Dan Demystifies the Colonoscopy Experience  Part 1 of 4

Two men walk into a bar.  One says to the other, I am having a colonoscopy Friday.  The other says, the colonoscopy isn’t bad, it’s the nasty drink beforehand that makes me want to puke.  The first man says, Be a man.  Suck it up.  Use a straw to get around the nasty tasting concoction.  And so, I will use a straw and suck it up!

One week til my colonoscopy (a Tuesday) – Urban legend is correct; the worst part of the colonoscopy is the foul liquid drink that makes my intestines as clean as a whistle.  It’s so nasty that in the past I have wanted to barf.  Five years ago, I took the contemptible brew with lemon Gatorade and now I hate Gatorade.

colon picture of intestines

As a veteran of the colonoscopy, in seven days I will be having my fifth one.  Usually colonoscopies are every ten years, but since my dad, my brother, sister and I have all had polyps, I am on the five year plan.  Despite the invasiveness of the doc’s scope up my rectum, I don’t miss a date with my gastroenterologist.  It’s hard to argue since colonoscopies make colon cancer one of the most preventable cancers known to man and woman.

First, to minimize the noxious taste of the liquid laxative, I have learned from our recent month in California that a straw can bypass some of the taste buds in my tongue.  Certainly, sounds promising.  I’ll report back in seven days.

The colonoscopy itself has never been an issue as I am sedated and wake with no recollection of the sinuous scope with a camera and snippers that has snaked its way through my large intestine.

 

Five days before (Thursday) –Arriving home after indoor pickleball, I have a call from Atlantic Digestive Specialists (ADS), whose Dr. Hyett is going to do my colonoscopy next Tuesday.  It seems that Houston, I have a problem.

colon ADS

Though seven weeks after I set up an appointment for my colonoscopy, ADS informs me that they do not accept my Aetna Medicare Advantage health insurance.  What!  You are telling me this with five days before my procedure!

Calling my Aetna customer service rep, I find that they disagree with ADS and say all nine gastroenterologists of ADS accept my insurance.  ADS begs to differ, and they say, in so many words, you are shit out of luck (a little colonoscopy humor).  I’ll set the scene more visually for you.  ADS is the creek.  I am up it.  As you might have guessed, I have no paddle.

There is no arbitration, no appeal, unless I want to pay the $896 doctor’s fee that may increase if there are polyps or other complications.  I have no choice but to go to Plan B – I get on the horn and call Aetna to find what local gastroenterologists will accept my Medicare insurance.  Fortunately, there is a Dr. Thompson in Kennebunk (24 miles away from York) of the Southern Maine Health Care Gastroenterology (SMHCG) practice who is in-network and accepts my insurance.

colon SMHCG

SMHCG does have appointments, but they need one little thing – my colonoscopy files from ADS.  Assuming the files will arrive within the month, Donna at SMHCG tentatively schedules me for June 6 at 9A, four bleeping weeks away.  Are you shitting me?  (I couldn’t resist.)  Supportively she adds, we do have earlier appointments, even one next week, but we need the files of your previous colon exams faxed to us.

Calling ADS with urgency in my voice, I learn it’s not all that simple.  I first have to sign a release.  Kelly at ADS says, I can mail you the release.  But in my mind, I know that could take the better part of a week for me to receive it and mail it back.  I have no choice but…

…to jump into my Prius and drive to Somersworth, NH (25 miles from home) where the ADS files are kept.  Without thinking twice, I tell Kelly I am on my way to sign the release.  See you within the hour.  With Hannah shaking her head in disbelief that I want to drive to Somersworth for the files, I am out the door in five minutes for the 30-minute drive.

Once there, I approach the receptionist who explains that any request for files can take up to 30 days.  I explain my sad story and she says you can make an urgent request that may help it be faxed in five days.   I do, and she promises to walk my request to Kelly’s office immediately.  True to her word, she does, as I head out the front door of ADS knowing that I’ve done all I can.

Never thought I’d be so looking forward to the colonoscopy prep with its foul tasting laxative and the procedure itself now that I no longer have a Tuesday appointment.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

colon aetna medicare

Let’s summarize.  I have learned with a Medicare Advantage health insurance that it is my responsibility to see if an elective procedure is covered and the provider is in-network.  Though the ER visits that Hannah and I have had are routinely covered, planned surgery needs to be in-network.  That’s on me.  I need to know my plan much better.  One of the pitfalls of being so damn healthy is that I rarely use my health insurance.  (Is that what is called a false brag?)

Part 2, follows this story from Somersworth, NH to Kennebunk, ME as I deal with Big Medicine and Big Insurance sparring as they use me as the punching bag.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dan and Hannah Have an Angel

When we shop together, Hannah and I can be impatient, not with each other, but with the process of shopping; and not just for the little stuff – I’m talking houses and cars!  We know we should do more research, but… we wouldn’t argue with ones who think that we jump to purchasing decisions way too quickly without a whole lot of forethought.  Even so, that impulsive strategy can work.  Case in point.

March snow 1

Our home in York for the last 36 years

We looked at one house when we moved to New England from Arizona in 1982.  We got lucky as we are still loving our home with all its quirks 36 years later.

Point two.  Just planning to look to see what my 100K mile Hyundai Elantra could get in trade, two hours later, we had bought a shiny new Toyota Prius.  It remains a sweet ride two years later.

