenly the game came to life. The Loons definitely started to get more of the ball and went on the attack much more often. KC seemed to get more and more aggressive with their tackles as the guys in green let them play while punishing the Minnesotans for even the most minor of infractions. Eventually their evil ways caught up with them and Minnesota was awarded a PK for a really vicious tackle in the box. 1-1, game on.

Regular time ended in a draw so we went to overtime. KC seemed to find another gear and I had the sense that it was only a matter of time until they scored and put the game away. Which they did only to have the goal ruled out for offsides. A few minutes later they came back and scored again. Minnesota tried desperately to get back in it, but never really got a shot on target to level things out.

Biking with Blaise

Blaise Schaeffer, my former student for all of 3 weeks, is on a cross country bike journey. He was riding right past my lake house on Bone Lake, and so I got to participate in his adventure for 40 miles! It was awesome.

Blaise started the day in North Branch Minnesota, and texted me when he got to Balsam Lake WI, I texted him back that I would meet him at Jonzy’s Market and we would go from there. The plan was to ride to Cumberland where we would be picked up by his mom Deb. But she was running a bit behind schedule so rather than hang around the Cumberland quick trip for an hour we extended our ride to Haugen Wisconsin. You’ll probably have to look that one up on a map. That made it a 41 mile ride for me and about 80 for Blaise.

It was a great chance to ride and talk to Blaise about everything he’s seen and done on this trip. You should check out his blog to get an idea: blaise2s.com. He told me about many of the amazing hosts he has had along the way due to the Warm Showers network. Warm Showers is an online community of cyclists and hosts who are willing to have people like Blaise stay in their home overnight while they are on a long distance cycle adventure. Great idea!

The Bucket Dive

The Bucket Dive

According to our dive logs it’s been 13 years since we did our last dive. So, when we decided to make a last minute trip to the Caribbean for Spring Break this year we decided that one of our activities should be a refresher dive to get current. This turned out to be a great decision. We thought that doing the refresher early in the cruise would be good, since it would allow us the flexibility of doing a second dive later on. The bonus was that the Bucket Regatta was happening in St. Bart’s so the dive turned into a dive plus several hours in a Zodiac “chasing the race” Wow!!

We arrived at the pier at 9:30 and we were greeted by a French woman, Isabelle. She was busy unpacking tanks and BV’s etc, but was very friendly. We asked if we needed to do any paperwork, assuming the standard waivers etc. “No, we are French” she said as if that was all the explanation we needed. We were joined by a dozen other French speaking people, all much younger than us. When did this happen? We used to be the younger ones on these adventures! It was totally unclear which of them were assistants, and which of them were other guests like us. After getting everyone organized, Emmanuel, the Captain, told us that we would be diving with Elizabeth. “Who is Elizabeth?” I asked. “She is the blonde Woman, my wife. my wife” he said with a grin. The refresher turned out to be just the perfect amount of review. It’s just like riding a bike Isabelle told us. She was right. After a few minutes we were enjoying the freedom of exploring the reef.

Under water we saw, a couple of Barracuda, a sea turtle napping in a little alcove, a bunch of HUGE lobster, and a couple of grouchy eels. We also saw the usual assortment of Tangs and Wrasse, Parrotfish and Lionfish. After a slow start, my ears started to clear a bit easier and I made it down 60 feet. A very good dive. A day later, as I write this I’m still waiting for my inner ears to clear, which is a problem I had 13 years ago. It’s not painful, just a bit unpleasant to hear the world a bit muffled.

With the diving done, the next part of our adventure was just getting started. As usual, I guess I hadn’t really been paying attention, but the bonus part of our dive was that we were now going to “chase the race.” We knew that there was a huge regatta happing on St. Bart’s, but to follow the sailboats in our Zodiac was a real experience. First, the beauty of these huge boats is just amazing. With the sun gleaming off the huge white sails they were really spectacular. It was shocking to watch them fly past us completely silently, listing 30 degrees or more with their sails full of wind. As you can see these were not small inexpensive sailboats either, these were big luxury boats!

In addition to the excitement of chasing the boats, and it is really interesting how close we got to several of them, 30 - 60 feet probably. Close enough to greet the crew! But the swells today made for a pretty fun boat ride. Its always a little weird when you are in the boat look up at the tops of the waves! Emmanuel was clearly having fun driving and getting us airborn. Isabelle kept giving him the kind of stern look that says, “maybe you want to slow down a bit?” But he didn’t seem to notice, and we didn’t really mind.

