Aug 31, 2009

August 31st, 2009

I loved my single night truck camping adventure so much last weekend, that I decided to do it again this week. Freddy was raring to go and so was I. The first week of school was nice but hectic as always, and the wilderness was calling again.
After hearing about some girl with green hair, that was presumably missing after her boyfriend dropped her off at the top of Green Canyon trail head, I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive to say the least. She had been dropped there in early August, and had never been seen again. This is a sad story folks, but apparently she was unhappy with life, and thought that she would find herself communing with the wolves and mountain lions, while under the protection of her German Shepherd dog. Although, I knew that she disappeared, but since it was three weeks ago, my friends and I speculated that she probably hiked the ten miles to "Tony's Grove" lake, met some fella and proceeded to the big wilderness, about 200 miles North in the Jackson Hole area. The story was sketchy from the beginning, but this matter didn't concern me or Freddy, so we went camping again just 1/4 mile from where the Green haired girls boyfriend let her off.

Freddy and I are content to merely set up a campsite with a huge fire, throw the tennis ball a little, eat dinner, read, and play the guitar and sing as loudly as I used to back in the good old days when I had some land. Had we been hikers we might have found some disturbing shit only about 2 miles from our happy camping spot.

Freddy absolutely hates the rough 30 minute crawl up the sharp rocks of the canyon, while the truck rocks hither and thither like one of them old washing machines. He usually starts his whining and crying within the first 5 minutes and I must admit I find it quite aggravating. We got to the camp-site and realized that there was nary a stick of firewood to be found. This would not do. I rely on a big campfire for protection from the various wild animals that tend to live up here in the Northern Rockies, and I forget to mention that wolves have recently moved into this country from the Yellowstone area. So Wolves, Bears, Lions, and Moose, are all represented up here, with lions and moose the most common. I LIKE A BIG FIRE, is all I can say about all that.

I barely coaxed Freddy to get back in the truck, and we found some fallen timber about 10 minutes down the violent rocky trail. I found a rope, dropped the tailgate, and tied about 100 pounds of logs onto the tailgate using the "truckers hitch" which is a nice knot to know how to tie. That wood didn't move at all, although the truck was bouncing everywhere.

We got back and I got a big hot fire going, then settled down to read some more of the novel "Lonesome Dove", while watching the twilight set prematurely over the upper crags of the towering mountains on either side of us. I soon fired up the trusty old kerosene lamp which would provide extra light and protection against all the "scaries" that exist out here. Although I was careful to pack all the food into my backpack in the cab of the truck, I couldn't stop thinking about the stories, how bears can smell through all that. But all my food was packaged Indian cuisine and Japanese noodles, which I hoped wouldnt tempt any animal into ripping my truck doors off. I should have hung all the consumables up a bear bag, out of reach, but I was just to damned lazy. Plus I brought my twelve guage Winchester riot gun, which holds enough firepower to disuade the hungriest of animals.

After watching the big yellow moon go down, I proceeded to play a sweet version of "Pancho and Lefty" slowly, in the Willie Nelson style. After that song, I drank a few shots of Jim Beam and went into the ancient Irish sea shanty "The Irish Rover", both songs came out clear as a bell, since I had no audience to impress. The acoustics of the towering cliffs made the songs sound even better than usual.

Then I broke into an old epic love song I had written 30 years ago called: "Mary" (Who I initailly wrote it for escapes my memory), but the song is quite powerful, and is clearly the masterpiece of all my years of song writing. I played and sang it better than I ever have, and this is before the whiskey even started to hit me. The campers two miles away (there were none closer), might have heard "Maaaaaaaarrrrrrry, I feel your pain. I wish I could help you through the rai-a-ain-a-ain. You looked at me once with a smile on your faaaaaaaaaaccccceeeeee...... I - WAS - ENCHANTED - BY - YOUR - GRACE!" and it went on for 7 minutes or so, I was in extasy by the time the song had ended, since I haven't sung it this perfect before. (pardon me for bragging, but us Geminis are well known for cooking food, and telling others how good it tastes!)

Played a dozen less important songs, before I finally went to sleep at 3 in the morning. The loud crashing noise in the woods nearby, hurried me into the safety of the camper. I assumed it was an Elk, but stayed up and read my book for another 20 minutes just in case.

