Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander


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Blog 166: Fancy Fungi and a Marvelous Moth

Morning After the Storm
Tuesday night we had one “wail” of a storm--buckets of rain, bolts of lightning, and blasts of thunder that would make the hell hounds howl. Here is a pre-drawn beach shot the morning after the storm.

Morning After the Storm

CC the Cecropi Moth Larva
A fellow camp host brought CC the Cecropi moth larva over to show off his good looks. This bad boy styles with a flair for color. He is fancier than a college coed on break at South Beach! After taking a few pics we returned him to nature, eating his way north (by now he is probably crossing the Mackinaw Bridge to the U.P.).

CC #1

CC #2

Want to see what this handsome fellow will look like as he passes through more larvae stages to become a moth? Check out this link and scroll toward the end:

Fancy Fungi
The moisture-temperature equation reached the optimum balance this week for sprouting mushrooms and their fungi family. Here are several specimens captured during a walk in the woods.

Fungi #1

Fungi #2

Fungi #3

Fungi #4

Fungi #5

Fungi #6

Fungi #7

Fungi #8

Fungi #9

Fungi #10

Fungi #11

Fungi #12

Fungi #13

Fungi #14

This and That
Here is a pic of the Empire donkey and a shot of Jerry and Mitzy in a grove of pine trees.


Pups in the Pines

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 163: Indian Pipes and Black-Eyed Susans

Quick Trip to Dallas
I started off the week with a quick trip to Dallas to work with a new client. Excellent session.

Forest Flora
Here is a shot of lichen and moss, plus the very elusive Indian pipe.

Lichen and Moss

Indian Pipe

This and That
Here are black-eyed Susans, hydrangea, and the Forest Pups on the go.

Black-Eyed Susans


Forest Pups

Old Signs
Here are two old signs that Jan found.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 160: Return of the Prima Ballerina

Donna Marie Pieraciniovich, Prima Ballerina
One of our friends was for several years the prima ballerina at the Galesburg Bar & Opera House. Every Saturday night she would shimmy and glide with pointed toes and arched back to her admiring audience as the house reverberated to the classical tunes played by the Hokey Symphony. Oh, those were the days my friends! Here she is showing that she still has the moves that made her a local legend (notice the classic arch).

Prima Balerina

Beach Sunrise
Here are three shots I took during sunrise on the beach one cloudy morning.



Sunrise Admirer

Beach Sunset
Here is a pic of a couple enjoying a Lake Michigan sunset.


This is Jan’s latest painting, a postcard called “The Big Lake Blues.” It is being mailed as a “get well” message to a friend.

Big Lake Blues

This is a floral arrangement Jan put together. The red background was my idea--really makes the flowers pop, don’t you think?


This and That

Beach Mole

Ranger Preso

I'm Stuffed!

Old Signs
Here are two old signs for the week.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks for your review.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 159: Ralph the Douser Busted

Dash to Diamondale
Jan and I and the Kids took a road trip down to the Lansing, Michigan, area to visit Jan’s brother and his awesome spouse. We enjoyed their family lounging around the pool, driving around to see the local sights, and taking a great boat ride down the Grand River.

Sleeping Baby


Mitzy Profile

Boating Jerry

Busted Ralph
Our friend and fellow camp host, Ralph (aka “Ralph the Douser”), celebrated his birthday this week. Alas, he left his lit birthday cake unattended while he dashed to the toilet just as a couple of tough, by-the-book rangers, Dennis the Duke and Mojo Morgan, drove up. Ralph was cited on the spot, with his $2,500 fine to be taken out of his volunteer salary over 76 months.

Busted Ralph

The Rangers Are Watching

This and That
Here are a couple of Lake Michigan shots.

Lake Michigan

Sailboat and Cairn

Jan’s Old Signs
Here are two, pretty cool old signs that Jan found and I shot.

Old Sign #1

Old Sign #2

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks found in the hinterland of Michigan.

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

See you next week.

Blog 116: From Woods and Lakes to Concrete and Steel


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

As the thermometer has lowered, so has the attendance at the campground. The percentage of tents to hard-sided campers has flip-flopped, with canvas and screen being replaced with fiberglass and aluminum. Obviously, staying warm has risen in importance! Fall is truly here with multicolored leaves falling from the canopy to the forest floor, opening up cracks in nature’s privacy screen.

Changing weather patterns bright wind and clouds.

Sunrise #1

Sunrise #2

Sunrise #3

Sunrise #4

Kayak Pano

Trail Hiking
We hiked Bass Lake Trail for the first time and were not disappointed--another beautiful trail through deer- and other critter-populated woods alongside Bass Lake. Once again we hiked Windy Moraine Trail enjoying the solitude.

Quick Trip to DC
I had an engagement in DC facilitating a trusted advisor training session for my business partner. Great group of people who seemed to really enjoy the session. It had been a month since I had traveled, and it was a mini-culture shock as I went from the beauty and serenity of remote woods and water to the city frenzy of concrete and steel. Nice to have my feet in both “camps!”

Down and Around to Kalamazoo

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to Kalamazoo

We purposely set a route we hadn’t traveled so that we could do some old truck hunting. Great scenery and we were not disappointed--15 old trucks posed for my lens. (See the pics at the end of this blog post.)

Mers’ Menagerie
We stayed at Mers’ place in the woods, a menagerie of nature. Here is a shot of Max the cat, a feeding wild turkey, a woodpecker, and the southern cousin of our chips up north.





Feed Store
Just for fun we stopped at the local feed and supply where we were greeted by Penelope the pig, Tonka the pup, and Violet the rabbit.

Penelope the Pig

Tonka the Dog

Violet the Rabbit

Every year our good friend Jamers hosts an exclusive (well…kind of exclusive) feast for about 50 lucky people. Along with having a great time, the event raised $1,000 for the Kalamazoo Animal Rescue and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Good stuff.


Jan at Ribarama

(Note: Next week I’ll be posting several more Ribarama shots for those interested. Also, if you took an especially good one or two, send them to me and I’ll include them.)

Old Trucks
Here are a few of the trucks shot on our trip down and back to/from Kalamazoo…

Old Truck #1

Old Truck #2

Old Truck #3

Old Truck #4

Old Truck #5

Old Truck #6

Old Truck #7

Old Truck #8

Old Truck #9

Old Truck #10

Old Truck #11

Old Truck #12

Old Truck #13

Old Truck #14

Old Truck #15

Old Truck #16


September 23-October 13: Camp Hosting at Sleeping Bear Dunes, Empire, Michigan
October 14-26: Probably at Markin Glenn in Kalamazoo, Michigan
October 27-29: Heading South
October 30-31: Red Bay, Alabama
November 2: Arrive Back in St. James City, Florida

Alex and Pumpkins

See you next week.

Blog 71: Triple Dipping


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Handsome Jerry, Fluffy Mitzy
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

I spent the week at home on Pine Island, enjoying the nice weather and reconnecting with friends while re-establishing my base of work (my office is the top floor of our home).

Pine Island, Florida

Triple Dipping
I’m normally not much good at multitasking, but this situation works pretty well: Around sunrise each morning at the St. James City post office, I let Jerry and Mitzy off the leash and they can run to their hearts content. At the same time I get my morning health walk in, and since I carry my camera, I get the chance for a shot every now and then. I took this shot of the blasting-off Anhinga there one morning.

Anhinga Blasting Off

Neighborhood Stroll
When we get back home and the light is right and my work allows, I go back out walking through our neighborhood. Lots of ospreys and eagles in nest-building mode with lots of other avian activity. That is where I got the shots of the two hawks and the flock of Ibis.

Ibis in Flight

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Pups Across America

Here is a shot of Fluffy Mitzy and that handsome boy Jerry.

Fluffy Mitzy

Handsome Jerry


Check out next week for more pics.

