Today our goal was to explore some of the other state parks and hikes near Watkins Glen, verifying whether Ithaca really is “Gorges”, and try out a few wineries on the shores of Cayuga lake. It was a good day!

We started out with the Gorge Hike at Robert Treman State Park. We were there early enough to get some beautiful morning light.

The Gorge Hike at Robert Treman SP

The hike takes you to the top of Lucifer Falls, and then you descend The view looking back and up is also amazing, but then you realize you have a lot of climbing to do to get back where you started. But it was such a beautiful morning and we almost had the trail to ourselves.

Lucifer Falls from below

After this hike we made a quick stop at Buttermilk Falls just on the edge of Ithaca.

Buttermilk Falls

We were noticing that the falls were a bit dry compared to the descriptions and other pictures we have seen.

Both Jane and I have been to Ithaca before, back when Kaia was doing her college search. But, that was in much cooler weather. It was nice to be able to explore. The motto of Ithaca is “Ithaca is gorges,” and it is a very pretty town, very hilly, but areas and paths along the waterfalls leading right to campus.

A beautiful walk from downtown to campus

We headed over to the shore of Cayuga lake at Taughannock Falls state park. We at our sandwiches and enjoyed the lake, and I answered a couple of emails on my iPad. Our post lunch hike was to the falls. It was a nice flat hike leading back to the falls, where we also saw a group of Perigrine Falcons circling. These falcons can dive at speeds of 200mph to knock out their prey!

Although high, the water flow at these falls was very low. So after our hike we continued north along the lake to check out some wineries: Sheldrake Point, the Thirsty Owl, and Buttonwood grove. All had great views of the lake so we could sip and enjoy the view. We thought that the Thirsty Owl should be introduced to the Thirsty Otter in Balsam Lake. We are learning that there are lots of good wines in the region if not what we are used to. Most are more of a German style like a dry Riesling or even a dry Gewurstraminer on the white side. While the reds tend to be a little more traditional, but with Cab Franck being a bit more prevalent. We definitely found something to like everywhere.

We finished our wine tasting a little too early to head back to town for a dinner out. So we stopped at a the Finger Lakes Distillery along the way to enjoy the waning sun and more lake views, and a cocktail.

Finger Lakes Distillery

Next stop Stowe Vermont!

Two Hikes: Letchworth and Watkins Glen

We started this morning with a hike from the upper to middle to lower falls at Letchworth State Park, and ended with the Gorge hike at Watkins Glenn. What a great day of waterfalls!

I have already had to rethink my opinion of New York State, which is totally based on my experience with New York City and “New Yorkers”. The rural parts of New York are amazing!

We spent last night at Letchworth state park, which claims to be the number one state park in the USA. I don’t know how you can possibly back up such a claim, but as the pundits say, Letchworth belongs in the conversation! Beautiful, well kept, great hiking options …

I don’t think our neighbors would vote for it… When we pulled into our loop and saw the water station we pulled over… Before we got out of the truck a guy on a bike pulled up to tell us “some guy just jack-knifed his camper, and is blocking the road. You might want to take your time! So we did, and even then the poor couple was no closer to a solution. They had unhooked their truck from the camper but were trying to reconnect in completely the wrong way! Husband and wife were barely talking to each other. But they did offer to move so that we could try to get around. We did, and we were all settled before they got into their site.

We had not thought to take anything out of the freezer for dinner, so we took out a couple of stakes and I put them in the sous vide while we headed to Eddy’s to watch the sunset! It was very nice with a great view of the river gorge and the sun disappearing behind the bluffs!

Sunset in Letchworth State Park

The morning was quite cool, we had to turn on the heat for a few minutes to take the chill out of the air. We dressed in layers and headed out towards middle and upper falls. Our plan was to hike from there down to the lower falls and back, about a 4 mile hike.

Upper Falls

Middle Falls with Upper Falls in the Background

Lower Falls

It was a great morning for a hike. There was almost nobody else on the trail. We did meet a couple from Ohio who had just come from Watkins Glen, so they had good advice for us on how to do the gorge hike.

After showers and some tacos for lunch we packed up camp and headed for Watkins Glen. It was just a two hour drive, and on much better roads than the route we took to Letchworth!!

The campground sits high above the village of Watkins Glen, and the gorge hike starts way down low. So we descended and then started the long trek back upwards. But it was spectacular.

After all of that hiking and climbing we were definitely hungry and sleepy campers. We hooked up our fire pit, and sat around the fire with some warmed up pasta and wine and just relaxed. By bedtime a light rain had started so we had that sound to put us to sleep for the night.

Day One Cabin to Indiana Dunes NP

Mostly just a travel day, but with a short hike at the end. Going through Chicago is never fun, but gave us the quote of the day from Jane: “Oh my gosh we are getting passed by an Oscar Meyer Weiner!”

Passed by the Oscar Mayer truck

The Indiana Dunes National Park is the newest National Park. It is located right along the shore of Lake Michigan, with plenty of beaches and sand dunes to explore. Here we are on the beach, Jane is pointing at downtown Chicago, which we could just make out through the haze.

Downtown Chicago from Mount Baldy

It was a very nice campground, but no electricity so we decided to cook over an open fire. We had bought a bundle of wood at the gas station but it was very wet, so it was a struggle but we eventually had enough coals for some turkey burgers. It was a very nice night to enjoy the fire, but we have a long day of driving to get to New York so it was an early night.

Relaxing campfire

Where does all our stuff come from? Going through the Canal.

I grew up in farm country so I’m pretty familiar with how food gets to the grocery store. But what about all the other stuff we buy at all the other stores? Well here is a clue for you…

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One thing this trip through the panama canal has made me realize is just how amazing, complex, and expensive the global shipping system is. Have you ever wondered how much it costs for a ship to go through the Panama canal? Take a guess? Our cruise ship cost about $370,000 and larger ships can cost over a million!

