Dan and Crawdads

Got any time to read a really great novel?  Didn’t think so.

Crawdads 3

Yes, I borrowed it from the local library.

But when you do, I have a story that you will find every spare minute to read.  It’s Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Rightfully, you could say, Dan where you been?  This is 2018 novel that topped The New York Times charts in 2019 for 27 weeks

Without giving too much away, I want you to know it’s a murder mystery that takes place in the marsh of the North Carolina coastline.  Following two timelines that slowly intertwine, Crawdads has compelling characters as well as an engaging narrative that wraps up with one of my favorite endings of all time.  Delia Owens weaves in the science of the marsh in an understandable way for the non-science folk among us (by that I mean me), similar to Barbara Kingsolver.

That’s my tease.  Without equivocation, Where The Crawdads Sing is my favorite book of 2020.

PS  Thanks, Karen!

Dan, Kobe, Gianna, and Seven Others

Coming home from church at Unity this last Sunday in January, I flip on ESPN2 to stunning learn that Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna have died two hours ago in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA, 55 miles from where we are in Carpinteria for the winter.

Carp to calabasas

Throughout the day, Kobe is celebrated for his role as a father and husband, what a curious mind he had, and his uber-successful basketball career.  Many colleagues and former players say that he was so much more than a basketball player including being an Academy Award winner for best animated short film in 2018.

Checking back in this morning after, I get a sobering reminder from Nicole Briscoe, an ESPN Sports Center anchor.  First, seven others died in the crash and their families mourn and ache for their loss.  And second (paraphrased), let’s stop waiting to celebrate people in death, but let them know how much they mean to us while they are alive.

Message received, thank you Nicole.

Dan and His Fascination with California! The Back Story Part 1 of 2

Carp Sunset 1

Carpinteria sunset 2020

At this moment, Hannah and I are flying over Iowa on our Jet Blue flight from Logan Airport in Boston to LAX in southern California.  For the seventh winter running, we have come to the Golden State to take a big bite out of the Maine winter.

boston to la map

So, why California and not Florida or your home for ten years, Arizona? you ask.  There’s something about California that has had a hold on me since my teenage years.  Here’s the back story.


During the mid-1960s in suburban north Jersey, I was buried on the depth chart in the pecking order at Fair Lawn High School.  Neither a Rah-rah (class leaders, athletes, the good looking, and/or cheerleaders) nor a Bopper (a hood with a black leather jacket), I did have my core of close friends.  Truth be told, we were all two or three orbits out from the In-Crowd.  (Somewhere beyond Uranus – that’s always funny.)

You see, my dad was the principal at FLHS when I was a student there.  Of course, that’s not his fault, but I was unable to break out of the expectations of how a principal’s son should behave.  I was not about to go Footloose on anyone.  And to compound the challenge, as a first child, I was born with the double obedience gene.

Carp Mamas Papas

With a transistor radio pressed to my ear, I listened to Cousin Brucie and Big Dan Ingram on WABC as I connected with the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas.  My head filled with what life might be like on the Left Coast.  You see, California seemed to be everything New Jersey was not.  Sunshine, palm trees, surfing, and especially surfer girls!

John Philips of the aforementioned Mamas and Papas spoke to me.  Go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do.  Pretty seductive to a dreamer like me.

Carp Sunset 2

Carpinteria sunset 2020

So the fascination with California comes from my desire to escape a teenage life of daily expectations and impossible standards, self-imposed and otherwise.  Escape from being the good boy, the dutiful one who was flexible to a fault.

As a college senior, I got 85% of the way to California by transferring to Arizona State University.  Upon graduation, I jumped at the chance to teach at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California (25 miles south of Los Angeles).  Though my teaching career ended before it began four months later due to complications with the draft during the Viet Nam War, California continued to have a hold on me.  Though Maine is home, my heart strings pull me to California each winter.

Carp Sunset 3

Carpinteria sunset 2020

And today landing at LAX, I am already California Dreamin’.  (You see, the Mamas and Papas were kind of life coaches for me.)

Dan and Hannah Pickle in Athens, Georgia and Visit the Carter Center in Atlanta

Waking at the Sleep Inn and Suites motel (unfortunately sans suite for D&H) not far from the campus of the University of Georgia on our last day in the American South, we drive to another primo pickleball venue at Southeast Clarke Park in Athens.  Welcomed by Santa Claus (aka Ken Calkin, the local ambassador), we have advanced play with a variety of Southerners and transplants from the Northeast.  We do our best not to embarrass our Maine fellow picklers.