Blog 68: Return to the Island


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

The Journey Home

While Janny stayed in Apopka and helped Auntie with remodeling, I flew to Seattle on Sunday to run a services account management session for a client of my business partner Service Strategies. Upon my return to Orlando/Apopka, we packed up on Thursday and returned to Pine Island. Between unpacking, re-setting up my office, staying abreast of my consulting business, and preparing for next week’s trip to Alaska, I didn’t have much time for pictures. However, I did get one shot of Jerry in flight.

Wonder Pup

Nonetheless, I’ve selected a few of my favorites from our Motoring Across America ’11 for you to look at.

1933 Stutz Monte Carlo

Austin at Play

Bison Couple

Bonny Mystery Bird


Campsite View

Cowboy Poetry

Ferruginous Hawk

Go Western!


Handsome Hoot

Highline Deer

Highline Rainbow

Jan and Alex at Peace Garden

Jerry and Dragonfly

Lake Jogger

Mitzy Under

Mr. Moose

Mud Pups

Painted Cat

Porkie Sunset

Red Squirrel

Tip of the Hat

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Cowboy Poetry

First Girlfriend


Stormy Campground


Alas, Motoring Across America, at least our summer trip is over. However, I plan to keep posting the blog as long as I have something of interest to share. For example, I’m flying to Homer, Alaska, to photograph eagles. I’ll have some action shots for you next week.

Have questions or comments--send them in.

Blog 67: Big Trip Back


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Jerry, Mitzy and Friends
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

The Journey

After a wonderful stay, we finally left Michigan, taking the last of the Indian Summer weather with us. We headed south and east on back roads until hooking up to I-69. Normally we avoid interstates, but to save time we took them the entire trip back, going through Louisville, Nashville, Chatanooga, Atlanta, near Tampa then over to Auntie’s place.

Lake Colors

Leaf in Water


Happy Jamers

The Big Guy

Garden Flower

Baby Racoon

Raptor Center
On Saturday, Auntie, Jan, and I went to the Avian Raptor Center to view the birds of prey and watch the Harris Hawks during the falconry session. Just a great place.

Bard Owl

Horned Owl

Harris Hawk

Pups Across America

Jerry and Shadow

Mitzy Straight Up


The Kids

Yawning Jerry

Calamity Jan and Moreen

Guido and Polly



Jan and Polly


October 16-19: Visit Auntie in Apopka (Orlando area)
October 20: Arrive back on Pine Island
October 24-31: Alaska

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See you next week.

Blog 58: Waterfalls and Meteor Showers


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Rock-Climbing Pup
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Day of Rest (and Work)
Nice peaceful day after a full week of action. Worked on pictures and did some business work as well. Had a nice walk with the Pups and a couple of rides both inside and outside the park. Our Vega State Park visit was wonderful, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes nature, pretty places, and nice people.

Monday: On to Rifle
It was chilly when I got up, so I donned wool socks, blue jeans, hiking boots, a long-sleeve shirt, vest, and green windbreaker. I sat at the computer working and drinking coffee for an hour or so before my hand reached up and to the left to turn on the furnace. After so many hot days, chilly felt quite good.

I took the Pups out early, and then got to work on the computer, finishing up an article for the Professional Services Journal that was due. While I was working, Jan got the bus ready to roll. By noon I was done, and we headed out of the park for the next leg of our journey.

Monday's Journey

We picked up 330 west then 65 west before turning east on I-70. We passed by DeBeque, Parachute, and Battlement Mesa before taking the Rifle exit. We proceeded north on 13 then turned off on 325 north. Just past the dam we turned into Rifle Gap State Park, our home for the next four days. Our large, modern, campsite provided a panoramic view of a deep blue lake surrounded by hills with mountains in the background. Within 15 minutes we were completely set up including a hummingbird feeder half full of syrup waiting for customers.

Alas, there is no AT&T signal, and Verizon (which we count on for Internet) is weak, but one must make some sacrifices when roughing it.

Jan made an awesome meatloaf dinner on the campfire, then after hanging outside to enjoy the lowering sun, we headed back inside to watch a Netflix movie.

Rifle Gap State Park

Tuesday: Harvey Gap Park
When I awoke we had four customers at the hummingbird feeder this chilly morning. I took a hike all around the park, and was a little tired out upon my return from all the ups and downs. I then shifted into computer work while Jan got groceries at the City Market in Rifle. She also scouted out the nearest place with both a strong AT&T and Verizon signal, the Rifle Golf Course, just four miles from our camp.

Tuesday's Journey

Mid-afternoon it was time for the family drive, and we headed north on 325 turning east on Grass Valley Road. This road took us through ranch country and into Harvey Gap State Park. We drove through the park, watching people picnicking by the turquiose lake. After a few miles our road turned into Harvey Gap Road, and we wound our way south and east to the town of Silt (blog readers may remember our attempt to find Silt the back way). We picked up Highway 6 and headed east to the berg of New Castle. After driving around old town and a few neighborhoods, we headed back west on 6, north on 13, then north on 325 back to camp.

Jan grilled an awesome dinner of steak pinwheels with gruyere cheese and spinach, we read for awhile and went to bed.

Wednesday: Rifle Mountain Park
Our campground and our campsite are very nice--large and private with beautiful views. From our site we see no one else. Here is a photo of sunrise and afternoon sky taken from our campsite.

Rifle Gap Sunrise

Campsite View

I drove the Pups down toward the western part of the park where I could let them loose. We took an old road into the high desert, sharing our experience with no one else. Saw a couple of bluebirds, but no other critters.

Next the four of us drove three miles back toward the village of Rifle, pulling into the Rifle golf course parking lot. Here I checked for voice messages and had a short Skype call with Kevin in Sweden regarding our mutual account. Then it was back to the coach where I worked away again on my Sarasota project.

Wednesday's Journey

Mid-afternoon it was time again for a family ride. We took 325 north past Rifle Falls State Park, on past the fish hatchery and into Rifle Mountain Park. “Mountain” is entirely descriptive. Run by either the city or the county, this high-altitude area is quite picturesque, with flowing streams, summer wildflowers, and dense tree stands throughout. One of the big attractions is rock climbing, and we saw a number of climbers in various stages of ascent/descent.


Within a few miles, state road 325 ended, turning into forest road 825 as we entered into the White River National Forest. Continuing on, the road started to deteriorate, becoming four-wheel drive country. However, Jan slowed down, kept a watchful eye, and weaved back and forth missing the largest potholes. We passed Sawmill Gulch, Rifle Creek, finally stopping, then turning around at the end of the road, Three Forks Trailhead. Well, actually there was another road of sorts, but Jan didn’t want to attempt it so I guess you know how challenging that path was :”>>>. We retraced our steps, and returned to camp.

Jerry and Alex

We sat outside watching the hummers and discussing future trips. While I looked at maps, Jan grilled chicken for dinner. Astute observers will note that the picture below is not chicken, but a fish dish Jan had made earlier but I had forgotten to put it in the blog!

Fish Dish

Thursday: Rifle Falls
I took the pups down by the lake and let them run. There was only one cloud in the sky, but it was a big one and it started to rain. Normally the Pups try to avoid rain, but this morning it seemed to invigorate both of them, and they started sprinting through the grass among the trees at high speed. After a quick trip to the golf course for calls, Jan and I headed up to Rifle Falls Park for a hike. We parked just by the entrance and took the Squirrel Trail. Through the woods, along a stream, up and up the curved mountain path. After 40 minutes or so we ended up by the Falls.


Running Water

Jan at the Falls

Hiking Alex

At the Falls we picked up Coyote Trail that walked through the caves and up out into a meadow with a pond. Here we admired a Pacific Forktail Damselfly and several Fiery Skipper Moths that were enamored with the purplish red flowers of the bull thistles. As we returned back into the woods we spotted a couple turkeys that shared our path.

Pacific Forktail Damselfly

Fiery Skipper Moth and Bull Thistle

Fiery Skipper Moths and Bull Thistle

Friday: On to Yampa
Friday morning was busy. I had a 6:30 a.m. call with a prospective client from Boca, so I took the Pups out early for a run, and then the three of us headed down to the golf course.