I can’t even begin to guess the value of everything in those containers but just think about it. Cars, wood, electronics, furniture, carpet, gas, oil, grain, it all makes its way around the world in giant ships. In Colon there is a huge duty free area where buyers go and order containers of various things. Oh, I like these shorts I’ll take 2 containers of medium 1 of large, etc…

Going through the Panama canal you really see where this all comes together, literally, to fit through a bunch of locks that are a thousand feet long and 160 feet wide. Plus the new locks for the even bigger ships.

Our route through the canal started at the Gatun locks. These take you up 85 feet to lake Gatun. You can see our ship the Celebrity Millenium in the background just entering the first lock. The white and blue ship is a car carrier heading the opposite direction.

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Here we are in the lock looking backward you can see a tanker heading out.

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We then travelled across the lake (formed by damming the Chagres river) to the Pedro Miguel locks which stepped us down about 50 feet and then on the the Miraflores locks which took us down to the Pacific Ocean.

This sequence just shows us at the Miraflores locks dropping down the final step before we head out. IMG 1129

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Panama City in the background.

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The whole thing is such an engineering marvel. And not done with new technology! Much of the canal has not changed since it was built over 100 years ago. No pumps are used, it is all gravity fed. Which means that in order for the locks to work they are draining the lake. Of course it is refilled by the river, but each ship uses about 52 million gallons of water to traverse the locks. The rainy season has not been very rainy this year so the lake level is down which means some ships can’t go through, or they have to unload some cargo before they go. One interesting addition that helps conserve water is that now we can use water from the side going down to halfway fill the side going up. This is a nice bit of recycling that saves about 50% of the water.

A Day in Panama

After docking in Colon we joined our tour group for the day to see some of the sites in Panama. This tour included stops at the new locks – Wide enough for the “neo” class ships that do not fit in the original canal. It also included a stop and boat ride on Lake Gatun where we visited the village of some indigenous people and looked for wildlife along the shore.

I had this idea (probably from childhood) that the Panama canal was one long canal. Which is not true at all. The canal is actually a series of locks that bring the ship up into lake Gatun then you cross lake Gatun and go down some more locks to bring you back to the ocean. So, the constraints on the ships are really the size of the locks. In 2016 they opened a new set of locks at each end to support the really large ships. Now the main constraint is really on the depth of the water in the lake.

Here is a view of both sets of locks on the Atlantic side:

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The left side is the new lock which runs one way, They go one way for half the day and then the other way the other half of the day. the right side is the old locks which run both ways most of the time, but they can shut it down and switch to one way traffic if they have maintenance to do.

Here is a view of the village we stopped at.

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Greenskeeper's Revenge!

Today the mens club event was very fun. The obstacles on the course were a great mid season reminder that I just play for fun.

The first hole there was a tractor parked right next to what we locally refer to as Gilligan’s Island. The tractor was right where I like to hit it, so of course I started out with a bang!

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Number 11 we had to tee off in the trees and shoot over another tree to get on the green.

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Number 15 the tractor was parked in front of the green. Its hard enough to chip onto that hole without the obstacle.

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On the first hole we had to putt with a hockey stick! Happy Gilmore!!It was hilarious nobody knew how hard to hit it with a stick.

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Some of the other holes had hose or rakes or other obstructions laid out in front of the green. Not to mention that the pin placements were diabolical! Right on the edge of the green by the water, right on top of a hill. A couple of the tee boxes were moved into the waste bunker areas near the tees.

My partner and I ended up tied for 2nd, so we even won a couple of bucks in pro shop cash.


Bowling for the first time in well over a decade. I’ve never bowled at a place where the score is kept automatically for you.

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A fun night out with friends from Heritage Palms.

The Joys of Winter Flying

This morning I got Wordle in 2! Here is Proof:
Wordle 564 2/6*

Since I won’t post this until tomorrow, I’ll tell you my first guess. It was DELAY. I know there are better words but my personal practice on wordle is to sit and think about my day for a few minutes and then try to come up with a good starting word that is somehow related to those thoughts. Sort of a Wordle meditation. I have rules, I’m not going to use double letters, its not going to be super obscure, or use letters that are too rare. Although QUEST would not be out of the question.

Now you may be wondering why DELAY was my word today. Well, it all started yesterday afternoon, in Minnesota, under a winter storm warning. I could see traffic on the I-35W bridge over the Missippi was slow from the window in our condo, then I couldn’t see the bridge at all. Not good. We were scheduled to fly back to Palm Springs at 6:07PM, so after some discussion we put on our backpacks at 2:40PM and headed for the light rail station near US Bank stadium, about 8 blocks or so. The going was slow and we didn’t know how the trains were doing but we were pretty sure it was a better option than Uber or Lyft. We got to the station at 3:07 and had about 10 minutes to wait for the Blue Line toward the Mall of America. Things were running much smoother than anticipated so we arrived at the airport way ahead of our typical 90 minutes before departure. We knew we needed some extra time to grab an early bite to eat since dinner time would come somewhere over Denver.

About halfway into our dinner the Flighty app told me that our flight had just been delayed. I was a little surprised because I had been following the progress of our plane and I knew it was already at the airport. Must be a crew issue I thought. So we stretched out our meal, watched the people for a while and then headed to our gate. Sure enough we were waiting for a crew that was now “flying around the weather.” That sort of flying continued for some time as small delay after small delay started to add up.