7 AM: Dog wakes me! Damn! not enough sleep. He was excited to get outside and make a nuisance of himself, so I went outside with him and made some camp coffee on my little "Brunton Stove", which fits in your pocket, but can cook a full meal once unfolded and screwed upon a little butane tank. This little bastard cooked me a pot of coffee and enough water for morning noodles in no time at all. Much easier than building a campfire in the morning and wasting wood. I was still way tired, so I went back into the camper and crashed until a decent hour, which was around noon. The dog was looking abit confused since I forgot to buy him food, and we treaded our way back down the canyon (45 minute trip each way), and bought him 5 cheap corndogs at the nearest conveinience store.

We hitched up some more wood for our return to the campsite but the dog, who was riding in the camper, got scared and stuck his arm through the screen in order to get out of the quaking vehicle. I was pissed at the damage, so I made him follow us the remainder of the way on foot. Once we got back, I realized that he was more than happy with the arrangement.

I can't explain it, but once we returned I got a creepy feeling that I can't describe. I wasn't afraid, but I felt creeped out by being in this campsite, although I've been here on two other nights. I had spotted another site earlier, a few miles down the canyon, so we packed up and headed that direction. Freddy, realizing that he had the upper hand, completely refused to get into the truck. Sure I could have grabbed him and forced him, but thought it wiser just to drive off without him and see his reaction to that. Freddie had no problem keeping up, and ran behind us for 15 minutes until we got the the second site. Freddy was so proud of himself and happy that I let him have his way, that he was quite well behaved and good the rest of the trip. Though this site was next to a mountain bikers trail not once did Freddy try to chase the riders, which is good. I'd hate for Freddy to cause a bike accident.

We both liked the wide grassy prairie separating us from the high cliffs to the south, which were more scenic and higher than at the other campsite. The western view was a pretty forest that went uphill in a long but more reasonable incline. The forest was nice to walk in w/o too much underbrush, the quality of the green indicated that water flows through this part of the canyon quite often. I was glad to make the move, even though we lost a bit of solitude. Freddie was respectful to the occasional traveler and that was all I really asked from him.

We jammed again after dark, and it was even more clear and perfect as the first night. No immediate audience, makes me play and sing without holding anything back. And it allows me to take a break between songs, and analyze ways to make the next song more perfect. I may go back to playing bar-rooms again if I can keep this up! Now that Im older I have more patience, and I no longer worry whether people like me or not. It's a nice sort of confidence I must say.

Freddy wakes me again at 7 AM, and costs me 5 hours of needed rest. I tryed to sleep in the hammock, but the swarms of horseflys, and little bees, would not allow me to sleep out side. Inside the camper was too hot, since we were no longer under the trees, so the only alternative was to sit in a chair and attempt to read some more. Turned out we left the campsite after coffee and headed down the cruel trail back home. I tricked Freddy into riding in the cave underneath my bed in the camper, where he rode without freaking for the had drive back home.

we got home around 2 pm, and found that the Green Haired Girl's body was discovered a mile or two from my camp, the Sheriff called the death an obvious suicide. They spotted her dog staying close to the corpse but were unable to catch it. Weird to think a dead body had been rotting there for the past three weeks and I was camped that close to it. Very sad to hear the news and I pray that her family will be alright. Poor kid is all I can say. This weekend we are camping 10 miles away from there because of the ewwwwwwww factor. (The news story:

Aug 26, 2009

August 26th, 2009

Let me introduce myself, I am Al, a 46 year old man who recently moved from central Texas with no real mountains, no wilderness areas; no moose, lions, bears, wolves, ect.. (Snakes, wild hogs, gators, and scorpions I'm used to). I am a big dude 6'3" 280 lbs, and do not like to hike if I can avoid it. I do have wilderness experience at a young age, and learned basic camping skills from the Boy Scouts, and even hiked 50 miles at Philmont many years ago.

Needless to say, I now live close to the Wasatch mountain range in Northern Utah, which is a pretty nice large and little used wilderness area. I can be outside human contact in 20 minutes on my dirt-bike. But it's all foreign and a little scary to me after all these years, after being in the settled world for my entire life. I car camped a couple times in the past two years, but stayed pretty close to the trail head, with other people, and enjoyed it a bit, but my fears of the wild animals (lots of lions in these parts), ruined it for me.

But I persisted, and was resolved to face these fears, so I decided to face them deep in the woods, and face them alone. So last weekend I drove my truck about 10 miles into the mountains solo, and decided to conquer my fears. I was armed with my Aussie Shepherd, my 30-30, and a bottle of Jim Beam: Since the canyon I drove up was fairly rough and lacked water and fishing opps, I had 1000's of acres all to myself.