Back at the bus, Jan was ready, and the two of us got back in the car and drove back to Rifle Falls State Park. On the way we saw a couple taking an early morning horseback ride and some horses enjoying hay for breakfast.

Morning Horseback Ride

Horse Portrait

We had enjoyed Squirrel Trail so much that we decided to hike it again, and it was just as enjoyable as the day before.


Shooting Jan

Hiking Alex

At 9:47 in the morning we pulled out of the park, headed south on 325, and then north on 13. The road was level and the weather perfect as we drove through Meeker and stopped at Craig to fuel up. Here we picked up 40 east, and two miles west of Hayden we pulled into the Yampa River State Park.

Friday's Journey

Yampa River State Park

Nice and peaceful here with nothing behind us but green, and the Yampa River is about 30 yards from our door. For dinner Jan grilled an amazing vegetable kielbasa dish.

Saturday: Meteor Shower
At 4:00 a.m. I started coffee then quickly went outside to check out the meteor shower--the countryside was dark. Jan came out and we both stood there in the 51-degree cold. We went back inside and saw that we could check things out just as well--and whole lot warmer--by looking through our bedroom window at the eastern sky.

A little later I walked the Pups around the park, then Jan joined us and we did the trek again. While I worked on my Sarasota project, Jan did laundry. Quiet evening around the campfire.

Pups Across America

Here are two shots of a rock-climbing pup from Rifle Mountain Park. I like Jan’s shot the best (the one with the banana peel).

Rock Climbing Pup

Rock Climbing Pup with Banana Peel

Walking back through the campground at Rifle Falls we spotted this handsome pup who appeared to be holding up the picnic table.

Holding Down the Picnic Table


August 14: Yampa State Park
August 15-17: Steamboat Lake State Park
August 18-20: State Forest State Park
August 21-28: Boyd Lake State Park
August 29-31: Parker, CO
September 1-15: Heading north and east
September 23-October 7: Markin Glen County Park, Kalamazoo, MI
October 8-15: ???
October 16-31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See you next week.

Blog 57: Rainbows and Marmots, Eagles and Cowboys


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Sunrise Pups
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Chasing the Sunrise

Highline Sunrise

Highline Sunrise with Tree

Upon rising, and while the water is heating for coffee, it is my normal habit to check the weather and forecast online. Although the temperature has risen each day to the low 90s the last week, each morning started in the very pleasant, light-jacket mid to high 50s. This morning, however, it was already 72 degrees at 4:30 a.m. with the promise of quickly heating up. Thus, I decided to walk the Pups quite early, when it was still an enjoyable task and not a bothersome toil. Thus, we were on the Highline Lake Bluffs trail about a half hour before sunrise, my favorite time to be outdoors. With clouds in the East, the colors started to roll in; pastels at first, transitioning to different orange hues, to bold reds and various combinations. Within 30 seconds the pre-sunrise scene you just viewed may have morphed into an entirely different composition.

The Kids seemed to have as much fun as I did on our walk, including a rabbit chase that I was able to at least catch a glimpse of with my camera. You’ll notice that “fast-as-the-wind” Mitzy is the lead chase Pup, hot on the trail--and the tail--of the bunny, with Jerry bolting from the back.


After breakfast I helped Jan pinch-hit for our camp host colleagues, and then I finalized my preparation for my Boston client and tackled some other lingering chores.

Monday: Quick Trip to Boston

Monday's Journey

Being it was to be a short trip, I left Jan carless and drove to the Grand Junction airport. I took the 6:35 a.m. flight to Dallas, and after a short layover hopped another flight to Boston. I detest driving in Boston, but the cab fare to my hotel and to my client would have been ridiculous, so I rented a car. Had a quiet evening including a nice soaker tub.

Tuesday: Boston
My “what it takes to build a services business” session went very well, and by noon I was back in my rental car arriving at Logan airport in time for lunch. Here I treated myself to a lobster roll and a glass of Sam Adams--there are some benefits of being in Boston! After a couple a flights and a short drive, I arrived back at camp by 9:30 that night.

Wednesday: Rainbows and Computer Screens
Today my hike around Highline was gorgeous. I couldn’t decide which of these two rainbow shots I liked best, so I included both. Which one do you like best?

Highline Rainbow #1

Highline Rainbow #2

I spent the rest of the day behind the computer screen, qualifying a new piece of business, giving feedback on a new online course I’m developing, and making and returning calls.

Thursday: Good-bye to Highline
Busy morning! I took the Pups on one last hike around the lake, and after 40-some days of looking, we finally saw the deer herd.

Highline Deer

(Note that none of the shots I took this week at Highline had any saturation added--that’s just how awesome the light was those mornings.)

Upon returning I helped Jan get our motor home, BERT, ready to roll, and then headed down to the visitor center to put on a selling webinar (over the phone and Internet) for a couple hundred people in cooperation with my friend Hank from the Professional Services Journal. As soon as the session was over, I walked back and Jan and I finished up preparation for leaving. We said good-bye to friends David and Marjorie and wished them good luck with camp hosting (the new camp hosts replacing us appear to be quite the Butt Heads!).

Thursday's Journey

By noon, Jan was driving, BERT was purring, and the Pups were alternating sitting on my lap, standing on the dash, or sleeping on the sofa. We had a gorgeous 70-mile drive, taking our time through Loma, onto I-75 east past Grand Junction and Palisade, turning east on 85 then east again onto 330. We meandered through Molina, puttered through Plateau City, climbed through Colilbran continuing our upward voyage into Vega Lake State Park.

Vega State Park

Golden Eagle
About three miles from the Vega Park entrance, as we turned a corner, Jan and I both saw a large animal of some sort on the side of the road. Within seconds we made the ID—Golden Eagle! As we approached, this very big guy gave us a dismissing look, and then slowly beat his huge wings a couple of times and was gone. I had my camera on my lap, but there was no time for an attempted picture, but the experience was exhilarating. After checking in we got set up and sat outside overlooking the lake and watched the day come to an end.

Friday: Deer Galore
The first thing after coffee, we all piled into our Element and drove back from the park the way we came in hopes of finding the Golden Eagle. No luck this time, but we saw dozens of deer on our way down and back. Instead of returning to BERT we slowly drove around the lake looking for critters. Just before turning into our campground, Jan spotted a young buck on the edge of the forest chomping on leaves. He was not afraid of cars and he let me take several pictures of him less than 30 feet away.

Eight-Point Buck

Back at our campsite we had another cup of coffee, then leaving the Kids to finish their breakfast, Jan and I took off in the car once again. Our plan was to take an access road, Forest Road #262 (also called Park Creek Road) for the mile and a half into the Grand Mesa National Forest for some hiking. We slowly crept along the rough dirt road, but the heavy rains from the night before created a fast-running current across our path. After studying the possibility of proceeding, prudence stepped in and we retraced our tracks. Here is a chipmunk munching the top of a tree.

Chipmunk in a Tree

However, our backup plan was a good one, for we hiked the two-mile Vega Trail through an Aspen forest. We saw lots of pretty foliage, flowers, and mushrooms. The pretty but poisonous baneberry was everywhere along with a number of other plants that I couldn’t identify. This is bear country, so Jan carried our bear spray as we headed up and down the narrow overgrown trail that was covered by a thick, dark canopy. We saw no critters, but heard the noise of one very large animal along our way.

As an aside, Vega State Park is at 8,000 feet--it takes a little while getting use to the altitude.


Prairie Flowers

Camouflage Doe

After lunch, I spent time doing business. While I was working I asked Janny to go and find a spot where there was both a good AT&T and a Verizon signal. She came back a couple hours later having explored a large portion of real estate. Taking the Kids, we retraced her steps, driving the 11 miles back toward Collbran, stopping at Gandhi Park. Here I rejoined civilization (I guess), checking for voice messages, downloading e-mails, and responding to those messages requiring immediate action.