Finally, a crew was located, and we started the boarding process. After about 20 minutes on the plane we saw the captain and co-pilot arrive and they announced that there would be a bit more delay as they did their inspection and pre-flight paperwork. Then there was more waiting until an announcement was made that the ground crews could not keep up with the freezing rain and they were closing the airport! I’ve never seen this happen in Minnesota!! We are hearty, we don’t shut down our airports for mere rain and sleet and snow. That kind of behavior is reserved for wimpy east coast sorts. 🤪

It seems that as we were sitting on the plane another plane had slid off the end of the runway. Ok, that might be a pretty good indicator that its time to close up shop for a while. So we had to get off the plane again. The gate agent assured us that the airport would open again around 10 or 10:30 PM and that we would be underway as soon as possible. Ummm I wonder what that means? You can’t just shut down everything and then get 100’s of delayed flights through de-icing and on the runway in a few minutes.

We decided to bag it. Lets just get on the delta app and click on that nice little button that says reschedule. It really is not that big of an inconvenience for us to wait another day or two to escape the cold and snow. As I was talking to another passenger I said the hardest thing for me was that I had to cancel my tee time for tomorrow. Yeah, first world problems I know. Unfortunately the little button on the app didn’t work. Probably because we had already boarded… The app helpfully suggested an 800 number to call to straighten out the problem. Unfortunately the sole purpose of the voice on the 800 number is to convince you that using or the app on your phone is really by far the better option than waiting on what was a very long hold queue due to extremely high call volume. Delta if you are listening this is an area for improvement in what I must admit is quite a good app under most circumstances.

I went up to ask the gate agent what we could do? If we simply walk away now can we rebook later tonight? first thing tomorrow? Can you release us so that we can rebook ourselves? Instead she got on her terminal and rebooked us for this morning at 8:55. Thanks helpful gate agent! I wish I had caught your name. Next stop light rail station!

The path to the light rail station at MSP involves two fairly long escalators. At the bottom of the first we were intercepted by transit police. Crap, I thought they have closed the light rail and we are going to have to wait hours for a very expensive Uber in this weather. Nope, just a short delay due to a suspicious object on the tracks. Maybe no more than 5 minutes, unless it really is a bomb. Luckily the bomb dog was back up the escalator in no time apparently having no interest in said suspicious object. To make a long story short we were home and ready for bed before they reopened the airport!

At 6:40 AM we begin to retrace our steps to the airport once again. This morning the sidewalks are actually worse than they were 16 hours ago.

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Here we are on our way back to the light rail stations in the snow.

Back at the airport, we stop at the first kiosk we see to get new boarding passes which thankfully had our TSA PreCheck status on them! Then up to security. Man am I glad we have PreCheck! A stop at Caribou for some coffee and bagels and then down to the end of the G concourse. Flighty and Delta agree we are still on time, but it is snowing like crazy. We find some seats in the gate area and then realize that we are sitting next to someone we know! From Decorah Iowa! She and her husband are on their way to spend a month in Palm Springs. Chatting with them passes the time, and soon the agent announces pre-boarding – well it takes her a few tries as one of their mics makes them sound like the adults in the Charlie Brown TV shows – this is all looking too good to be true!

Soon enough we board but with all of the changes we have lost our nice aisle seats and are consigned to a middle and a window. The window is moderately interesting as we can see that about six inches of snow have accumulated on the wing! This is going to take some serious de-icing! As we are trying to get to our seats the nice lady on the aisle asks us to be careful as her cat is in a carrier under the seat! Hmmmm, I am extremely allergic to cats! The allergist at mayo said I am the most cat allergic patient he’s ever had. We have a short conversation about that and she is very needlessly apologetic (she didn’t know she would be seated next to me!). But she informs the flight attendant and they discuss an option of her moving across the aisle and up a row to a seat that hasn’t filled yet in an effort to put more distance between me and the cat. Although the flight is booked full it looks like there is definitely some room for maneuvering.

In an amazing stroke of luck, the flight attendant returns in a few minutes and asks if we would be willing to move back two rows and occupy exit row seats! Well that would certainly improve my odds of not finishing the flight with itchy eyes and wheezy lungs! And the nice cat lady gets a whole row to herself as a bonus.

After getting settled into our lovely exit row seats the pilot informs us there will be a short delay. We are waiting for a couple of connecting passengers, so please everybody stay in the seats you were assigned… Ummm, but the flight attendant said it was OK to move. A further delay was announced as the baggage carts are having a hard time getting around in the snow. Yes, indeed when you see one of the giant pushback tugs towing the baggage carts you know there are some real problems with traction.

Finally the boarding doors are closed, and we breath a big sigh of relief. We are warned that the waiting is not over, and de-icing and takeoff is still a ways in our future. In fact during the pushback process we apparently get stuck and we are rocked back and forth a few times before we finally get back far enough to fire up the engines. De-icing does take a lot of time! It turns out we had two coats, one to remove the ice and another to prevent more ice which turns the wings an interesting color green. That is to provide a visible signal of which parts of the wings have been treated and presumably will let them know when the chemicals are no longer doing their job, and reapplication is needed. Anyway, after de-icing we get to watch a parade. A parade of yellow vehicles plowing and brushing and throwing down all manner of chemicals on the runway to try to keep it safe for really large vehicles going hundreds of miles per hour that need to stop fast. You can kinda-sorta see them in this picture out out window…

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We are second in line for takeoff for at least 15 minutes! I don’t see any planes landing, I see an SUV driving down the runway with flashing lights. I’m waiting for the announcement that we are going to have to return for more de-icing or even worse, return to our gate. But then the engines fire up and we begin to taxi to take our turn! As I look down the runway I realize that we are taking off blind! Visibility isn’t even good enough to see the far end of the runway, maybe not even halfway… and then the pilot does one of those power takeoff maneuvers when he stands on the brakes and revs the jet engines to get more power, like we are on some kind of aircraft carrier.

Seconds later we are hurtling down the runway into the snow and fog then clouds; eventually we break through and see some blue sky and are on our way! On our way to sunny Palm Springs, with no snow on the ground, and where our friends are surely complaining that it is only 64 degrees!