In total we made a complete circle of the island, and when we made our turn to go with the wind, and “surf the waves” for a smooth ride home we were also rewarded with the site of one of the big ships letting out its spinnaker! Up it went, and then Boom! the sail filled with the wind that would propel it toward the finish line. You just can’t believe how big those sails are until you are right there when they go up.

Soon after that we were back at the pier and unloading our gear. Sunburned and very tired from a day in the sun and water. We had to hike the long way back around the bay to get to our pickup with the ships tender, and we realized then how intense the sun was. We just missed the tender as we came within site, but 15 minutes later they were back and without waiting an extra minute we were on our way back to the SeaDream I.

Somehow we managed to stay awake until dinner time at 7:30, and we chose to eat outside. Jane had Lobster and I had a really delicious Veal Saltimbocca. We were joined by our new friends from Florida and had a very nice dinner. We are definitely enjoying our time here on the SeaDream.

No Easy Solutions

No Easy Solutions

If you were king how would you end poverty? Not an easy question to answer, even if you were king with a magic wand its not an easy problem to solve. Neverthless it was a question that one of our intrepid students put to a Stanford professor one day. This became a common question that we asked almost everyone we met with, and it was a question that generated a lot of good group conversation. I would like to summarize a few of the answers we heard and add my own half-baked idea at the end.

Two weeks ago we visited Dr. David Grusky at the Stanford Center for Poverty and inequality. I took away a couple of key points from this meeting. One of their key tasks is to get better and more frequent data about poverty in the United States. Larry told us that the data we have today is collected too infrequently and by the time the data is published it is nine months out of date! Wow, thats crazy. The software development manager in me says, “you can’t fix what you can’t measure” If we are not measuring poverty how can we hope to make progress toward fixing it. Hint: We can’t.

In terms of a big solution Dr. Grusky expressed his idea quite eloquently. “We have to make everyone live together.” At first I rejected the idea as overly simple and impractical. But the more I thought about it the more I liked it. Making people of all income levels live next to each other would surely build community, where we would not see each other as “other” but rather as friends and neighbors. Who doesn’t want to help their neighbors? Who is my neighbor is a question that has been nagging us since the disciples first asked the question of Jesus a couple thousand years ago. The more we live in community the more we see each other as people.

To return to the theme of Decorah in the previous post, I think this really is one of the strengths of a small town. Rich people, middle income people, and poor people all live together. Maybe not next door, but definitely on the same block. Our kids go to the same schools and participate on the same teams and choirs and bands together. We meet parents over the common ground of our kids and their achievements. Over the years one of the most amazing aspects of the Decorah schools to me is that there is such a high level of mutual respect among students no matter what they do. The “jocks” are also in the choir, and if not they scertainly support the choir, and vice versa. Its this kind of integration that leads to great things. If you don’t believe me I’ll tell you that Decorah has won the Iowa Challenge cup so many times in the last ten years that people at the state just call it the “Decorah prize.”

Why is this so important? The more integrated we become, and the more we see each other as friends and peers the more we will help each other solve our problems. The more integrated we live the more our kids go to the same schools.

In broad terms the next set of solutions revolve around economic mobility, that is how do we get people to move up the economic ladder?

One answer to this question that came up several times was around education. Even our own president Carlson took a shot at this question at an alumni event we attended. Education leads to opportunity and or the ability to move up the economic ladder. Here’s a great story that illustrates Of course not everyone gets to go to Stanford and tap into the amazing group of VC’s and successful entrepreneurs that are part of the Stanford alumni network. But education opens many doors to higher paying jobs no matter where it comes from. The theme of education was also evident at the Creative Commons where we discussed open source licensing models and how organizations like Open MIT and others are making high quality courseware available on the web. This of course is not unlike what we are doing at Runestone.

Another really interesting discussion about economic mobility comes from Kiva . While Kiva has been making loans abroad for a few years, Kiva has started to make micro loans (up to \$10,000) right here in the United States. The Kiva story goes something like this. A micro loan is not going to vault you up the economic ladder, it may not even get you onto the first rung. But it will give you a foothold on the ladder where you might just be able to reach the first rung with a little time and experience. Without the microlending infrastructure in place, we wondered how Kiva decides who to loan to. The answer is simple, “If you can show us that you have convinced 25 people to loan you 25 dollars then we will put you on the site.” Between Kiva and the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University we have enough examples of these small scale loans in action to make it very believable that it is a path up the economic ladder.