Amana our fridge

Gleaming Maytag fridge

On the other hand, one spring Sunday we were checking out State Street Discount for a refrigerator.  A gleaming silver model Maytag with a five-year protection plan caught our eye and blinded us.  Within 45 minutes, it was ours.  It hasn’t been great.  Sure, our milk and beer are cold and the peas stay frozen, but we have dealt with four repairs in five years, fortunately covered by that warranty; all luck that we didn’t deserve.

Lately, our LG high-end, bought-without-much-thought washing machine is giving us trouble.  With its high tech digital display, it electronically counts down from the auto-sensing to the final spin.  But with eight minutes left, the digital display rebounds to 15 minutes in an endless rinse and spin cycle.  As a stop gap measure, we turn off both the machine and the water coming through the hoses.  Then we punch in spin only and our wash becomes passably dry.  It’s not exactly what we paid the big bucks for.

Amana mr appliance

Unfortunately, we did not buy the protection plan for what is now only a three-year-old washing machine!  With no choice, we call our reliable Mr. Appliance repair guy, who has previously done warranty work on our sad refrigerator.

It turns out the technology is not the issue; the washer drum is out of balance and the repair is north of $500.   Even so, it turns out the $95 service call is money well-spent.

Of course, the technician advises us not to put any money into this old machine.  And second, he suggests we buy a basic machine and get rid out of it when it dies, which in this day and age often means just five to eight years, or sometimes three!

Breaking our usual big box store shopping routine (Best Buy, Lowe’s, Target, and Home Depot are in our Seacoast area), weAmana best buy are now 21st century shoppers.  Never leaving the house, I go online looking for a basic name-brand washing machine.  It turns out Best Buy and Home Depot have the same Amana machine for just under $300.  We can get a five-year protection plan for either $75 (Best Buy) or $99 (Home Depot).  We pass on the $30 installation fee since all we have to do is hook up the hoses.  Both places will cart our old machine away for $15 American.  We opt for Best Buy since they won’t charge a delivery fee and the Geek Squad will deal with any problems.

As promised, four days later a 24’ truck arrives in the four-hour afternoon window with two men of muscle.  Angel comes in to see how tight the passage is to our laundry room.  We have already taken the bolts out of the door hinges and also removed the door itself to our laundry room nook.

Amana washer

Our no frills Amana washer

Then Angel returns with his compadre, to lift the old machine up easily with heavy canvas straps as if it were a toaster, and cart it to the waiting truck.  Using the same straps, they bring in the new machine with no digital readouts but dials from the 1950s; this retro look delights me no end.

In less than 15 minutes, the machine is in place for us to hook up the hoses when Angel says, since you have been so nice, I’ll hook up the hoses for you.

amana goes around 5

 

Is that a line?   I like to think not.  If we are honest with ourselves, we are typically decent and appreciative to the people we meet.  We subscribe to the belief that what goes around comes around.  We are, indeed, grateful for the good that comes into our lives and we often show it.

Angel assesses us correctly and takes an extra sixty seconds to help us out by tightening the hoses to our new washer.  Sending him and his buddy off with Hannah’s Monster cookies, we thank Angel for being, well, an angel.

Dan and his Letterman Jacket

COW death cleaning

Of late, Hannah has been into “death cleaning.”  It’s a Swedish concept for seniors to get rid of all the crap that they have accumulated over the years, so their children don’t have to do it when dear ole mom and dad cash in their chips.  By the way, she has renamed it as “deep cleaning.”

During the process, Hannah asks if I still want my College of Wooster letterman’s jacket that she thinks is in the upstairs bedroom closet.  Turns out we gave it away a while back, but its significance is not lost on me during an impressionable time in my life.  Let me explain.

I hated the College of Wooster, which I entered as a freshman in the fall of 1966.

COW map of Woo better

In no particular order, I hated the cold, damp, rainy, snowy, windy Ohio weather from September through May; as an aimless kid, without a clue what the hell I was doing in college, I floundered; the pointlessness and dead-ended-ness of majoring in political science didn’t inspire me; I was a passive receptacle in my lecture-oriented classes, obediently taking notes and barfing them back on the tests; I was just a 20 year old going through the motions because that’s what this son of college grads did; all the while listening to so much Mamas and Papas that my head and soul were filled with California Dreamin’ and escape from the Buckeye State.

COW COW name

Every spring, I wanted to transfer, and finally did, to Arizona State University after my junior year.

To clarify, this situation is all on me.  I wasn’t mature enough to make the necessary choices and just wallowed in blaming the institution and my circumstances.  That said, I did have my moments at Woo.

COW tennis team 1968

College of Wooster tennis team, spring 1968

Of the three best things that happened to me at the College of Wooster, being a part of the tennis team was #2.  I loved being one of the guys.  And that’s the connection to my letterman’s jacket.

When I was applying to colleges as a high school senior, my sole criteria for a school was whether I could make the tennis team.  Tennis was my claim to high school fame and I wanted to continue to serve and volley in college.  Back in the day, the College of Wooster was a small school (Division III now) of 1500 students.   Making the tennis team seemed plausible.

Turns out I was selected for the team.  As one of three freshmen to make the team that had six singles and three doubles teams, I played #4 singles.  I fashioned more wins than losses that first year, but mostly I loved just belonging.

COW tennis 1967

College of Wooster tennis team, spring of 1967 (my freshmen year)

With another freshman, Larry Lindberg (#3), I played the backhand side of the #1 doubles team.  The top teams (Dennison, Wittenberg, and Oberlin) beat us like an old rug, but we held our own v. Muskingum, Baldwin-Wallace, and Hiram.

Our team had training meals before matches in the basement of Kenarden Hall.  Always steak, with a side of potatoes, peas, and rolls with honey.  In the spring of 1967, carbo loading was not a thing yet.