So long Minnesota… I’m seriously re-thinking my quick visit back in February! Will the grandkids hate me if we just FaceTime? Do I really need to go to Minneapolis to see the musical version of To Kill a Mockingbird? If I don’t see Minnesota until April can anyone blame me? Oh and the Wordle answer was LAYER, as in Ogers are like onions, as in always dress in. I’m going to call that nothing but skill.

New Instructor Dashboard

I’ve been working on a new instructor dashboard the last week using Plotly + Dash. Its taken a while to wrap my head around the declarative style, and to learn the ins and out of plotly. But I’m getting there. Let me know if you want a closer look and would like to give me feedback! In the meantime here is a preview.

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Favorite photos of 2022

Inspired by the latest episode of Hemispheric Views, I decided to choose some of my favorite photos of the year. It is really hard.

From our hike in the Zion Narrows

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From Antelope Canyon, I chose this because it was cool, and because our guide taught me some new tricks of iPhone photography! Do you see the Bison?

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From our early morning start in Grand Teton National Park. I love the light in this one.

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From our fall trip to the North shore. I just like the color of the moss looking out over Lake Superior.

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From our driving trip going back to California at Cedar Breaks National Monument. An early snow against the red rocks was really cool.

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And finally one of the many winter wonderland pictures I took after the great snowfall we had a couple weeks ago. I would not want to be standing on this spot when the wind gusts and blows all that snow down!

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Shoutout to @canion, @burk, and @martinfeld, for a great podcast.

A Snowy Morning Walk

We arrived at our own private winter wonderland about 5:00 last night. The lane to our cabin greeted us with a wonderful site.

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The driveway, on the other hand, was not beautiful but a job waiting to be done. I knew it was going to be bad because I had called to get the septic holding tank pumped out, and the driver called me back and asked when we were going to have the driveway plowed so he could get in.

We got the snowblower going and cleared the drive only to get another four inches of snow overnight. It is truly beautiful around here and I was very thankful that the wind did not come up overnight and blow all the snow off the pine branches.

So, this morning after doing my PT exercises for my knee, I put on my boots and headed out the door with my phone to capture some of this.

Here are some of my favorites. I like this one for the bends in the trees. The snow is sure adding a lot of weight, but luckily I have not noticed any broken branches.

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I always like to play with the macro feature of the iPhone. This one really captured the crystals of the snow.

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And finally one of our favorite places to hang out with the kids when there are with us. The fire pit! I would love to have a fire going in there right now if only to add a spash of color.

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And finally here is one of the heavily laden pins on the lake side of the house. I love that tree on the left. the landscaper wanted to pull it out 22 years ago, but I said no. Lets let it grow.

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After my walk we did another round of shoveling and snow blowing. It looks like a guaranteed white Christmas this year, and I’m looking forward to Kaia, Tanner, Josh, Rachel, Johannes and Maren joining us soon for Christmas.

Sharing the wealth...

This topic has always been tough for us, as parents. But I love our financial adivisors, and I think this recent post really nails it. Key quote:

Talk to your kids about what you are doing or not doing for them, explain what your motives are, and re-evaluate your choices based on how things play out. You are not entitled to a certain response, so don’t hold out for it. Be grateful for what you can do.

Read the full article here:…

All the Things I am Thankful for

I thought it would be fun to share a text and picture blog post of all of the things I am thankful for! So here goes, the list is pretty long.

My Grandkids!

Although I am still relatively new to the grandpa game, I love Hannes and Maren a ton! If this isn’t the coolest picture of a brand new big brother I really don’t know what is.

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My family!

This was taken before number 2 grandkid was conceived, at our lake house in wisconsin. I think the comma after conceived is important…

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My Wife

My adventure partner, my companion, my everything! I don’t know who else would put up with me after all of these years. COVID times may have curtailed our ability to see the rest of the world, but it definitely increased our desire to see the amazing country we live in. Get yourself a camper and see the USA! This particular picture was taken at Zion National Park. I could post hundreds of other selfies of us from the USA to Morocco to Istanbul to Vietnam, to every other continent (except Antarctica)!

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I am thankful that wherever we are we are happy to be there. We have the amazing fortune to have three homes. I know, it’s kind of embarassing, and soon enough we will not want to maintain three residences.

Indio, California

IMG 6624 We have made so many good friends here in Indio! From the golf course to the pickleball court to the stage! We are so happy here, and look forward to many more years of “retirement” here at HP. Even though we were not with our kids this year we were lucky enough to invite another couple from pickleball to join us for dinner. We often joke that Heritage Palms is “summer camp” for adults over 55, but it is pretty true, there are so many activities and small groups to get to know.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

IMG 2022 When we downsized from our house in Decorah to an 1800 square foot condo in Minneapolis we wer over the moon. Theaters, restaurants, sports venues, mass transit, were all within blocks of us. And when we want to be somewhere else we lock the door, leave the car in the secure, heated garage, and are on our way! COVID made us question the ownership of this particular property, but we love every night we are there.

Luck, Wisconsin

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we built our cabin in Luck in 1999 as a place for our family to gather, and I’m happy it has worked out as a place where we gather with our kids and grandkids when we are around. I’m also really happy that this is a place where our kids and their spouses and children gather without us when we are avoiding the cold and enjoying California.

My Career

I’m thankful that I love what I do, and that I control my own schedule. How many people get to do what they love, and get paid for it? How many can do it on their own time schedule? I am the main person behind Runestone Academy, and every day I am helping more than 60,000 students learn math and computer science. But I can still play golf in the mornings with my friends, or ride bike, or play pickleball, or just have a cup of coffee and read the news or watch soccer or do the crossword puzzle.