After a few minutes at the camping spot, the silence and reality of being so far away of civilization hit me. My dog was having a blast, but I must admit that I was wary of every unfamiliar sound. So I started getting into the swing of things, setting up camp, sorting out the stuff I need for the night, hanging up the hammock, building the fire, which did help mellow things out. Then I just chilled out and read a few chapters of a good book (Lonesome Dove), and started to groove with the sounds of the wilderness and watching for mountain lions that were supposed to be all over the steep cliffs and mountaintops that were surrounding me. It was beautiful!

I pulled lightly on the Jim Beam bottle since I didn't want the drink to muddy the grand experience of just chillin' up in the Northern Rockies.

I still remembered my fire starting skills and quickly made a large fire as the paranoia of dusk set in. I remembered all the fire safety lessons taught back in the old scouting day, and settled down to a wonderful night hanging close to the protection of the campfire.

The stars were magnificent as I opened up a can of beans which slowly started bubbling at the edge of the stone fire ring I constructed. Then I realized the potential of getting an unwanted bear visit due to the sweet smell of the cooking beans. After chugging down the beans and sterilizing the can in the fire, I waited near the fire with my lever action 30-30, cradled in my arms for the imagined bears to come try something. After a while, I started feeling silly for being fearful, and leaned the unchambered gun on a nearby tree and reached for the guitar and the whiskey then proceeded to give the wilderness and bears a concert under the stars which lasted for several hours. Once my fingers and voice got tired,I spent another hour watching the millions of stars (dark night/no moon) and started feeling a bit sleepy. So I crawled in the back of my tiny truck camper and slept soundly for the next 7 hours.

Overall the experience was a beautiful reaquaintence with the wilderness, and I fully plan to reaquaint myself every weekend before the snows hit. Camping solo with a dog is the way to go in my book!

Aug 1, 2009

Trip Advisor review for the "Waikiki Sand Villa"

After reading some of the mixed reviews of the Sand Villa, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Seemed like most travelers liked the place, and the price was only about $60 per night. After staying there for 14 days, I was most impressed to say the least!

The rooms were a little small but clean and more than adequate, The bed was perfect and sanitary, due to the plastic sheet covering the mattress. I really didn't want to sleep atop ancient body fluids and bed bugs. The sheet was covered by a thick fabric cover and bottom sheet, so I hardly knew it was there. The bathroom was functional as was the TV set, large mini fridge. The dresser was huge and the rest of the furnature and decor were nice as well, the big teakwood mirror was a nice touch. Both sides of the hotel have spectacular views of the Ala Moana Canal, and the golfcourse and mountains beyond. No I coundn't see the ocean, but the view was just fine.. The carpet was older but clean, I spent most of the time barefoot, and it was never an issue. I was on the sixth floor and road noise was never an issue. I read a few negative reviews about the carpet, noise, ect.. but I disagree, I was there for half a month, and the rooms were more than adequate. For the price, it was a downright steal!!! The rooms do have internet, just borrow a cable from the front desk. It's not the fastest, but fine for my purposes, including online phone calls.

When reading other reviews, most people agreed that the location was a good one. I timed the walk to the beach, and it was exactly 7 minutes. If it look 10 minutes or longer for you then, you must be crippled or something. It's central location allows you to walk to anywhere in waikiki in 25 minutes or less. I enjoyed the International Market for a cheap place to eat, and highly recommend "Rainbow Sushi", which makes an excellent Miso soup for only a dollar. I had the 18 piece sushi tray for about $6. The "Haute' "Dog" place had an excellent Chicago dog, with fries and a coke for $7.50. Nearby "Fattys Chinese" was a fun place to eat, where you could watch the cook make your food from 5 feet away.

For finer dining (and reasonable drinks), Duke's Place is my favorite beach bar and restaurant. Their you can buy a nice big sandwich for $8, or a full meal for less than $20, the drink prices were the most reasonable I found right on the water, with gin and tonics (made with the good stuff), for $5.00. There was usually a pleasant local musician with excellent but not overpowering music. What I loved the most about Dukes was the outdoor patio seating, where you could walk 20 feet to the beach, strip off your clothes (you need a swimsuit or shorts of course), and dive in the surf, then return to you seat, and it's all good. The music and tiki torches right on the beach, made for a perfect tranquil night. This is a very classy place, but easygoing and laid back at the same time.

Much of the time I spent my evenings at the hotel pool and hot tub. After a long day of walking thru Waikiki, there is nothing better than to sit in the large and powerful hot tub, which would massage your aches away in no time. I found it to be a good place to meet new friends, since it's hard to sit in a tub without talking to the other guests. This was important to me, since I was alone. I met some very nice people there. The bar was perfect. The lighting was dim enough to be cosy, bright enough to where you could read the menu. The Bar staff were all professional and pleasant, and gave good advice on things to do and see. Wade is the only bartender whose name I can recall, but all the bar staff were first class. The bar's patrons were mainly locals, and talking to them gave me much insight on the "real Waikiki". The food was pretty good with decent prices, and I had nearly everything on the menu, This was a very nice place, and my favorite bar on Waikiki overall. Its was almost too conveniant since I closed the bar down more than a few times.