In the evening, Jan built a fire, and we sat around watching the activities of the lake and the campsite, smelling the pleasant odors of campfire cooking, and hearing the sound of thunder in the distance.

Saturday: Hungry Hummers, Marmot, and Another Eagle Sighting
I stood outside at dawn, watching the sky colors and the reflections on the lake. I took the Pups out early, down to the boat launch where they could run loose and stretch their little legs.

Hungry Hummers
As soon as we had set up camp the day before, Jan filled our hummingbird feeder and set it on our picnic table. Within five minutes (no kidding) we had a flock of hummers lining up to eat--reminded me of the opening of a new restaurant on the Island at 5:00 p.m. Blue Hair Special time!

By Saturday morning these petite, glutinous avians had devoured the entire contents of the feeder, a concoction of one cup sugar and four cups of water. Jan quickly went into action and filled up the feeder again. These live missiles were so ravenous that one was trying to feed out of the bowl that Jan was using to fill the feeder. Once refilled, we counted 15 hummers either eating or awaiting their turn. Here is not a great shot, but it sure shows the excitement at our picnic table.

Ravenous Hummers

A little later the four of us hopped into our car and made the circle of the lake, seeing the occasional deer and admiring the fields of summer flowers. I also took a shot of our campground from the other side of the lake.

Vega Campground

Arrow-Leafed Balsamroot

At 8:00 a.m. we pulled into the Vega Lodge where we had breakfast overlooking the lake. From there we finished our circumnavigation, stopping to shoot yellow-bellied marmot at their digs. Cute little fellows.

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Big Marmot

Marmot Profile

Once back in the coach it was time to work. I’m fortunate in having lots to do, but it was really hard to get motivated to sit at the computer with a setting such as we have! Anyway, after stalling for a while downloading pics, I got to work on my Sarasota project.

Later in the afternoon we decided to go back and look for the Golden Eagle. Jan was driving, I had my camera set up for action on my lap and WHAM! There was the big guy surveying his territory, sailing on the wind over the valley. Jan let me out of the car and went to turn around while I followed this lord of the sky with my viewfinder. I probably got 50 shots off before he vanished from view. The first shot (18 megapixels) was what I saw in my camera, the 35mm equivalent of 640mm (or about 13X if you were looking through binoculars or a spotting scope). I severely cropped the second shot (2.5 MP) just to show a little more of what he looked like. Yes, the light was not the best and he/she was a long way away, but I got my first Golden Eagle photos! I was (and am) one happy camper.

Golden Eagle

Cropped Golden Eagle

Cowboy Poetry
By sheer luck, we chose to camp at Vega State Park during their annual Cowboy Poetry event. Attendees brought finger food to pass around (Jan made hot wings), and we all sat around on picnic tables and camping chairs listening to local artists playing cowboy songs, followed by readings by cowboy poets. It was really an enjoyable time. Here are a few pics from this event.

Cowboy Love

Cowbow Crooner

Cowboy Solo

Cowboy Trio

Cowgirl Singalong

If you want to see more cowboy poetry pics, click here.

Pups Across America

Pups at Sunrise

Jerry at Sunrise


August 7: Vega State Park
August 8-11: Rifle Gap State Park
August 11-31: Exploring Colorado
September 1-15: Heading north and east
September 23-October 7: Markin Glen County Park, Kalamazoo, MI
October 8-15: ???
October 16-31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See you next week.

Blog 56: Home on the Western Slope


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Action shots of the Kids
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

Sunday through Thursday: Hanging Around Camp
We stayed at the campground the first five days of the week. Every morning started with a walk around the lake, and most days I walked around the campground looking for photo opportunities. Jan did most of the camp host duties, Mitzy got a summer haircut as you will see in the pics, the young hawks were out and about playing, and I was lucky enough to photograph a hummingbird nest right before the two young ones left the next day.

Baby Hawk Stare

Hummingbird Nest

Alie from Highline

I spent a lot of time on the computer doing work for a Swedish client, a client in Boston, preparing for an upcoming webinar, and working on my Sarasota partner project. Thursday evening our neighbors, David and Marjorie, took us out to the Feedlot, a steak house in Fruita, for a very nice meal.

Friday: Monument and Dinosaur

Friday's Journey

It was a pleasant 55 degrees when I took the Pups out early in the pre-dawn. By 6:05 Jan and I were out of the campground, and by 6:30 we were walking down Otto’s Trail in the Colorado National Monument (sadly, dogs aren’t allowed). It was a pleasant hike with a great view of the canyon, but since it was not a long trail and it was still early, we walked part of the Coke Ovens Trail, spent some time admiring the view from the Artist Points lookout, and then slowly drove back through the park looking for Desert Bighorn Sheep. Alas, no big critter sightings today.

Morning Drive-By

Leaving the Monument we decided to stop at Dinosaur Hill, the location of the 1900 dig that led to excavating over six tons of dinosaur bones that were re-assembled as the very impressive display at the Chicago Field Museum that is still there today. We took the trail that walked around the hill showing where the excavation took place, all the while enjoying the views of the Monument, Grand Valley, and the McInnis National Conservation Area.

After a great breakfast of Jan’s, I spent the rest of the day working--spending time on my projects mentioned earlier.

That evening Jan made an outstanding dinner of grilled ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, and key lime pie with fresh whipped cream that we shared with David and Marjorie.

Saturday: Handsome Hoot and Wild Horses
Once again I took the dogs out very early, intending to take another hiking trail in the Monument. Just as I was leaving the campground, I saw two hawks chatting with a crow on the side of the road. I pulled the car off the road and spent the next half hour watching the two young Cooper’s Hawks taking lessons from one of their parents. What I observed was a lot of chasing each other from tree to tree, screaming at decibel levels ranging from loud to alarming, and, the most fun to watch, lots of hopping up and down one after another, each hop two to three feet, complete with the spreading of wings coupled with ferocious looks (my assumption is that this was training time--practicing the skills required for capturing prey). Great fun.

Back in the car I decided to bag the hike and scout around the park for some photo ops. Hence, I walked over to the group camping area along the tree line where Baby Hoot seems to enjoy warming himself in the sun in the early mornings. I did not spot him in the area I expected, so I decided to continue on a tad. Just as I was ready to give up, I located that big rectangular shape positioned in what appeared to be a perfect location (eye level, warm sunshine in his face, great background, and the possibility for me to get close). I gave him a morning greeting and kept up a quiet chatter as I slowly approached, one step at a time. I was able to get off a few shots before a loud noise scared him off. I’m quite pleased with image. See what you think. Sometimes persistence does pay off.

Handsome Hoot

My plan was to work most of the day, as I have a lot of things going on, but an attack of laziness struck as I fired up the computer after breakfast. After several minutes of procrastination, I yielded to my internal strife and we jumped in the car for a quick get-away. We drove east on I-70 exiting at the Cameo exit past Palisade, where we headed north past the power plant onto dirt roads that headed off the beaten path into the 30,000-acre Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property of rugged canyons called the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Canyon. As the name implies, a herd of wild horses roams this large area. Although the odds were slim, we were hoping to get a glimpse of these equine beauties. As we proceeded north, the “road” got narrower and rougher. Our Element did an admirable job, however, we soon reached some areas impassable except for a four-wheel drive vehicle with lots of clearance. Reluctantly we turned around and headed back to more civilized terrain, but it was sure worth the effort.

Deciding to take a different route home, we turned off of I-70 west onto Highway 6 at Palisade. This is fruit country, and soon our back-road tour took us through dozens of orchards where peach harvesting was in full swing. We stopped at a local orchard where we picked up some fresh peaches, preserves and, after a quick taste, some local wine. Nice stop.

Saturday's Journey

David and Marjorie were on camp host duty, but since they had personal issues back at their home in Montrose 80 miles away, we volunteered to substitute for them. The Pups were thrilled, as they enjoy nothing more than riding around on the official camp host golf cart, sitting smugly by our side, occasionally growling at a dog or a kid they don’t care for.