COW TJs

On away matches, we ate early at Wooster, then traveled to another campus in the Ohio Athletic Conference and bonded in the three-seater station wagon the college provided.

Our coach, the Dutchman, Al Van Wie, had a peculiar bit of post-match behavioral modification for us.  If we won, which he associated with us playing well, we went out to for a nice meal at TJs in downtown Wooster.  If we lost, we got fast food burgers.

As athletes around the world know, better players can often bring out the best in one’s game, though one still might lose.  And often we as a team played better v. Dennison or Oberlin and played down to the weaker teams like Hiram.  Still, that calculation was lost on the Dutchman and the pattern of post-match meals never changed.

COW letterman jacket

Letterman jacket similar to my College of Wooster one

At the end of the year at the tennis awards ceremony, any player making the team for the first time and playing more than half the matches, which I had, would earn a black with tan leather sleeve letterman’s jacket, similar to what the football and basketball players wore.

Back in the day, this was about as cool as it got.  Once I had my letterman’s jacket, I was so damn proud but never so delusional that chicks would be flocking my way.

Throughout all the moves I’ve made around the country to Arizona to California back to Arizona, then to New Hampshire and to our current home in Maine, I always kept my Wooster letterman’s jacket.  It never really fit and within years of earning it became out of style.  Even so the accomplishment of earning it meant so much that I couldn’t let it go.

So, College of Wooster wasn’t all bad.  By the way, you might be wondering what were #1 and #3 of the best things about my three dismal years there in Ohio.

COW Mule 2

Jim Francis, my college roommate and high school history teacher who was Idaho Teacher of the Year in 1997!  Yeah Mule!

#3 was my college roommate during my sophomore and junior years, Jim Francis (Mule).  As my best friend during those Ohio years, he taught me a valuable lesson in life that I live to this day.

When I would come back from a date with Hannah Kraai, a drop dead beautiful women’s tennis player, with cookies or brownies that she had made for me, I would just keep them to myself, though I shared a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet with Mule.

COW campaign ad

Successfully elected to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2017

Soon, he had enough of my crap and said how it’d be nice if I shared them with him.  I honestly didn’t think about sharing them with him.  I was so embarrassed; I appreciate his courage to challenge me.

That was the moment that I began my evolution from a scarcity mentality (one of fear of the future so hoarding is necessary) to an abundance mentality (life is filled with good and the more you give the more you get).

By the way, he, too, transferred out of Wooster after our junior year.  First to the University of Utah (he as an Idaho boy), and then for the second semester of our senior year to Arizona State where we were roommates again.

Numero uno?  The one and only Hannah Kraai Rothermel.  We dated strongly during our sophomore year, broke up during our junior year; after which I left for the sunshine of the Grand Canyon State with a broken heart.  After our 1970 graduation, I taught social studies, science, and Spanish in Anaheim, California while she taught elementary physical education in Pittsford, New York, within a few miles of her childhood home of Fairport.

COW Sphinx 1969

Hannah, lower left, as a member of the Sphinx local sorority (c. 1968)

Fortunately, in the fall of 1971, she moved to Arizona to see if we had any magic left.  Turns out we did, and we married on July 1, 1972.

And for that reason, I have a very warm spot for the College of Wooster.

 

Dan is Just a Little Less Self-righteous of Late

Our neighborhood in suburban/rural southern Maine is plagued by leaf blowers.  Let me unload the thesaurus with more appropriate verbs: afflicted, inundated, and overwhelmed.  Without fail, each fall the leaf blowing horde descends on Chases Pond Road, polluting the air with their mechanical blowhards.  For hours!  Their mission?  And they have chosen to accept it, is to blow every last leaf into the next century!  No surprise, it’s always guys.  I’m just saying.

Try sitting outside on our front deck reading the Times (I am not a barbarian.) during this cacophony!  Incessantly high-pitched, these disturbers of the peace mess with our country road calm.  Winter snows are a sweet relief to this disharmony.

Leaf pond

Our front yard facing the vernal pond, 98% free of oak leaves

As an alternative to such mayhem, for the 36 years that Hannah and I have lived on our acre and a half lot on Chases Pond Road, we’ve raked leaves – a tradition as American as apple pie and thinking the other political party is the devil.

It’s a known fact that this country was built on the shoulders of the good people who raked their lawns!  Our home is in the center of a one-time forest with 70’ red and white oaks and beech trees.  When our kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, were young, they had leaves aplenty for jumping in and splashing about.  A Norman Rockwell childhood to say the least!

Now that the kids have left the nest, Hannah and I, at the spring-like age of 70, continue to rake yellow and brown leaves by the millions.  Damn proud of being American leaf rakers, we buy into the notion that motion is lotion.

Leaf fire pit yard

Our backyard with our fire pit to the left with just a few scraggly leaves

Throughout the month of November, we rake for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.  Not insanely obsessed, we take it slow.  The beauty of our lot in the woods is that we don’t bag a single leaf.  We can just rake our leaves into the woods for nature’s composting.  But…

Lately my right elbow has been acting up after just five minutes of raking.  Over the last three years as a pickleball player, I have been sidelined by bouts of tendinitis.  Ergo, over the last year, 45 to 60 minutes of daily stretching has literally got me back in the game; I don’t want to mess with the joy and athletic challenge I find on the pickleball court.   Today, after five minutes of raking, I say no mas.