Carter 1 PB in Athens H

Hannah serves teaming up with Ken in Athens, Georgia

Carter 1A D, H, and Ken

Hannah, Ken (he does in fact play Santa Claus at Christmas time), and Dan at the six dedicated courts in Athens.  Getting Fitbit steps wherever we go!

Warmed up by the high quality play on the last Tuesday of October, I can see the future – come with me!  I am spending three weeks next fall in Athens with Hannah before the long, dark pall of winter descends on Maine.

Carter map of athens to carter center

Driving 75 miles west to Atlanta via I-20, Hannah and I have the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in our sights.  Located in downtown of Atlanta, the Carter Center is easy to find with ample parking.  Admission is $10 for seniors and the complex of buildings has an understated feel compared to the expansive Reagan Library.  That presidential library is large enough to include Air Force One at its Simi Valley, California location.

Check out this picture from the recent fall California wildfires lapping at the doorstep of the library.  Click here for my blog on the Reagan Library.

Carter Reagan library fires

October 2019 wildfires threatening the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

From out of nowhere, Jimmy Carter campaigned through 1975 with his family doing the heavy lifting of meeting voters and organizing events in Iowa and New Hampshire.  His roots as a dark horse candidate give hope for those supporting Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson (Dan and Hannah) during the current campaign for the 2020 election.  (Sadly in January 2020 Marianne suspended her campaign.)

Carter 2B Jimmy Who

Jimmy Carter is Hannah’s favorite president.  Sure Washington, Lincoln, and Obama have their many fans, but Jimmy was president when Hannah and I were young marrieds in Arizona looking to find our way in the late 1970s.  A good and decent man of faith, he is most often remembered for the 445 day Iran Hostage crisis that didn’t end til the day after he left office in 1981.

I remember the last three days that I was president, I never went to bed at all. I never went to bed until we had negotiated the final release of the hostages. – Jimmy Carter


Carter 2C inaguraul

Inauguration 1977

Fighting the rampant racial segregation in the South, Jimmy Carter stood out for the freedom and dignity for all God’s children.  On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders.

Carter 2E prez seal

His desire to create the Carter Center as a venue for negotiations and peace keeping was the foundation for his winning the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.  Traveling widely to conduct peace negotiations, monitor elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations, JC is a man for our times.

Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.  – Jimmy Carter

Carter 2D oval office

The recreated Oval Office at the Carter Center

When people are intimidated about having their own opinions,                                           oppression is at hand.  ― Jimmy Carter

His commitment to Habitat for Humanity inspires our friends, George and Pat.  Habitat brings volunteers together to build homes, communities, and hope.  It has helped more than four million folks construct or rehabilitate more than 800,000 homes since its founding in 1976.

Carter nobel prize

Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize for Peace winner

Maybe there’s a “Jimmy Carter” in the current pool of presidential candidates.

A Quote on “Forgiveness”

Forgiveness image

Forgiveness is an act of looking beyond the behavior of another.  It does not mean condoning an action or behavior; instead it provides the opportunity to release negative thoughts or feelings and find the strength to move forward.

It is important for me to forgive myself as well.  If I have acted in a manner that I regret, I forgive myself, learn from my mistake, and move forward.

By forgiving, I look ahead instead of behind.

Dan and Hannah Pickle, Then Hike Paris Mountain near Greenville, South Carolina

paris map of greenville

When Hannah and I travel, I always check the USAPA pickleball website for places to pickle.  Once I find one that fits our schedule with day and time, I email the ambassador.  Today John Moore welcomes us to the stunning six new dedicated courts at Timmons Park in Greenville, SC.


paris 1 six courts

Timmons Park Pickleball

paris 1B D and H pickling

With a 9A temp of 73F, we sharpen our game on this last Monday in October.  Shout out to Sue, who is the highlight of the morning for Hannah.  As pickleball partners, they laugh, encourage each other; they win some, they lose some.  Good folks like Sue don’t come along every day, but she sure did this morning in the Palmetto State.

paris 1A han and sue

Hannah in foreground and Sue to her right ready for some pickleball action

While waiting to play, I ask picklers about hiking in the area and learn of Paris Mountain just outside of town.  Perfecto!

paris 1AA paris sign

Thirty minutes after leaving the pickleball venue, we pay $3.25 each as seniors to hike the trails at Paris Mountain.  At the welcome center, the ranger lists the various trails, and we opt for the Sulphur Springs Trail, the park’s macho trail.  Rated 9 out of 10, the Sulphur Springs Trail has Dan and Hannah written all over it.


paris 2 map

The Sulphur Springs Trail is in white.  We start at the lowest P (for parking) on the map and go clockwise on the loop trail.  The checkered section is where mountain bikes dare not go.