Our Friends

I am thankful for our friends! Oh! I am so thankful for our friends! I do not even want to start this! But this guy and his wife are our oldest and dearest friends. College roommates, God parents to our kids, travel companions, you name it. This picture was taken on our 30th anniversary trip together. We take a trip every 5 years (sometimes every 4 AND 5 years) to celebrate our anniversaries. I feel like this is such a wonderful and unique tradition.

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I am sorry that I have not named everyone that is important to me. That list and post would be much longer. I just started this post on a lark, and have only now realized the gravity of (not) naming everyone. I hope you know who you are and how important you are to me.

The danger of a post like this is that ten minutes from now I will think of something or someone that I missed. I am so sorry!

Westward Ho!

Instead of camping our way to California this Fall we decided to make it a four day drive. We stayed in, gasp, hotels! This is really our first driving trip where we have used hotels since the pandemic. The verdict? Its nice to pull your accommodations with you!

Our first night was a very nice lodge in Spearfish Canyon South Dakota. Although the lodge was nice it was kind of a bummer because we had a nice hike planned, but I had injured my foot just a couple of days before we took off and I couldn’t walk more than a few yards without a lot of pain.

We did see some pretty cool sheep on the hillside!

We left at O-dark-thirty on day two of our adventure and had the pleasure of scraping ice off our windshield for the first time in a very long time! Today’s drive would take us across Wyoming to a lodge just outside of Dutch John Utah. The area is better known as Flaming Gorge. It was very pretty but our lodge was quite remote and felt even more so because we were clearly in the after season. Only one restaurant in the area was open.

Even thought it was isolated, we had a very pretty view out the picture window of our cabin. Here is a nice Sunset shot!

And to follow up, here is a sunrise photo from the same spot.

A long drive down I 15 brought us to Cedar City Utah for our third night. We headed up to Brian Head, a ski area and did a short little hike. My foot was feeling better by this time, but we still didn’t want to do too much. I love this shot of the show against the beautiful red rock! Our hotel was a Baymont tonight, and I’m not sure why, but the hotel had a some special “mini-rooms” even the door was about ¾ of a normal width. This was our room for the night. The saving grace for the hotel was that it was near a brewery and a really excellent pizza place! I had a chicken pizza with white sauce and pistachios! Truly amazing.

Our last day was the final push to Indio. But we made a quick stop at Kolob Canyon to take a short hike. Maybe some of the most spectacular views yet.

This was a great way to do the trip out this year. We averaged about 6-7 hours of driving a day with time at the end of each day for a short hike or some site seeing.

Superior Fall Colors

Timing the fall colors is a tough game to play. It’s hard to predict when they will peak because there are so many factors at play. Jane did all of the research and tried to make a reservation for next week, but could not find a good campsite. So we reserved for this whole week thinking we would use part of our reservation. Then I found out I had other commitments at the end of the week so we had to push our time further forward.

The results speak for themselves.

We arrived on a very gloomy and rainy Sunday afternoon. But discovered our campsite was just 100 hundred yards or less from the shore.

Bean and Bear

The next day was cool and clear so we did the 7.5 mile bean and bear hike near silver bay. The colors we almost there but not quite. Still it was a very beautiful hike, although Jane lost her Yellowstone hat from the vantage point where we took this photo.


A shorter hike on another clear day, but further north near Lutson had amazingly vibrant fall colors.

Temperance River

On our final morning we took the short hike to the Temperance River gorge. It had a beautiful waterfall, and we enjoyed watching an Arctic Loon try to fight its way upstream.

Fall Walks on Bone Lake

After a couple of years of taking long camping trips during the month of October it has been wonderful to be at the cabin for the “Fall colors” this year. These pics just highlight the everyday beauty of the area during October.

Its a bit cold to bike (40 degrees) but it is a nice temperature to walk. Here are a few photos that Jane and I have taken in the last two days on our walks around the cabin. Enjoy!

Devils Tower

The road home runs through Devils Tower National Monument. A monument who got its name from a misunderstanding between the Native Americans name “Bear Lodge” and the white people.

Nothing about this tower says evil/devil. But apparently after the army slaughtered all of the bison the area was a stinking pile of carcasses and the army colonel described it as Devil’s Tower. There is a movement to change it back, predictably opposed by Wyoming members of congress. You can read more about it on the park service website

As is our usual practice we spent the last night on the road at a KOA so we could have a nice easy way to clean out our tanks for the long trip home. This KOA shows a movie every night — Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You may remember that this monument featured in that movie.

This is a popular spot for climbers. Except for the month of June when it is not open for climbing out of respect to the Here are some climbers coming back down.

The title picture for this post was taken at 6 AM as we pulled out of the park to being our 13 hour journey back to Wisconsin. This was a fantastic trip, made even better by our traveling companions. Where will we be five years from now? Who knows, but it will be an adventure.

Yellowstone Scenery

Although there was a huge flood in Yellowstone just over a month ago there was very little of the park that was closed to visitors. We took full advantage of that and saw everything that the park had to offer. When most people think of Yellowstone, they probably think of Old Faithful, but there is so much more to the park than that. We did a few longer hikes, and a lot of short hikes. We saw beautiful rivers and waterfalls and canyons. Even the meadows along the river were amazingly beautiful. I am very grateful to the Hayden expedition, congress, and to President Grant for making Yellowstone the first national park in the world.

The grand canyon of Yellowstone was really grand, and maybe my favorite of the trip. There are two huge waterfalls, upper and lower. Here is a view of the lower falls — which are 308 feet tall! For comparison Niagara is 167 feet but Iguazu falls are 360. I looked it up so you get to read it!

We started out our visit to the grand canyon of Yellowstone at artist point, supposedly named for some paintings made by the artist Thomas Moran who was part of the Hayden expedition. Moran painted the falls to present to congress because after discovering Yellowstone they knew that it needed to be preserved and wanted to persuade congress to preserve this place for future generations.