Leaf before backyard

Our backyard with winter’s last snow among a sea of leaves that need to be removed

Still, this cruel April we have masses of leaves that we just didn’t get to last fall emerging from the snow.  These soggy leaves will smother our grassy, mossy lawn that grows every type of weed and dandelion known to woman and man.  To rake or not to rake?  That is the question.

As Hannah and I sit over wine one evening in early April, I am ready to introduce the L word – leaf blower.

No reason you might have guessed this about me, but I hate lawn machines.  We do have a lawn mower, but that is serviced by Eldredge Lumber every two years when it just won’t start because of my neglect.  We have no snow blower.  Things just go wrong with machines and I can’t fix them.  Truth be told, I don’t want to even try.

Leaf blower itself

The mighty leaf blower that has tamed our side yard.

But it is time to consider a leaf blower.  A leaf blower!  God, forgive me!  We can buy one, but it seems so wasteful for everyone in the neighborhood to have a leaf blower.  What about a community leaf blower?  We Americans pride ourselves on our independence.  What about our interdependence?  What about waste?  What about the survival of the planet?  All important questions, but I digress.

Though we live within a neighborhood of 25 homes on half acre lots, we are not close socially at all.  A few greetings when we pass, but nothing like the neighborhoods of the good folks in Ithaca, New York.

So, it seems that we’ll just suck it up and buy our own leaf blower.  And then, I realize that our son-in-law Tip has a leaf blower.  Maybe we can rent it or pay for the gas or something to share it.

Texting that suggestion to him, I quickly get his response, what’s ours is yours.  What a guy!  I know Tip hit the lottery marrying our daughter Molly, but she hit a home run herself with Tip.

Leaf D with leaf blower

Dan, who makes oak leaves pay

Tip drops off his leaf blower and I blow leaves and try to ignore my contribution to noise pollution (quite the interior rhyme!).  You see, nowadays I’m just a little less self-righteous when I hear the cacophony of leaf blowers.  A love affair?  Not yet, but we are becoming fast friends.

As I sit out on our front deck with this week’s Sports Illustrated, I hear the sound of a neighbor’s leaf blower, smile, and think, he must have a little tendinitis and needs to use his leaf blower.

You see, I no longer reside in the “Leaf Blower Judgment Zone.”

Leaf H with leaf blower

Hannah shows the pachysandra in her rock garden who’s the boss

 

 

 

Leaf H with leaf blower better

Dan and Hannah Hike a Threesome of Trails at Joshua Tree National Park in California

Lost map of JT and Lake Havasu

Somehow they left Nowhere off this map

Hannah and I arrive midday at the Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert, literally in the middle of Nowhere, California.  Fired up to explore this national park on our last days as sunbirds in California, we are greeted by snark at the visitor center.   Let me set the stage.

Walking into the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, I approach the counter looking for a hiking recommendation and say to the park ranger, we have never been to Joshua Tree.

Ryan visitor center

Without a smile, she responds, shame on you.  Whoa!  What about, you are in for the time of your life or March is the best time of the year to visit with the cooler temps and the desert life blooming, all with a smile.

But noooooo!   Snark slaps me in the face.  Perhaps, it was a joke?  Ellen DeGeneres says, if it was a joke, we’d both be laughing.  As the founder of Zappos (online shoe seller) believes (and I paraphrase), all successful businesses are, in fact, service businesses.  The product changes, but every successful business is about service.  That goes for the national park service, too.  Hmmmm.  Service is in its name, and yet…!

Ryan 1A H at start of trail

Staircase to Ryan Mountain which is behind the mountain in the foreground under the bluest of blue skies

Figuring she was having a bad day and ready to live my belief in the Fourth Agreement (Don’t take anything personally.) of Don Miguel Ruiz, I ask, what hiking trails do you recommend?   She mentions a few, and we escape as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, I have our twenty-something friend, Justin Kyker, to thank for his Joshua Tree hiking recommendation – Ryan Mountain.  Rated strenuous, it has a 1000’ of elevation gain to the summit at 5457′ a mile and a half away.

Ryan 1B masterful stonework

The natural stonework of the trail is magnificently intricate.  Italian stone masons would give up their first born to have their signatures etched into these stones.  At the start, the trail is a glorious natural granite staircase.  As the signature trail of the park, it is happy with people climbing to the distant mountain.

Quickly the switchbacks take us to where the wind is cranking.  Fifteen to 20 mph gets our attention, but our warmth remains as the full sun adds ten degrees to the mid-50s ambient temperature.

Ryan 2A H on step trail

Just in front of us, two young couples (thirty-somethings) sense us and make sure they step lively and stay ahead, not wanting to be held up by two seventy-somethings.  Dream on.  We feast on thirty-somethings for lunch on the trail.  Within a half mile, our steady, not-stopping-to-smell-the-roses pace, has them eating our dust.  As we pass, they smile and seem delightful; we have a touch of remorse as we snack on them right here on the trail.

Ryan 3 D at top

An Ithaca Bomber atop Ryan Mountain

Soon we are behind the first mountain, wondering which distant summit is ours.  At times, the mountain protects us from the powerful winds.  Other times, the winds mess with us, clearly establishing that Mother Nature is the boss of the apple sauce (i.e. a euphemism for absolutely nothing, just a playful rhyme that’s fun to say).

Ryan 3A D and H at top of Ryan

Atop Ryan Mountain beneath blue on blue skies

Climbing to the summit of Ryan Mountain in 45 minutes, we are loving the views in every directon.  Check out the video from high atop Ryan Mountain and note the wind chorus in the background.

 

Once back at the trailhead and wanting to add to our 90 minutes of hiking, we drive to the nearby Barker Dam trailhead.  As a short and sweet mile and a half hike in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, we have a hike with no elevation gain, ideal for families with small kids.