Pups Across America

As regular readers know, I enjoy taking action shots of the Kids. Here are a few more to look at.

Another Flying Jerry

Big Smile Jerry

Resting Jerry

Mitzy and Tongue

Scruffy Pup

Jerry and Sleek Mitzy

Opinion Poll
As you can see, Mitzy has two sides to her “look,” fluffy and sleek. Which do you prefer? Drop me a note on which version of this pretty pup you like best and why. Interested in your thoughts.

NOTE: From Thursday afternoon, August 4, through Monday, August 8, we will have limited Internet and telephone service--please be patient, we will respond when we can.


July 24 - August 3: Wrapping up our stay at Highline State Park
August 4 - 7: Vega State Park
August 8 - 11: Rifle Gap State Park
August 11 - 31: Exploring Colorado
September 1 - 15: Heading north and east
September 23 - October 7: Markin Glen County Park, Kalamazoo, MI
October 8 - 15: ???
October 16 - 31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See you next week.

Blog 54: Gateway, Getaway and Gotaway


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Sandy pup and new scarves
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Peace and Quiet
I awoke to the soothing sound of rain on the roof. I was prepared to take the Kids on our usual hike, but the sound of distant thunder changed Jerry’s mind. Therefore, I took both of them back to the coach and went back out to look for birds. Basically a quiet day made up of work, camp hosting, and hanging out.


Stinky Bicyclist Clothes

Just for fun, here is a shot of Janny’s breakfast the other day.

Janny's Breakfast

Monday: Gateway Getaway

Monday's Journey

Leaving Janny to run the camp host show, Mers and I left Highline State Park, drove through Fruita and Grand Junction on I-70, took 50 east, then took 141 south for the 42 miles to Gateway (you may have guessed by now—another scenic byway!). We passed through a dozen miles of road construction, but the following scenery was worth the wait, as once again we were surrounded by red rock structures that looked as though they had been carefully sculpted by hand--a really big hand. The town of Gateway is similar to many others in Western Colorado, however, after passing through this rustic village we came upon a large, pristine, very modern compound--a conference center complete with lodging, restaurants, and our main destination, a world-class auto museum. We arrived a few minutes after 10:00 a.m., their first visitors of the day. There were only about 50 cars, but each and every one was fully restored to its original glory. Just a pleasure to walk through the Cords, Dusenburgs, early Cadillacs, and on and on. The paint jobs and detail were phenomenal.

After a highly enjoyable walk through, we talked for a few minutes with the manager. He was a local, and took great pride in the area. He shared some facts and folklore, such as how the Sundance Kid went from being an enforcer for the land barons, to how he robbed his first bank at Telluride riding a thoroughbred horse that he “exchanged” for another after the robbery. After listening to his story we decided to take the big loop back home instead of retracing our steps as originally planned.

So around noon we continued south on 141, driving through some very tall, very impressive canyons. We stopped and viewed the remnants of a flume built inside many miles of canyon walls to haul large quantities of water for the gold mines. It seems that to attach the flume to the canyon walls they lowered Chinese workers over the side and down the wall in rope baskets. Yikes!

Gateway Canyon

Gateway Drive

Flume Remains

We passed the sign showing where the uranium town of Uraven existed before the government completely unassembled everything and covered it up (both figuratively and literally). At Natursa we turned east on 145, passed through Redvale and stopped for lunch at Norwood. Then back on the scenic byway to Placerville where we turned east on 62. At Ridgeway we picked up 550 north, then at Montrose we turned on to 50 taking us back home. Big trip but a very nice trip.

Tuesday: Viva Las Vega

Tuesday's Journey

Mers departed early for her return to Michigan. After a hike around the lake, I worked the rest of the morning. Right before noon it was time for another road trip. Loading up the Kids, we took off heading the same way we had gone to Grand Mesa a few days earlier, exiting I-70 at exit 49 and heading east on 65. Instead of continuing on to Mesa, however, we took 330 through Molina, Collbran, eventually ending up at Vega State Park. A beautiful drive up a couple of thousand feet from where we started.

We oohed and aahed the whole trip with the intensity increasing as we drove around the park. Mountain bluebirds everywhere and the wildflowers out in mass and in full bloom.


Wildflower and Butterfly




I was unable to get a decent shot of a mature bluebird with its vibrant blue coloring, but got a shot of a young one.

Baby Bluebird

Immediately upon returning back to camp, I got online and booked the first four nights after our planned departure from Highline.

Wednesday: Rifle Shot

Wednesday's Journey

After hiking and working in the morning, it was time to check out another possible camping location. We took I-70 east through DeBuque and Parachute, exiting at Rifle. Here we made our way north on 325 with our first stop being Rifle Gap State Park. The reservoir here holds back an enticing body of crystal blue water, and within minutes of our arrival we knew we wanted to camp at this modern park as well. We took our time driving around, checking out the campsites, and exploring the swim beach, boat launch, and visitor center.

Rifle Gap View

Four miles north and 2,000 feet higher, is Rifle Gap’s sister state park, Rifle Falls. Named after the falls it contains, this older park is made up of a more primitive campground, caves, and trails. We decided that when we camped at Rifle Gap we would do some day-trips here for trail hikes. Should be fun.

Jan and Mitzy


Big Load
As everyone who has traveled the interstate has seen, there are plenty of really big trucks hauling really big loads on the road. Therefore, it was interesting to see this 18-wheeler and its Tonka Toy load!

Tonka Truck Hauler

As we made our trip home, the skies got darker and darker and the lightning strikes increased. Seven miles from home we pulled off the road with a southern view looking over the Colorado Monument. The dark skies darkened further, the lighting bolts increased in number and size, the rain started coming down, and the wind increased—up to sixty-mile-per-hour gusts. Jerry sat shaking in my lap as the rest of us enjoyed the show.

Thursday: Kestrels, Hawks, and Owls
Young Hawks
I was up quite early working, but a little after dawn I was standing on the road looking up at the Cooper Hawk nest. I was not disappointed, as soon I saw three bird outlines hopping and jumping from branch to branch. One stayed still for a while, and I enjoyed watching this youngster.


Young Owl
Next I walked around to owl country, and the youngster did not disappoint, sitting on a low branch and looking toward the sweet east light.


Kestrel Pair
Walking through the campground, I spotted this pair of Kestrels--cute and little, but fast and deadly, these two appear to be permanent residents.

American Kestrel Pair

New Hike

Lark Sparrow

Jan suggested a new hiking route and I concurred. We checked out a new trail, enjoying the views, watching the Pups sniff and romp, and getting some nice exercise besides. Out on a barren tree we spotted a Red-Tailed Hawk, apparently looking for breakfast. Apparently he was not a welcome visitor to this territory as several smaller birds attacked him on his perch.

Red-Tailed Hawk

I spent most of the rest of the day working on the computer doing projects.

Colorado Monument Hike
Since the Pups couldn’t go on our hike, I took them out early in the chilly air. I also checked on the baby hawks and the young owl. Soon Jan and I were in the Colorado Monument once again, heading out on the Alcove Nature Trail. After completing this easy one-mile jaunt, we toured the rest of the monument before heading back to camp.

Horsethief Canyon
I worked till mid-afternoon, and then it was time for another road trip. Back close to the Fruita entrance to the Colorado Monument we turned west into Horsethief Canyon, a wilderness area run by the Bureau of Land Management. We traveled this gravel round for about ten miles, checking out the trails and vowing to return early in the morning to avoid the heat.

I was out at 5:00 a.m. trying to capture a good shot of the full moon from our campsite. Nothing worth publishing so I took the Pups out for a quick walk.

6:00 a.m. Skype call with Kevin to start to wrap up our assignment with the Swedish company. Always a lot to do at the last moment.

Soon Jan was up and we took the Kids out on the Great Blue Heron Marsh Loop for a short hike. Very pretty, but a dozen or so very busy spiders (the kind that jump and bite) had cast webs across the trail, so we kept a close eye as we walked along.