Thomas Moran's painting of the lower falls

But this is a mistake, he actually made the paintings from the north rim. Nevertheless its a great view point and you could definitely be inspired to paint there.

Lower Falls from Artist Point

Upper Falls

From the north side of the canyon You can take a ¾ mile hike down to the brink of the upper falls. Its a 600 foot elevation change but you get to stand and look right over the falls.

Brink of the falls

Sometimes you can happen upon something really nice just by taking a short little offshoot of the main road. These are wonderful stops without the crowds that you see at some of the main attractions.

Fire Hole Falls

Tower Falls

Yellowstone river

This has been a wonderful trip. Tomorrow we leave Yellowstone and begin the two day trek back home. We will make a stop at Devils Tower tomorrow night, and then have a marathon day back to the cabin in Wisconsin on Friday.

Mud Pots, Hot Springs and Geysers

Educational Post Alert (EPA)! Did you know there are four kinds of geothermal features in Yellowstone? And that Yellowstone has more than half of the worlds geysers ? Thats geysers not geezers , although there are a lot of geezers here, I’m pretty sure its not more than half of the worlds population.

The first couple of days in the park we visited a lot of thermal features I’m going to take them by feature rather than going in order. We will go from most boring to least boring. As a bonus for sticking with us you will get to see wildlife photos.

Let’s begin with Fumaroles. You might think these sound like some nice Italian pastry stuffed with sweet cream filling, but you would be wrong. Fumaroles are gas vents. And when I say gas I mean sulfur gas. You can encounter these things all over the park and you usually see them and hear them before you actually get to them.

Dragon's Breath

Next on the list are the mud pots. Mud pots are boiling pools of, well, mud. In the springtime when there is more runoff and rain they tend to be kind of thin, but by late summer and early fall they are very thick and muddy. These are also quite odiferous, but kind of fun to watch them bubble away and spew mud into the air.


Third are the thermal pools. These can be quite beautiful actually. They look like they would be wonderful to sit in like a hot tub. But they are actually way too hot for that and their PH is quite acidic. They also contain lots of interesting kinds of bacteria that only grow at higher temperatures. In fact the colors in these pools are from mats of bacteria that thrive at different temperature levels. Not only are they pretty, but they are scientifically useful in that they help make DNA replication much faster!

Morning Glory Pool

Prismatic Overlook

Mammoth Hot Springs

This pool deserves some special mention. It is right in Lake Yellowstone. It gives anglers the option to catch their fish and cook it without even taking it off the hook. It is called the fishing cone.

Fishing Cone

Finally, the most famous and dramatic of all of the features are the Geysers. Geysers are especially fun when they erupt. Old faithful, here at Yellowstone erupts every 35 minutes to 2 hours. We enjoyed seeing old faithful twice, once from a viewpoint up on the hill quite a ways away, and the other time right up close. We also witnessed several other smaller eruptions and different geysers around the park.

Old Faithful Overlook

Old Faithful Selfie

OK, you made it this far, here are some animals. By far the animal we have seen the most is the Bison. We have seen them in the field, near the road, on the road, rolling in the dirt, everywhere. We did not pet them. We also saw this nice herd of Elk in the distance. But no bears. We did get to observe some black wolves, but trust me they are so far in the distance that they don’t really make for sharable photos. We also saw a coyote out on the road in the middle of the day, which is quite unusual.

Grand Teton Icons

What do Oxbow bend, Schwabacher landing, the Moulton barn and the snake river overlook all have in common? These are all iconic sites to see in the park. We set out early again this morning to beat the crowds and the heat to see them all. Although today was not a day for long hikes we did enjoy several short walks to see the sites.

The first stop was an early morning stop at Oxbow bend. A great place to spot wildlife, but even though we were there early in the morning we didn’t see any mammals. The coolest thing we saw at Oxbow was an Osprey carrying off a trout to its nest. A trout is perfectly streamlined for flight underneath a bird of prey.

A little further down the road we had a fantastic view of Grand Teton in the beautiful morning light.

Our next stop was at the Snake River overlook. This is the place where Ansel Adams took his iconic photo that put Grand Teton on the map. There are more trees now than when he took the photo in 1942. We did our best to recreate the photo using 2020 technology and filters.

As we were heading to the truck we overheard one young dad tell his three kids “Look kids there are some iconic Grand Teton crows”. The only thing I can imagine that would inspire a statement like that was if they too had been listening to Gypsy Guide in the car.

Further on down the road we went, this time our stop was Schwabacher landing. We were in luck! There was a mama moose and her baby eating and drinking in the river. This time I had our good old Canon SLR with the long lens so we were able to get some really good photos of the pair.

Once again we were really hoping to see a bear so we spent more time at a little more secluded pullout at Schwabacher but didn’t see anything but more birds.

The last of our iconic stops was on mormon row where there are some well preserved barns from the 1890s.

After seeing all of these iconic sites we decided to continue on into Jackson and wander around the town a bit. It was a Saturday so we happened to hit the farmers market for some great fresh bread. Other than that Jackson seemed pretty much like every other western tourist town.

Grand Teton - Cascade Canyon

The first ferry across Jenny lake leaves at 7am she said. We decided to shoot for the 7:30 crossing, which turned out to be a brilliant move. First we avoided lots of crowds, and second, we were up into Cascade Canyon in time to see a group of bull moose waking up!

One of the nicest hikes in Grand Teton is the Hidden Falls, Inspiration point, and Cascade Canyon combination. It is about a 480 foot climb for the first mile and then it evens out for the walk through the beautiful glacial canyon. By leaving early we avoided the people coming down the trail as we were heading up and it was generally a lot more peaceful.