Ryan Barker 1B crash pads

As we start out, we meet five or six twenty-somethings with rectangular foam pads on their backs.  Any idea why?  See the picture to the right.  For the answer, see just beneath my final image of the Barker Dam trail below.

Constructed by cattlemen, the Barker Dam itself is a gathering place for desert wildlife, including birds and Desert Bighorn Sheep, of which we see not a single one.

In the end, it’s just a helluva sweet walk in the Mojave Desert.  See the images below

Ryan Barker water at dam

Pool/reservoir behind the Barker Dam

Ryan Barker 1A H at start of trail

The sandy Barker Dam Trail begins

Ryan Barker 2 H by stones

Hannah among the boulders on the Barker Dam Trail

Ryan Barker 3 sandy part of trail

Desert stroll among the Joshua trees

Ryan Barker about more

 

The rectangular foam pads are for novice boulder climbers to be used literally as crash pads.

 

Within a stone’s throw of the Barker Dam is the one-mile Hidden Valley Trail.  Rumored to be the one-time home of cattle rustlers, Hidden Valley is an another no elevation gain walk in the desert among massive boulders.  Again, short and sweet, the trail even on this Friday afternoon has a bumper crop of foreign visitors, families, and couples in love.  The “bouldering” public has another golden place to practice their craft.

Check the images from our desert hike at Hidden Valley.

Ryan Hidden 2 H with stones

The boulder-y Hidden Valley Trail

Ryan Hidden 2B stony mountain

Hidden Valley Trail

Ryan Hidden about even even more

 

 

If there is one hike to do in the Joshua Tree Middle-of-Nowhere National Park, make it Ryan Mountain.  Our kind of national park!

Dan and Hannah Hike at Joshua Tree National Park in California’s Mojave Desert

Lost truth

Previously in this blog, I have written about small t truths (i.e. one’s personal beliefs) that complement the big T truths (i.e. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) in our lives.  Click here for that blog.  Today I have another small t gem for your consideration.

Do what you want to do even though it might disappoint another.  And by doing so, you will have a better relationship with that person.

Either you are thinking: (1) Sounds a little me, me, me, Danny Boy or (2) well, duh, of course that is true.  Hold on, let me explain and give you an example.

If you do something you don’t want to do, resentment can rear its ugly head quite easily.  Would you want someone to do something for you that they didn’t want to do?  I wouldn’t.

If you do what you want, the other person has a clearer idea what you like and dislike.  You become more real to them, and they know when you say something you mean it; and you aren’t just being disingenuously polite.

Lost Wayne and Nancy

Wayne and Nancy

So, the example.  In the fall, Hannah and I had arranged in early March to meet with our longtime (40+ years) friend Nancy, whose husband Wayne had died recently, in Zion National Park, four hours south of her home in Utah.  (Click here for my eulogy blog for Wayne.)

In the days prior to our planned meeting during the first week of March, the weather forecast for our overnight and hike together in Zion turned nasty – a forecast of snow, morning temps in the teens, and daily highs in the mid-40s were not conducive to hiking or even being outside.

Lost D and Wayne

Two cool guys, Dan and Wayne (1991) when the Family Turley came to visit us in Maine

Three days before we were to meet, we offered Nancy the option of postponing our rendezvous in Zion.  Though I bet she wanted to talk with us, two people who knew and loved her husband Wayne dearly, she said the drive through the mountain passes in southern Utah concerned her.  Even though we might be disappointed, she said she’d like to postpone.

Knowing she was doing what she wanted to (re: my small t truth), Hannah and I were pleased for her and for ourselves.

Lost map of JT and Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu City is 25 miles north of where route 62 crosses the Colorado River

Once Nancy decided, Hannah and I then chose not to go to Zion either, which opened us to spending an extra day in the sunshine at Joshua Tree National Park and two days of warm in Lake Havasu City, Arizona on the Colorado River.

Lost 2 H at JT sign

Nancy opened the door for us to find the good in the change of plans.

After a February in Carpinteria, California (near Santa Barbara), we head east to Joshua Tree National Park, thanks to the recommendation of our California friend Justin Kyker (For those of you keeping score at home, that is Big Steve and Amelia’s kid).  Aided by our pickleball friend Mark’s advice to delay our morning departure so as to avoid the LA metro snarl, we leave at 9A and cruise along the LA freeways and beyond for the 230-mile drive to the Mojave Desert, albeit among more cars than there are in the entire state of Maine.

Lost 6 JT forest

Heading to Joshua Tree National Park, which is quite literally in the middle of Nowhere, even though it is just two and a half hours and 150 miles from Los Angeles, we exit off I-10 onto route 62.  As we travel through the towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms, we see terrain that is parched and barren, something like the land the federal government traded (read: swindled) Native Americans with in the 19th century treaties.

Lost 3 JT itself

Arriving early afternoon at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, we learn of the four-mile out and back trail to the Lost Horse Mine among the Joshua trees.  Passing through the West Entrance to the national park, we weave down Park Boulevard among roadside boulders on the first of March on a windy day of sun in the upper 50s.

Lost 2B another JT

By the way, the Joshua trees of the Mojave Desert are not really trees but a species of yuccas.  Like other desert plants, their waxy leaves expose little surface area, cleverly conserving moisture.  Growing to over 40’ at one inch per year, Joshua trees are home to orioles, hawks, and woodpeckers.