The rest of the day was devoted to working on projects, and camp hosting.

Pups Across America

Here are pics of David and Sandy along with Jerry and Mitzy sporting their new Cabella scarves that Mers bought them.

David and Sandy

Mitzy with New Scarf

Jerry with New Scarf


July 17 - 19: Camp hosting at Highline Lake State Park
July 20 - 23: Visiting our grandson Austie in Parker, CO
July 24 - August 3: Camp hosting at Highline State Park with a side trip or two
August 4 - 8: Vega State Park
August 8: Exploring Colorado
September 4 - 10: Camp with Scott and Deb in Northern Michigan?
September 11- 25: Visit Kalamazoo, MI friends and participate in Ribarama
October 16 - 31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See you next week.

Blog 52: Big Horns and Flat Tires


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Pics of the Kids at their best
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

The Journey

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Colorado National Monument
By 6:00 a.m. all the Alexanders were entering the Colorado National Monument in our car, only about 15 minutes away from our campground. Jan was driving, and I was in the co-pilot seat, camera on my lap along with one to two pups depending on their mood and what we were sighting. Our hope was to spot and photograph Bighorn Sheep, but I knew our probability was low as the entire herd within the park only amounted to 50. Yet, within 10 minutes we came across a yearly male, munching along the side of the road. He was oblivious to our car and me hanging out the window with camera pointed at him, and I got in several shots before he casually strolled away walking right past us.

Colorado Monument

Desert Bighorn Sheep

We had a great time winding up and down the monument road, enjoying the canyons and rock formations--during our first half-hour in the park we only saw two other vehicles. By 8:30 we had traveled the 26-mile road through the park and had developed quite an appetite. Of course Jan already knew her way around Grand Junction, and soon we were down on Main Street selecting a restaurant with outside seating. After a great Mexican breakfast we re-traced our path re-entering the park the way we had exited. The Visitor Center was now open, so we went in to check out photo spots and hiking trails. When I asked about critters, the lady said that the last Bighorn sighting was over a month ago. We felt even better about our rookie success. Just as we were leaving the park Jan let out a yelp--she had seen a big ram move rapidly from the top of a mesa down a steep hill then disappear--she scored a double.


Monday: Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway
After getting up early and working for a few hours, the four of us took a three-and-a-half-mile hike around Highline Lake. We were joined by scooting rabbits, flitting birds along the marshes, and an occasional Great Blue Heron making his way across the lake.

Highline Lake


Great Blue Heron


Mid-afternoon I got tired of work, so we took a road trip 70 miles north on highway 139 through the desert, up through the mountains, then back down through the desert culminating at the town of Rangely. This stretch of road is part of the 650-mile diamond-shaped zone of Colorado and Utah that contains loads of dinosaur fossils. It was a very nice trip with lots of pretty contrasts from the lush green on some of the valleys, the variations of pinks, tans, and browns of the hills and mountains, set upon a vibrant deep blue sky accented by the occasional bright-white clouds.

Tuesday: Avian Alert
Got up very early, working on some projects, then all four of us went out at 6:40 a.m. and walked Highline Trail again.

Mid-morning, Jan interrupted my work for an “avian alert.” The momma Great Horned Owl and her “daughter” (we think she is a female as she is almost as big as her mother and female owls are larger than males) were both sitting in a tree about ten yards from our coach. They were hunkered down as an upset robin was buzzing them and a furious Cooper’s Hawk was conducting fly-bys coming within inches of the owls.

Momma Hoot

Baby Hoot

Cooper's Hawk

Inquiries of others who had observed what had happened earlier said that the momma owl had snatched and ate another bird, probably a young robin, possibly a baby hawk.

Anyway, it was quite the campground event with many people taking time to get a close-up view of the owls. Of course the kids were the most curious and the most excited.

Bird Watcher

Wednesday: Flat Tire and More Sheep
Once again I got up quite early working on business. By 6:30 a.m. we were all out on the Highline Trail enjoying the cloudy weather as we hiked along. When we got back I had a couple of conference calls, but then shifted to an issue of transportation.

Our Honda had a flat tire, so I diligently opened the spare tire compartment--my plan being to replace the flat with the mini-spare and drive to town for the repair. However, step one in a plan of 14, did not go well. I am not a world champion weight lifter like Jan’s brother Wayne*, but I’m fairly strong for an old guy. However, when I took the wrench to crack the wheel nuts, they did not budge. After borrowing from Dave a more substantial tool, I was able to crack one. As we headed the golf cart down to the maintenance shop to try and find an even bigger wrench, I spotted the solution to my problem--John, the new guy looked like he wrestled grizzlies and won. Telling him of the dilemma, he quickly volunteered to help. Without tensing a blood vessel he performed the entire task, having the damaged tire in the back of Dave’s pickup truck in five minutes. A quick drive to the Fruita Coop, ten minutes to fix it, and we were back in camp where John reversed the process--it’s all in knowing the right folks!

Later in the afternoon with storm clouds in the sky, we decided to head back into Colorado Monument. In 15 minutes we were through the gate and within ten more we had our next Bighorn sighting! The dark blue skies showed the magnificence of the monument at it’s best.

*No joke, he is the world champion in his age bracket at the bench press. He beat the Russians and the rest of his challengers a few weeks ago benching 352 pounds at the World Championship.

Thursday: Janny 911
Jan decided to go for a shorter walk, so she took the Pups her way and I headed out on the big trail. For the first time I came across a flock of Magpies, flitting about as if in a tizzy. I was able to get one shot I really liked. After about 20 minutes into the walk, I felt the temperature drop about 15 degrees or so. Looking up I saw the big thunderboomers I was expecting, dominating the sky in all directions. I quickened my pace, happy that I’d packed a large trash bag to cover my camera in case it rained. I made it back to the far-end of the lake when the rains started. Luckily a shelter was near by so I got under cover, sat down, and called Janny to rescue me. Within 10 minutes we were driving back to camp.


Jan to the Rescue

The rest of the day was split working on business and helping Janny with the camp host chores.

Happy Janny

I awoke to a chilly 51-degree, long-sleeve morning and headed out early to get a walk in with the Pups prior to a 7:00 a.m. call. For the first time, I took the Blue Heron Marsh trail that was just gorgeous. I saw my first coyote in the park, a large-framed critter that looked in great condition. From then on I kept the Pups on a short leash.

Back at camp I helped Janny a little, but spent most all the day working in the coach.

Saturday: Heating Up
Up till now, the super-low humidity weather had been warm but quite pleasant. Now, with friends coming to visit soon, things are heating up! Prospects are 100 degrees for the next five days—thank goodness the humidity is supposed to continue to be crazy low.

A big walk with the Kids, then back to work. A very quiet campground as most all the campers are on the lake or picnicking by it.

Pups Across America

A few pics of the Kids at their best.

Sweet Light Jerry

Thundering Pups

Backseat Pup


July 3-July 9: Probable trips to Arches NP, Gunnison NP, and other cool places with friends Jo and Mers
July 10-July 19: Camp hosting at Highline Lake State Park
July 20-July 23: Visiting our grandson Austie in Parker, CO
July 24-August 7: Camp hosting at Highline State Park with a side trip or two
August 9: Yellowstone NP and possibly Glacier NP
September 4-10: Camp with Scott and Deb in Northern Michigan?
September 11-25: Visit Kalamazoo, MI friends and participate in Ribarama
October 16 to 31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

Next week should be loaded with pics, as we are going to Colorado National Monument a time or two.

Blog 50: Playing Host


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Roxie the Boxer and friends
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

The Journey

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Last Day in Cherry Creek
Today was a quiet day, a little work and a little play with Grandson Austie. We read a few books, played with superhero action figures, and played at the playground and the beach. In the afternoon his Mom and Dad along with Hanna the Pug came over to chat and have dinner. Here is family portrait of Austie’s clan.