Jenny Lake Ferry Ride

The first stop was hidden falls, a beautiful waterfall on cascade creek that feeds into Jenny lake. The lake temperature is 60 degrees at the surface, “but gets a little more chilly if you dive down.” Not much chance of that happening.

Hidden Falls

A further climb leads you to inspiration point. On the way up this climb there are a couple of places to stop and take in some of the peaks in the Teton range. Including this picture of Teewanot. The contrast of the morning sun against the storm clouds over the peak was awe inspiring already. And yes we did hear thunder, but thankfully we did not see or experience any lightning!

Teewanot - sounds like astronaut

When you arrive at Inspiration point you have a fantastic view of the lake. I love this shot that shows the ferry leaving the dock leaving a feather-like wake.

Jenny Lake

After inspiration point the trail levels out some, and so we were just enjoying a nice walk back into the Cascade Canyon. We caught a few raindrops as the storm clouds passed over us, but not enough to get wet. We happened to talk with a couple of guys coming down the trail who told us they had just seen a couple of moose laying in a meadow about 5-10 minutes up the trail. We were lucky enough to spot them when we arrived! It was a bit disappointing to see nothing but antlers, but It looked like they were beginning to stir so we decided to hangout a while and see if anything happened. During the wait we amassed a huge collection of very bad photos of moose antlers behind plants in the deep shade.

But sure enough after a 15 minute wait one of them stood up. This caused a second one to rouse itself as well. Eventually they ventured into some light bright enough to get a few decent photos. Although 99% of our photos are taken on iPhones these days we were glad to have brought along our old Sony A6000 with the telephoto lens to get a better closeup.

Thats Mr. Moose to you.

This little encounter reminded us how lucky you are to see wildlife while hiking along. The animals are so hard to spot if they are not up and moving. We often wondered how often we passed some kind of wildlife that was just quietly lying behind a bush a few feet away.

We continued further into the canyon now in hopes of seeing a bear (at a very safe distance). The closest we came to a bear was a surly teenager who ruined his grandma’s entire day with his behavior. A side note here - it seems that leaving early is a good strategy because it is mostly people our age on the trail and some families with younger happy children or cute babies in backpacks who get up early in the morning. We noticed a lot more teens on the trip down in late morning.

Cascade Canyon

We arrived back at camp in time to make some lunch. I guess I really worked up an appetite because caesar salad with chicken never tasted so good. We voted for a lazy afternoon of reading, and checking out the beach. Around 4:00 we took a short drive up Signal Mountain to take in the views of the “hole.” Fun fact: The term hole was a common term to describe a high altitude valley. Further fun fact - the term “dude ranch” specifically the term dude was a pejorative term in the late 1800’s to refer to a city dweller who needed to be pampered and was very likely unable to look after themselves in the wilderness.

Exploring Custer - Day 3

The morning dawned crisp and clear, it was great to sleep with the windows open taking in the cool clean air. I made my coffee, and thanks to our range extender I was even able to read the news and extend my 73 day streak on Wordle. I had just finished wordle when I heard Brian lighting the campfire outside. The plan for the day was to start with a hearty breakfast and then head out to do the Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower hike. After hiking we will do the black hills loop drive, including Iron Mountain highway and the Needles highway.

We began with an egg bake cooked over an open fire. Delicious and the hashed browns on the bottom of the pan were wonderfully crispy.

The Cathedral Spires hike was wonderful, but Little Devils Tower was spectacular! The Cathedral Spires were the inspiration for Mount Rushmore. The hike up there was fine but when you finally get into the spires themselves you can see how inspirational they really are.

Headed up the Cathedral Spires

We arrived at a clearing with a nice shady area to sit, but there were also trails leading off in a couple of different directions. Brian and I were convinced there must be more so we explored a bit only to realize that there was not much more to see. When we got back Jane and Holly pointed to the sign below.

Self explanatory

OK, so we were undisputedly at the end of the trail.

Just a short distance back down the trail was the turn off to head to Little Devils Tower. This was largely a climb and we were not sure where it was going to end, spoiler alert its up on top of these rocks.

Little Devils Tower

The trail was full of little chips of Mica and in some places it was so fine that the very fine sand looked muddy! We also walked through a whole section of trail full of “fools gold.” Both Holly and Jane were sporting knee braces so we were trying to take care, and in fact one elderly lady we met on the trail referred to them as “brave”. We laughed about that for a long time. Unfortunately when we got about a quarter mile from the payoff to this part of the hike it was clear that those with knee braces were not going to go rock climbing on all fours.

That left Brian and I to make our way to the summit on our own. It was definitely a good bit of rock scrabbling. But the view from the top was well worth the effort. Just imagine standing on top of that little dome of rock. Nothing to block your view for 360 degrees.

Here is Brian making his way up one of the easier parts of the final push.

Brian making the final push

And here is the best I can do from the top. Pictures do not even come close to capturing what we saw.

A different view of the spires

Incredible views

Brian and I on top of Little Devils Tower

On the way down we had one very funny moment when Brian’s water bottle slipped out of his back pack and went clattering down the granite. We thought for sure the women would hear it and think one of us had fallen down the hill. Just a little bit of extra character for the bottle.

The rest of the day we were in the car, enjoying the Needles Highway. There are three tunnels carved through the granite, but they are only 8 feet 9 inches wide and just over 10 feet tall. This is why we had to take the long way around to our campground! No way is the camper going to fit through this tunnel!

Through one of the eyes of the needle

The Iron Mountain highway with its pigtail bridges and views of Mount Rushmore is also a great part of the drive. We didn’t see any bison or other wildlife. But we enjoyed the drive and the views.