Lost 3A start of Lost Horse Mine Trail

At 4384’ above sea level, the trailhead is appropriately found off the dirt Lost Horse Mine Road, which is barely wide enough for two cars.  At the trailhead parking for ten cars, we see others, making parking spaces where there are none, in this case on the access road to the trailhead.

Lost 3C H on trail again

Fortunately, the moderate-rated trail is straight forward.  At nearly 2P on a day the sun sets before 6P, we opt for the four-mile up and back trail to the one-time Lost Horse Mine.  We leave the 6.2-mile loop trail for the younger set.

Lost 3D D on trail

Rocky and sadly lacking in Joshua trees due to the 1999 burn in the area, the trail rises steadily but never in a heart pounding way with only a 400’ elevation gain.  As one of the two most popular trails in Joshua Tree National Park, it is happy with hikers; which thankfully means we are unlikely to get lost.

Lost 4 H at mine

The Lost Horse Mine

In the distance, we see the Lost Horse Mine structure, which produced 10,000 ounces of gold in the early 1900s.  A chain link fence surrounds the mine to protect visitors from the dangerous, open mine shaft.  Click here for more information about the history of gold mining at Joshua Tree.

Lost 5 H at JT

As an easy hour there, and fifty minutes in return, the hike is enjoyable walk in the desert; after a month of pickleball in Ventura and Santa Barbara, for this day, we return to our hiking roots.

And our desert hiking adventure is all thanks to Nancy being real with us.

 

Eight days after this hike, we were home in Maine.

March snow 1

March 8, 2018

 

Nine days after this hike, all hell broke loose

March snow 2

March 9, 2018

Dan and Hannah – Images of Carpinteria, California

After loving the month of February in the Santa Barbara area, Hannah and I offer you images in four parts from our stay.

Part One – We had trails at the University of California (Santa Barbara), Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara, and the Nojoqui Falls near Solvang.

GB 3C even more pacific cliffs

Pacific Bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus

 

Jes 1C H with book

Hannah on the Jesusita Trail with our trusty Santa Barbara hiking guidebook

Sol 2C H at falls

Hannah at the Nojoqui Falls

 

Part Two – We had our pickleball in Ventura and Santa Barbara

BA 1 PB group shot

The women, men, and kids of Ventura Pickleball

 

PB H at net

Hannah ready to pounce on a short ball on the courts at Santa Barbara

 

 

Part Three – The walks along the Pacific Ocean

BA 3C D and H on pier

 

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seals at Carpinteria Beach

 

Carp 4 sunset

Carpinteria at sunset

 

HS 4A pier into sun

Early morning at Carpinteria Beach

 

Sol 4C blue heron

Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara

 

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the Douglas Preserve

 

Carp 4B another sunset

Carpinteria State Park

 

GB 2B H with warning sign

Surfers Beach at University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Part Four – But truly the best part were the Californians we met

Nancy Rose

Nancy Rose, our friend from Unity of Santa Barbara, and Hannah

 

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Bruce and Anneli with Hannah and Dan lunching al fresco on fish tacos at Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in Ventura

 

Kim Drain

Hannah with our neighbor Kim, before heading into the Alcazar Theatre

 

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Dan and Hannah with our pickleball compadres, Lynn and Mark, over lunch at Bonnie Lu’s in Ojai, just before our Chinese foot massages

 

Roz five of us with sweatshirt

Together for a mini-reunion with Dan, Gerry, Roz, Linda, and Paul, Class of 1966 Fair Lawn (New Jersey) High School

 

Unity of SB

Rev. Larry Schellink at Unity of Santa Barbara

 

Carp 5A Summerland Beach Cafe

Celebrating Hannah’s 70th birthday at the Summerland Beach Cafe with Nancy Rose and Duncan

 

Carpinteria has become a home-away-from-home.

Dan and Hannah Make a Weak Attempt to Explore Another California Town – Solvang

Hannah and I are just not touristy folks.  Consider this.

Sol disneyland

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, a town where I first taught after graduating from Arizona State

What kind of grandparents are we that we won’t even take our grandsons to Disneyland (California) or Walt Disney World (Florida)?  That would be us.  We are not into crowds, waiting in line, and pricey tickets.  We have our moments of getting it right with Owen and Max, but we’re good if we are not voted into the Grandparents Hall of Fame outside of Orlando.

So, when Hannah and I choose places for us to travel, we opt for out-of-the-way national or state parks or small towns.  When we fly into Los Angeles, we flee north for Carpinteria as soon as possible.  We can’t get out of Las Vegas fast enough when we fly there to visit Utah’s national parks.  Visit New York City?  Not a chance.

Sol 1 Danish house

On Solvang’s main drag

Last Friday, Hannah and I explored the small town of Ojai some 22 miles east of Carpinteria; today we are off to see what’s happening in the Danish-themed little town (pop. 6,000) of Solvang, 45 miles north of Santa Barbara.  First, we are looking for a locals café with booths for breakfast, then chat up some folks, and later explore this walkable town for exercise and then see what happens.

Sol 154

Before Santa Barbara wakes up this mid-February Friday, we sail through town on The 101 and soon exit onto the serpentine mountain route 154, where good drivers and bad go to die.  Strong words, I understand, but it winds through coastal mountains with the occasional passing lane, which tempt drivers to pass recklessly.  We recommend The 101 to Solvang along the coast for you to live to see another day.

Sol Chumash 1

Minutes before we enter Solvang, we pass the glitzy Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, which draws card players and slot machine button pushers from miles around.  Too touristy, too smoky, and indeed too depressing with many more losers than winners.  The only way to leave a casino with a small fortune is to start with a large fortune.