The Helmans

Monday: Up and At ‘Em
By 6:05 a.m. we had broke camp and were headed out the state park gates. Our plan, which proved successful, was to skirt through Denver before the normal rush hour traffic--Parker Road to I-225 South to I-25 North to West 6, then on to I-70 West across most of Colorado. I’m not big on traveling on interstates, but this was just a beautiful trip, up and down, and mountains and deserts. After fueling up at Loma, we traveled north and a tad west a few miles to Highline Lake State Park, where we checked in at the visitor center and were greeted and welcomed by the head ranger, Alan.

Over the Rockies

Soon we were in the campground and set up at Site 7, reserved for camp hosts.

Tuesday: Rookie Camp Hosts
Highline Lake State Park is an oasis of tall trees, green grass, and blue water. It is very attractive to the desert dwellers within a couple hundred miles who are looking to boat on the lake, relax by the beach on the large lawn, or hang out in the shady campground. Alan gave us a succinct rundown on our hosting duties, but our new neighbors, and existing camp hosts, Margie and David, clued us in on how things worked. When on duty wearing our official state park shirts, we have a walkie-talkie to coordinate with the rangers and the visitor center, and a golf cart to patrol the 31-site campground.

Wednesday: Day Two
The weather since we arrived has been just marvelous--mid-80s, slight breeze, and super-low humidity, just a pleasure to be out and about. Although our core tasks are relatively straightforward--be ambassadors to campers; help register, document, and assist changes as required; keep the camp sites tidy; and sell firewood, ice, and worms--the procedures are a little complicated (well, the paperwork side of things, anyway). We just go along, do what we think is best, and confer with Dave and Margie to keep us straight. Little by little as they say.



Thursday: Day Three
This “job” is quite fun! Almost all the campers are good folks, and it is nice to be of assistance. It is a very family-oriented campground with kids and dogs everywhere.

Friday: Day Four
Keri, another volunteer at the visitor center, is a fellow photographer, and she was kind enough to take me around to where the owls hang out, the hawks and falcons nest, and where the bats reside. I’ve had some fun taking shots of a young Great Horned Owl and hope to get a “just right” shot one of these days.

Great Horned Owl

That evening, while addressing an occasional camper request, we sat around a fire with Dave and Margie and just chatted away over ‘smores--living large in Colorado.

Saturday: Day Five
I have been investing quite a few hours doing consulting work this week, especially preparing a big report along with colleague Kevin for a Swedish client. So I spent the majority of the day hunkered down on the computer, packing, and doing odds and ends for breaks.

Ended the day with a campfire dinner with our neighbors--great way to end a great week.

Pups Across America

Check out a few pup shots from the park.

Roxie the Boxer

Camping Pup #1

Camping Pup #2

Camping Pup #3


June 19-August 7: We will continue our role as camp hosts at Highline Lake State Park near Loma, CO
September 4-10: Camp with Scott and Deb in Northern Michigan?
September 11-25: Visit Kalamazoo, MI friends and participate in Ribarama
October 16 to 31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments--send them in.

See ya next week!


Blog 49: On to Colorado


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - A new pup joins the family
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

The Journey

Rearview Mirror

Sunday: Parked in Paducah
Nice in the morning, but whew, it turned into a hot one! Mid 90s by midday. We headed north out of Clanton on I-6 stopping to fuel up at Birmingham. Back on I-65 North to Nashville picking up 24 West to Paducah. Nice, uneventful trip. After taking five minutes to set up camp at Fern Lake Campground, we took a drive down to “old” Paducah. Lots of old store fronts and homes (at least by American standards), and a drive right along the river, where we viewed an old yellow Lab walking in the water, folks strolling along enjoying the view, and a tugboat pushing along some commerce up to the dock. Worth spending some time there in the future.

Paducah Campground

Monday: Best-Laid Plans
After thinking through our travel options, I decided to get a little off the beaten bath and take a leisurely ride across beautiful south Missouri—driving through the Ozarks, passing through Mark Twain National Forest, and setting up camp at Branson for a couple of days in this popular resort area. I had work to do and phone calls to make on Tuesday, and although doable on the road, it is easier sitting at my desk inside of BERT. I scoped out potential camping spots and went on both the AT&T and Verizon websites to confirm good mobile signals. We set this plan in motion by heading on 60 West, a flat, straight, four-lane road that soon turned into a still flat, more-curvy, two-lane road. Jan had to slow BERT down a tad and pay a little more attention to the terrain, but it was worthwhile, as we drove through some interesting and colorful farmland. However, within an hour from our start, Jan was confronted with passing over a very tall, very old, very narrow, and very scary two-lane bridge over the very high, very wide, and very muddy Mississippi River. As expected, Jan did a fine job of sharing the bridge with oncoming 18-wheelers and we crossed safely. This was a dramatic view of the results of the heavy rains that had inundated much of the country.

Immediately after crossing the bridge we came to a stop sign. The arrow for 60 West pointed to our left, but luckily we looked ahead on our intended route and about a quarter mile ahead was a sign stating “road closed.” Bummer. With no other option available, we turned right instead, heading to Cairo on route 62, and as the GPS voices like to say, we started “recalculating.” From there we took bumpy I-57 North into Illinois and at Mt. Vernon, we picked up I-64 West. At St. Louis we finally made our entry into Missouri and traveled all the way to Columbia on I-70. Here we set up camp at Cottonwoods RV Park in the hot late afternoon.

Columbia Campground

Tuesday: Option Two is a No-Go
As I mentioned, I wanted to stay at a campground for a couple days since I had five phone calls scheduled, and it looked like this park in Columbia would work fine…I could work in peace while Jan could take the car and check out this college town of 100,000 people.

Alas, the Verizon signal was poor (I need Verizon so that my MiFi provides Internet access) and AT&T for my phone was spotty as well. Reluctantly, we got back in the bus, Jan driving and me in the navigator chair. My first business call was a no show, so no problem. My second went well as the AT&T signal was strong and consistent. However, as we started heading west on I-70, further and further away from Kansas City, the AT&T signal waned in and out—not at all what their signal map showed! My third call with long-time (and tolerant) friend Bruce was a little embarrassing, as the connection was dropped twice and there were several missed phrases that had to be repeated. With that I decided to reschedule my next call. Bummer.

Most of the drive all day was with 20 to 30 mile-per-hour winds with the occasional gust of 40, and the day was hot, but the traffic was light and the road was good for the most part. Mid-afternoon I started looking for places to camp, and after many studious minutes I decided to hunt for a state park. At I-70 marker 135 (Ogallah) we turned south on 147 for the 20 miles to Cedar Bluff State Park at Ellis, Kansas, adjoining the Cedar Bluff Reservoir. After checking in at park headquarters, we were told to go to the Wagon Rut Campground and select the spot of our desires. The place looked about 15 percent full and had several gorgeous pull-through lots to choose from, all with water and 50-amp service. After setting up and taking the Pups for a short walk in the windy, 95-degree weather, we spent the rest of the time inside.

Kansas State Park

Cedar Bluff

Cedar Bluff Mitzy

Wednesday: Out on the Prairie
About 5:45 a.m. we all headed out for a pre-dawn hike. I had my camera and bear spray (didn’t anticipate any bears, but coyotes and other critters were around), and Jan had the two Little Ones on leashes. We saw deer, rabbits, lots of birds, and a cute toad as we walked along the prairie grasses and down by the shore of the water. The weather was a perfect 70 degrees with no wind. The Pups had a blast running in the sand among the foliage and chasing a rabbit or two along the way. As we ended our trek we met a man and his twin sons who had recently moved to the area from Texas. After our hour-and-a-half walk, we came back in for breakfast. Jan cleaned up while I had a business call. Late morning we back-tracked, heading north on 147 then back west on I-70. It was still windy, but partly pushing instead of pulling us, and it was warm, not simmering hot. Pleasant drive with light traffic.