At one point near the end we got enough service for some emails to arrive. Luckily I looked long enough to see an urgent email regarding one of our grant proposals that was due in just an hour or so. Apparently our part needed to be submitted. So I tried to log in on my phone and navigate the NSF website to submit our grant. Now the NSF site is a big pile of crap from the 90’s that is hard to navigate on the best of days with a desktop browser. Trying to navigate it in a half-panic on your phone is horrible. Let’s just say there is nothing responsive about the design and the design did nothing to anticipate the use of mobile devices. In the end I gave up and sent my password to the grant officer at Michigan, who ended up having to call NSF tech support because indeed the submit button was not where it should have been. It turns out that being an administrator and Principle Investigator is not enough to submit a proposal, I needed to have a new role as Authorized Organizational Representative. Of course the site itself does not say that. Dear NSF better error messages would help…

Dinner for the evening was our celebratory anniversary meal. Steak over the fire — someone left the sous vide in California! — baked potatoes, salad and a couple of bottles of really nice wine we brought for the occasion.

Mexican food so good…

Today (Day 2) was a day of driving across South Dakota. What do you see when driving across South Dakota? Billboards, lots and lots of billboards. Wall Drug, of course. But lots of others too, apparently the Firehouse Brewery is trying to be the new Wall Drug. They have signs and bright red fire trucks every few miles. Here are a few of our favorite slogans.

Mexican food so good that Donald Trump would build a wall around it!

I don’t even remember if the name of the restaurant was mentioned. But I would love to eat there to support the owners.

There is wisdom in wine.

There is bacteria in water

Love it, let’s have a glass of wine to celebrate the author of that sign.

I have to say that South Dakota is not a good value; it is pretty expensive scenery at almost $1.00 per mile! The reason that today was particularly expensive was the headwind. We were driving straight into a 20 mph wind gusting to 40 mph at times. Our gas mileage is normally 9-10 mph while pulling our camper, but today we were averaging 5.3. Yikes! I was beginning to think that today was our day for mechanical troubles until we stopped to fill up. I could hardly push the door open against the wind. Although relieved to understand why we were getting such poor mileage, Knutson’s van performed perfectly and with a diesel engine they were only using about a quarter of a tank to our 25 gallon fills.

We made it to the Badlands in the late morning and took the scenic drive through. The last time I was on this road, I was on my bike, so it was a different experience to see it from the truck.

The gang in the Badlands

The Badlands are so interesting with millions of years of geologic history on display. They have a map that shows what things looked like all those years ago and clearly this part of the world was under water.

After we got through the Badlands our final 100 miles for the day brought us to Custer State Park. I think it must be one of the most beautiful state parks in the country. Our camp sight was beautiful, if a little small to back into. We set up camp at the Sylvan Lake campground and after a round of beers in the shade we headed out for the short hike around the lake.

Dinner was wonderful, we had some delicious french dip foil sandwiches. Holly had made them with cheese and roast beef and then wrapped them in foil, we put them over the fire and they came out perfectly. Meanwhile we took on the task of trying to figure out the problem with the gas supply to the grill and griddle. By process of elimination we determined that it was the quick connect coupler on the camper that had to be clogged. The protective cover had either come off or we had forgotten to put it on, so it wasn’t too surprising that road grime was interfering with the flow. We took it off and washed it good with soapy water. That cleared it all up and so we are back in business to cook with gas. However we are having fun improvising our cooking over the open camp fire.

Unsurprisingly holly and Brian had not slept very well their first night in their van, so we called it a night relatively early.

The Adventures Begin

Every five-ish years we have a special trip with our good friends Brian and Holly. We were all married on the same weekend in June, but one year apart. Brian was my college roommate and my best man. So to celebrate our five year anniversaries we do a trip together. We have been to Door County, Hawaii, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, you get the idea. Every time we go it is an adventure.

This year is our 36th anniversary and their 35th. A few years ago we rented a 32 foot RV and visited Banff and Glacier. This year, we decided to keep the national park theme going and are heading to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Since we have a travel trailer, Brian and Holly decided to rent a camper van and we would drive and camp together.

We were about an hour down the road when we got the following text from Holly.

So we pulled off in Saint James and parked behind the Caseys. After turning off the van and restarting the engine everything seemed fine. So we continued on down the road. We got all the way to Heron Lake when it happened again. So we pulled into the Conoco station and they called their rental company. Once again restarting the van fixed the problem. After the third time we decided to pull over in Worthington and get some help from the rental company. The first thing we learned was that the roadside assistance provided with the rental was completely useless. They said they found one place that could help us, in the little town of Lismore, that could get us in on Wednesday! Discussions ensued with the owner of the RV who seemed pretty knowledgeable and correctly diagnosed what the problem was. Meanwhile the rental company got busy trying to locate an alternative RV to bring to us. The RV was in “limp mode”. When the RPMs exceed 2700 the turbo is not able to keep up and goes into a mode where you cannot accelerate.

At the owners suggestion we continued toward Sioux Falls, with a stop for gas in Luverne where gas was just $4.09. While we were in town we made a quick stop at Papik motors where we were able to get the error code read, which confirmed the diagnosis. A little further down the road we got word that we should head to Chris’s Auto Repair in Sioux Falls. If you ever need some work done on your car in Sioux Falls I would highly recommend, they are the nicest group you will find. They did some more diagnostic work to figure out exactly what needed to be replaced. Unfortunately they couldn’t get the part until Wednesday, so the owner dispatched his mechanic to make the four hour drive to Sioux Falls with the part. We now knew that we were not going camp in the badlands, so we found a couple of sites at the very nice Lake Vermillion recreation area.

While waiting for the mechanic, we had happy hour and made some burgers. We were planning on grilling, but for some reason could not get the grill to light! Another mystery to figure out when we get settled in Custer. The induction burner and frying pan worked out just fine, so we had our burgers and enjoyed the views of the lake.

At around 9:00 the mechanic arrived, well it was actually not the mechanic but someone’s teenage son. Whatever! He got the job done and the RV has been running like a champ all day today.