Sol 1A H with windmill

A chilly Solvang morning

Arriving in Solvang just before 8A, we are chilled by Arctic 40F temps for our walk around town to find a breakfast place.  An hour ago, we left Carpinteria on the coast where it was 10 degrees warmer.

Sol 1B Danish Bakery

So, here’s our plan when we come to a small town.  We seek out the breakfast spots that we have checked out first online; cafes preferably with booths, coffee at the ready, and muffins or two eggs over easy, home fries, and multi-grain toast.  That turns out to be a problemo in Solvang, a tourist town with over one million visitors per year.  That means one thing – restaurants are expensivo!

Sol 1CC Hans

Dan with Hans

A quick stop in at Paula’s Pancakes (which sounds small time, n-est-ce pas?) shows us a menu with basic breakfasts for $10 and more.   And that doesn’t count the coffee!  Bundled up against the cold, we walk the streets of Solvang for 40 minutes seeing faux Danish shops and restaurants, some where reservations are required; in addition there is a park with a Little Mermaid statue and one of Hans Christian Anderson.  We are so out of our comfort zone.

Sol 1D Santa Ynez Cafe

In less than an hour, we have “done” Solvang as our last attempt at a breakfast place fails.  The Santa Ynez Café offers a Saran wrapped muffin and one cup of coffee that would break the bank.  We can’t leave fast enough as we pick up Subways subs, roll out of town, and skip breakfast entirely.

But things get better.  Motion is lotion.

Sol 2 H at start of Nojoqui Falls Trail

The leisurely Nojoqui Falls trail

Our deliverence comes just six miles south of Solvang in the Nojoqui Falls Park made for families and family reunions.  Wide playing fields, groups of picnic tables with fire pits for large gatherings, Nojoqui Falls is made for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Arriving midmorning on this Friday of President’s Weekend, we have been promised a modest ¾ of a mile round trip hike with stunning falls that I googled.

Sol 2A rocky creek bed

The rocky creek bed foreshadows what kind of falls lie ahead

Finding the rocky trail, which gently climbs towards the falls, we see no water around the boulders of the creek.  It’s pretty clear that the Google image of the falls is not going to match today’s flow.

Sol 2B H at barrier

Approaching a fenced off area with a sign saying Danger  Do Not Enter, we see that foot prints in the dirt beyond tell another story – few pay attention to this sign.  Unable to see the falls from behind the fences anyway, and rebels that we are, we hike 150’ more to a one-inch trickle coming 80’ down the mountainside.

Sol 2C H at falls

Nojoqui Falls in all its sub-optimal glory

We have no complaints – for goodness sakes we are in California in February.  How can that be a bad thing?  Check out my video of the falls.

Heading back to Santa Barbara by way of the coastal 101 along the Pacific, we have another chance at outdoor redemption – the cliff walk at the Douglas Family Preserve, a public park located on a mesa above Arroyo Burro Beach.  This 70-acre property of undeveloped, ocean-front land was so named because Michael Douglas donated $600,000 to support this land acquistion.

Sol 4C blue heron

Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach

Parking easily off Los Positas Road in the late morning, we follow the landscaped trail up to the mesa.  Coming upon Dog Central, we see canines that are catered to with doggie poop bags all along the trail, a doggie wash spa at the trailhead, and dogs off leash and free as dolphins in the ocean.

Sol 3A H at DP bluff

The bluffs of the Douglas Preserve

Up on the cliffs, there are no fences to the beach 60-70’ below.  As in the nearby Channel Islands, the safety guidelines are We don’t have fences, we have common sense.  This morning it works again.

Sol 4 lunch at beach

Lunch at Arroyo Burro Beach with the Channel Islands in the distance

 

Having hiked two miles, we cool our jets at a picnic table above Arroyo Burro Beach where we lunch on our Subway subs and surreptitiously drink cold Dos Equis.  On hard-packed beach sand at mid-tide, we walk for a mile up and back with a light breeze under full sun at 64F.  California Dreamin’ at its best.

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the cliffs of the Douglas Preserve

As the singer Meatloaf reminds us all that two out of three ain’t bad, we hit the Meatloaf standard today with doubles off the wall at Nojoqui Falls and the Douglas Preserve after striking out in Solvang.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara

Jes weather channel

Let’s be real.  And I’m not proud of this, but…as Hannah and I prep to hike in the mountains above Santa Barbara in early February, I turn on the Weather Channel.  I have no shame.  I want to see how much snow and ice are coming to New England.  I take no pleasure in the dismal winter weather, but…I do smile to myself so no one else can see.

Jes national parks map

Some of the national parks where we’ve hiked

As Hannah and I start 2018, we are in a traveling/hiking transition.  Having hiked throughout the West, in national parks in nearly every Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast state over the last ten years, we are evolving in our physical activities of choice.  Let me explain.

As we each turn 70, we are pickleballing more and hiking less when we travel.  Have paddles, will travel!  Pickleball, be it Moab, Utah, Beaverton, Oregon, or Eureka, California, has combined our love of being active with getting to know others.

Jes map of trail

Rather than driving, often a thousand miles or more to hike in national parks over two weeks, this year we are nesting in Carpinteria for the month of February.  Not abandoning hiking at all, we still have local trails as well as trails up the coast at Montana De Oro State Park  and Big Sur.  But pickleballing in Santa Barbara and Ventura now drives our bus.