Kansas Toad

Texas Twins

Sticking to our “off the beaten path” routine, we decided to try another state park, this time in Colorado. Hence, we took I-70 all the way through Kansas and turned right in Colorado onto 385 for 22 miles. We turned right at the Papa’s Bait and Tackle store and drove for four miles on a washboard dirt road until checking in and setting up camp at Bonny Lake State Park. Interestingly, this state park will cease to exist in October. Based upon some old Colorado/Kansas water agreement, they will “pull the plug” on the reservoir and that will end the state park. Kind of sad. However, I bought the last T-shirt.

Bonny Lake State Park

Mid-afternoon we took a walk around the campground and the park and down to the reservoir. We sat outside in the warm but pleasant weather and I took a few shots of some nesting swallows. Great day.

Nesting Swallow

Bonny Thistle

Thursday: Birds Galore
For the first time on this trip, we had the luxury of staying in the same place more than one night. My morning started with a 6 a.m. business call, but by 7:30 all of us were out in the chilly (can you believe it?) 55-degree weather. We took a long walk across the park spotting a variety of birds from wild turkeys, cedar waxwings, finches, robins, swallows, bluebirds, blackbirds, crows, doves, yellow-headed blackbirds, red-headed woodpeckers, and so on. As we walked and the Pups prowled, we were serenaded by a stereoscopic cacophony of bird songs of all varieties. Jan started a fire and we sat around it drinking coffee and enjoying nature’s music.

Cedar Waxwing

Reheaded Woodpecker

I got my work done during the middle of the day, and by late afternoon we were ready to explore again taking a slow drive throughout the park. With both Pups on my lap sticking their heads out the window, it was a little difficult to photograph, but one must make personal concessions when on a family outing.

Bonny Rabbit

The good news is that we brought along our bird field guide; the bad news is that it is for the Eastern U.S. Anyone know the name of this mystery bird? If so, please let us know.

Mystery Bird

Friday: The New “Car House”
I got up early in the noiseless campground (except for the endless melody of our avian friends) to prepare for a morning coaching call with a client. Later after coffee at 5:30 a.m., the whole family went for our morning stroll down to the water and across the prairie. After my 7 a.m. call, we broke camp and were back on the road, this time turning right at Papa’s joint, north on 385, then east on 36 through farm and ranch country for about 150 miles until merging onto I-70 West, then south on I-225 to our campground at Cherry Creek State Park right in Denver.

Cherry Creek State Park

Stormy Campground

Soon after setting up camp and preparing for the evening festivities, our grandson, Austin, and his mom and dad, Kelly and AJ, pulled into our campsite. We had a camping birthday party for Austie (he turned four in May), complete with campfire hot dogs and s’mores. Now that is living large. I was quite pleased that Austin said he liked our new “car house.” He has his own man cave (or bat cave depending on what is his latest wardrobe attire) complete with DVD player and headphones.

Birthday Boy

Camping Birthday Party

Batman and Bat Grandma

Another busy day. After doing walks and work, we took Austie for his T-ball practice. What a hoot! The Little Man hits the ball well, but doesn’t have much interest in the field! Sorry to have to miss his first game next Saturday.

Get Ready!


Coming at You

Tip of the Hat

Back at camp, Jan, the Pups, Batman, and I drove around the park, getting out here and there and checking things out. More walks, a campfire, and all went to bed early after a busy day.

Pups Across America

Check out Austie’s new pug, Hanna, and take a look at a pic of Jerry and Mitzy.


Hanna and AJ

Mitzy through the Windshield

Pondering Jerry


June 12: Cherry Creek State Park, Denver
June 13-August 7: We will be camp hosts at Highline Lake State Park near Loma, CO
September 4-10: Camp with Scott and Deb in Northern Michigan?
September 23-25: Visit Kalamazoo, Michigan friends and participate in Ribarama
October 16-31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments? Send them in.

See ya next week!

Blog 48: The 2011 Journey Begins!


Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Pups Across America! - Jessie Jane and friends
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

(Note: click on any photo for a larger image/slideshow)

The Journey

Rearview Mirror

The motorhome is in motion, the Pups are settled on the sofa, I’m in the navigator chair mulling over maps, and Jan is cruising in the captain’s chair--Motoring Across America 2011 has begun!

We’ve spent the last several weeks (maybe months) in “P&P&P mode” (pondering, planning, and prepping, that is). Our Island home is hurricane ready and under the watchful eye of friend, Jan. We left Neighbor Bill in charge of Date Street. The rest of Pine Island will have to fend for itself!

After much deliberation, we traded our old faithful coach BALY (Big A** Land Yacht) for BERT (Big Expensive Road Traveler). She’s a beauty...long and wide, a resort on wheels but also a mobile productivity center. She strolls down the highway with style and panache!

Saturday, June 4: Heading North

The Bus Driver

At 10:30 in the morning our road trip started. Jan piloted BERT through the gates of the Lazydays dealership and onto Interstate 75 North. Warm and sunny--a pleasant way on a perfect day to start this year’s discovery journey. At Tifton, Georgia, we turned west on US 82, a flat and smooth four-lane road. Gorgeous green farmlands and fields complete with grazing cattle and horses. At Montgomery, Alabama, Jan turned BERT north on I-65. After a 500-mile day, we spent the night at Dandy’s RV Park and Sales, just off I-65 on the outskirts of Clanton.

Resting BERT

Dandy's RV Park

Pups Across America

While at Auntie’s in Apopka, right before launch, I had the chance to take a few pup pics. Here is an image of Jessie Jane and one with her family...what a cutie she is. Also, here is a shot of her best friend, Chief. Finally I have a shot of both Jerry and Mitzy.

Jessie Jane

Jessie Jane's Family


Handsome Jerry

Strutting Mitzy


June 5-9: Travelin’
June 10-11: Visit our grandson, Austin, near Denver at Cherry Creek State Park
June 13- August 7: We will be camp hosts at Highline Lake State Park near Loma, Colorado
September 4-10: Camp with Scott and Deb in Northern Michigan?
September 23-25: Visit Kalamazoo, Michigan friends and participate in Ribarama
October 16-31: Visit Kentucky friends
November 1: Head back to Pine Island

Have questions or comments? Send them in.

See ya next week!

Blog 45: Snake and Schnauzers

Early in the week I facilitated a business trends session for a group of senior services executive in Las Vegas. Great people, great session.

Baby Eagles
Here are a couple of images of young eagles taken in the St. James Creek Preserve on Pine Island. It is quite enjoyable watching these two youngsters start off in life.

Young Eagles

Eagle in Flight

Live Eagle Cam
Speaking of eagles, check out this marvelous, real-time close up action of an active eagle nest in Iowa. Here is the URL—take a look.

Also go to and search for “Eagle Cam” and you’ll see several cool postings. And of course YouTube has several video clips as well. This stuff is fun.

While looking for birds on the south end of Buchanan Lake I heard rustling and felt movement zip my right leg—I almost stepped on a Black Racer. We both jumped back, and in a nano-second multiple thoughts went through my mind, “Yikes!”, “What was that?”, “Am I in Trouble?”, “Poisonous?”, “It was pretty fast”, “Wear boots next time”, “Watch your step”, “I’m going to live.”, “No worries” “Better take a picture.” Funny how the mind works…

Charmed Snake

Yellow Wildflowers

As my pulse rate started to settle back to normal, this black beauty signaled his displeasure with me with some cobra-like moves that would have made Michael Jackson proud and a lacing tongue routine reminiscent of the cowboy lariat performer in a Wild West show. However, after his display, he patiently waited as I took a few images to remember this Kodak Moment.

I have also included a few random pics from Island action just for fun.

Relaxing, Pine Island Style

Pine Islander



Golden Slipper

Pups Across America
Here is a shot of a reflective Jerry.

Reflective Jerry

Also, a few shots from a Schnauzer shoot. Cute pups—check out the Mitzy Wannabe.

Schnauzer 1

Schnauzer 2

Schnauzer 3

Mitzy Wannabe

Baby Schnauzer

See you next week.