At the trailhead is a large wooden map of the Sulphur Springs Trail which I take a picture of.  (And yes, prepositions can be at the end of sentences!)  The advice to hike clockwise has us tackling the heavy lifting part of the trail at the start.

paris 2C trail sans people

Our trail begins with a walk in the woods through upstate South Carolina forests.  Within the first fifteen minutes three separate millennials pass us by.  Greeting them in passing, we always love seeing others on the trail to know that we are not lost.

paris 2E h on trail

Entering the checkered section of the trail, which is one that prohibits mountain bikers, we step up and around rocks and small boulders.  This section gives the trail its 9 of 10 rating as our hearts pump and lungs respond rhythmically as we venture further into the Carolina woodlands.

paris 3 h on trail

And hour into the hike, we come upon a wide fire road and turn right towards the trailhead.  Having bagged the toughest part of the trail, we are James Taylor-ing it (i.e. we have Carolina on our mind) and know it is all downhill from here.

paris daily double

With the trailhead in sight, we check our Fitbits to see that we’ve done the 3.8 miles of this macho trail at Paris Mountain State Park in less than two hours.  It’s a high-flying 20,000 step day!

I have hit the daily double of vacation travel – morning pickleball and afternoon hiking with Hannah Banana on a sunny day.

Dan Hikes the Trails of Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina

Chimney map of ashe to cr

North Carolina

While Hannah hangs out with her older sister Bettsy (who happens to live in Asheville), our sister-in-law Becky and I have Chimney Rock Mountain in our sights.  Driving through the hollows of western North Carolina where moonshiners plied their trade back in the day, we arrive in the touristy burg of Chimney Rock on a glorious late October Sunday afternoon.

Chimney 1 CR in the distanc3

The one and only Chimney Rock from the upper parking lot

With summers that put the H in Hot and Humid, North Carolina in fall is the season of choice for hiking.  Paying the discounted price of $15 each as seniors, we are directed to the upper parking lot of Chimney Rock State Park where we can access all the signature trails of this parque populaire.

Chimney 1A Becky on HN trail

Sis-in-law Becky heading to Hickory Nut Falls

The premiere trail takes us to the Hickory Nut Falls, 400’ of tumbling watery delight.  At 2400’ of elevation, the 1.4 mile round trip trail is happy with people and level enough for any sort of hiker.  Enjoy the images of the falls and the faux Spielberg-quality video.

Chimney 1B HN falls

Hickory Nut Falls


Then, we take to the many stairs to Chimney Rock itself.  Boldly displaying a massive American flag, Chimney Rock takes some serious commitment, as we climb all 499 steps to the outlook over Lake Lure.  With Becky in the lead, this is my view much of the way up.

Chimney - 2 walking behind becky

Chimney 2AA more stairs

And later down

Fun fact.  There are no natural lakes in North Carolina; the big ones in the area, including Lake Lure, are all man-made!

Chimney - 2B D and B atop CR

Chimney 2C CR from a distance

Chimney Rock with Lake Lure in the distance

From there, we take the Skyline Trail up the mountain and far from the masses of tourists.  Hiking to Devil’s Head, we then turn inland through the Carolina forests for the head of the aforementioned Hickory Nut Falls.  This two mile trail past Vista Point takes us to the mildly disappointing head of the falls (which is the point the falls tumble over the mountainside), which we can barely see.  In a Zen-like moment with a non-attachment to results, I focus on Becky and this trail of sylvan wonder.

Chimney 4A trail with B

Chimney 4 head of falls

The modest prelude to the head of the falls, which we couldn’t see.

Chimney Love What Is

For 45 minutes on this trail, Becky and I have our own two-person book club on my favorite book of the fall, Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie, an author we’ve learned about through Unity.  Her description of what she describes as The Work can give you tools as you respond to four questions when dealing with problems that stress, frustrate, irritate, and/or depress you.  The questions when assessing such a situation are: (1) Is it true? (2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (3) How do you react when you think that thought? (4) Who would you be without that thought?  Intrigued?  Borrow it from your local library system.  We can have our own two-person book club when we next get together.