Jes 4 cool jesusita sign

Yet, after three mornings of pickleball this first week of February, we are ready to hit the trail.  Driving north on The 101 for the Jesusita (pronounced HAY-SU-SEE-TA) Trail within the city limits of Santa Barbara, we have one of the few local trails at our disposal.  Many trails are closed since the Thomas Fire (December 2017) and the Montecito debris and mud flows (January 2018), especially some of our favorites in the San Ysidro and Romero Canyons.

Jes 1 H at start

Parking at the Cater Water Treatment Plant at the end of San Roque Road above Santa Barbara, I strike up a conversation with three hiking women to learn from the locals about the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2A view to sea

Jesusita Trail view to the Pacific Ocean

Willing to direct us to the trailhead and describe the first few turns of the trail, the women feel it is a good hike, but they are not buying the inspiring part of Inspiration Point.   True, Inspiration Point has views to the Pacific Ocean, but there are also many spots along the trail with ocean views.  They themselves are all turning around before they get to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2 H on trail

As with many trails in the Front Country of Santa Barbara, they are rocky and climb steeply into the San Ynez Mountains.  The seven-mile round-trip Jesusita Trail with 1200′ of elevation gain fits nicely into our three-hour preference for the length of our hikes. As usual, Hannah leads because (1) she is a stronger hiker and (2) it allows me to focus on photo ops while she blazes the trail.

Jes 1B - cracked mud of trail

Parched trail

 

Due to the drought of the last seven years, the creek bed beside the trail is as parched as a bleached cattle skull in the Mojave Desert.  The trail itself is shaded for the most part with dappled sunshine coming through the trees.  A little more than a mile in, there’s a water fountain with covered picnic tables.  While mountain bikers rest and brag, we motor past toward Inspiration Point.

Jes 1A H on trail beginning

Today is the first Santa Barbara hike for Hannah since her precipitous fall off the San Ysidro Trail just one year ago this month.  (Click here for that blog.)  Though she feels no ill effects from her slide down the rocky ravine that landed her in the ER at the local Cottage Hospital, we are both psyched that today there are no sharp drop offs on this trail; that said, we step carefully on the inside of the mountain trail.

Once past the mountainside McMansions, the trail rises steadily enough to get me breathing heavily.  Hannah seems unbothered on this trail that is very well marked whenever we are uncertain which way to go.

Jes 3 H on switchbacks

Southern California Edison power towers in the distance

Soon, we do the back and forth on the switchbacks up the mountain towards the Edison Road with its high-tension wire towers in the distance.  When we eventually arrive there, it’s just another half mile to the uninspiring Inspiration Point.  But I have not only been hiking but scheming to keep our hike to our three hour limit and have us turn around at the Edison Road at the three-mile point before we get to Inspiration Point.

Jes royal flush

As we approach the towers, I dazzle Hannah with a royal flush of persuasion if we keep hiking: (ten of hearts) that we’ll push us beyond our three hour hiking, (jack of hearts) we’ve been to Inspiration Point four years ago and know it is no big whup, (queen of hearts) we have had inspirational views of the Pacific on the trail already, (king of hearts) we don’t want to be wasted for tonight’s walk to the harbor seal rookery or tomorrow’s pickleball, and (ace of hearts) she just might miss her sunshine at our local Carpinteria Beach.

Jes 4A hearts on Edison Road

At the Edison Road tower, we see the rocks arranged in a heart shaped pattern.  When the universe speaks, we pay attention!  My royal heart flush triumphs as we head for our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria.

The shaded creek trail into the high desert chaparral gives the Jesusita the feel of a forest hike, not some aimless walk in the desert under a blazing sun.  In addition to a heart-pumping workout, we are not in Maine where eight inches of snow blankets our house, our yard, our driveway, the wintery lives of our neighbors, and any dreams of an early spring.

Given that context, this is not just a good hike, it’s a fantastic day on the trail.

Dan at the March for Our Lives Gun Law Rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Over coffee at Lil’s in Kittery, Maine this morning, my friend Steve mentions that he is going to the anti-gun rally in Portsmouth this afternoon.

Concerned about another horrific mass killing, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (40 miles north of Miami) five weeks ago, I decide I want to be counted as one of many who stands against the proliferation of guns in American society.

Of late, I have been hopeful that this will be the time in history when students everywhere (as well as their parents and many of us Americans) will seize the opportunity to bring about sensible gun laws.  These students will no longer wait for the adults, who have failed them, to get it right.

Are you as stunned as I am that the mass murder of first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT more than five years ago didn’t spur action for sensible gun laws?  I remain appalled.

Time cover for 4.2.18

But maybe this time is different.  Now high school students across the country are making their voices heard.  Parkland students are on the cover of the Time magazine that arrived at our home today under the headline of Enough.  Perhaps, it finally is Enough!

I remain hopeful that 2018 will be like 1968 when protesters took to the streets against the War in Viet Nam, which led to its end.

M 8

I am so sick of politicians who, after a school shooting tragedy, say our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.  And then nothing is done.  It’s time for action.

At least, we can all vote this November.

Has this latest gun violence in schools motivated millennials (18-35) to register and vote in November?  In recent elections, millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.  You see what that got us in 2016.

Will this year be different?  I remain hopeful.  It happened in 1968.

Below are some signs from the March for Our Lives in Portsmouth, NY on March 24, 2018.

 

 

 

M 1

 

 

 

M 6

 

 

M 5

 

 

 

M 3

 

L 1

Sign held by high school student

 

L 2

 

 

M 9

 

M 10

 

M 12

 

M 13

 

M 14

Owen and Max, this is for you!

 

M 15

 

M 16

 

M 18

 

M 19

 

 

L 3

 

M 21

 

M 22

 

M 23

21st Century Weapons  18th century laws