I really liked the hard working dedicated staff of the Sand Villa, I got to know nearly everyone from the helpful front desk people, to the cleaning crew and the Valets. All were quite helpful and seemed happy with their jobs. Dee and Blaine from the front desk were always happy to help me with new room keys, pool towels, as were the rest of the front desk employees. When waiting for a tour I had some time to get to know the valet man "Bobby", he was very professional, loved his job, and always made sure I got to my tour bus on time. The pool crew and cleaning crew were kind and helpful as well.
My cleaning lady had my room looking perfect every time with a smile.

The Sand Villa is a great place to stay, what a makes a good hotel a great one is the ethos and dedication of the staff. At no point in my 14 nights did any staff member displease me. I will be coming back here next time I stay in Waikiki.

July 30th-31st

Check out time: 11:00 A.M.. Good thing the hotel is willing to store your luggage and allow one to bum around the premisis until airport time. My ground transport wasn't scheduled to pick me up for anothe 8 hours, so I made the best of it. Couldn't really go to the beach, since I had no place to leave the wallet, plus I was still sunburnt.

I found some shade by the pool and lounged for a few hours reading a book about how we are slaves to technology which was interesting, since the author moved to an Amish/Mennonite area, and did the Amish thing for a couple years. He was very impressed with their way of life, but he crapped out in favor for a low tech lifestyle in a reclaimed neighborhood near down town St. Louis. The guy was sort of flaky, but I commend him for his efforts to live with the Amish. His writing was pretty decent and I agree with the simplicity thing overall. But someone with a full time job, does have need for modern conveiniences. I find that living close to work and shopping makes for a nicer life. I still someday, want to return to the land and live w/o electricity, grow some of my own food, but motorized transportation of some sort would be necessary. Who knows? Hawaii would be a nice place to live like that.

Then I wandered Waikiki afoot for the last time, and had a bowl of "Pho" (soup) at a Vietnamese stall in the marketplace, under the shade of a huge Banyon tree, it was lovely. "Pho" is a giant bowl of soup with noodles and other strange stuff, and is pretty good, but Miso is still my favorite. Stopped at the ABC store to get Logan a T-shirt and went back to the hotel for a swim. By then is was 4:00 P.M. so I took a swim to cool off and sanitize for the long airline ordeal ahead. Had a beer at the hotel bar afterward, said goodbye to all my local friends, then was picked up by an impatient young Japanese/Hawaiian hybrid, for a very unrelaxed (and scary) drive to the airport.

The Delta terminal was a clusterfuck, but after standing in a few non-moving lines, with screaming babies and impatient people, I started losing the Hawaiian laid back outlook that I have gained in the past two weeks. Still made it to the gate with an hour to spare, and drank another beer and had a great conversation with the waiter, who seemed eager to "talk story" with me for an hour or so. "Talk story" is a Pidgin way to say "shoot the breeze" or something. In Texas, we say "Shoot the shit", whatever the hell that means. We discuss the finer points of surfing, and shark attacks, life on the Western shore, teaching, and other stuff. Then I had to pay the tab and enter the tomb of death for the next 5 hours.

Of course I had a middle seat in a packed 757; and to make matters worse, I was squashed between two very fat women. The blubberfest was unbearable to all of us, but since both were nice and polite ladies, we made the best of the situation. The largest of them was squashed against the window, and my shoulders and hips were smashed againist her commodius posterior and ample midsection. The one on the right was a sweet but big boned old lady from Minnisota who was 6 feet tall with an ass the size of my own. Then the guy in front of me was a "seat recliner" which made for a night mare of claustrophobic hell. I asked to stewardess for help, but the plane was nearly full, and she didn't "nearly" give a shit. Obese people are the most discriminated group in the country today. Had I arrived in a wheel chair, I would have got first class treatment, but throwing three big people in the same row, was our own fault for being big. I finally got up and sat in the restroom for 20 minutes to take a break. When I returned the sweet older lady, switched seats with me and I hung over the aisle, which made our situation much nicer. Both ladies were very pleasant thoughout the ordeal, but next time, I will reserve an Aisle seat, no matter what the price.

The rest of the trip went smooth and uneventful, which was nice for a change. The Mormon looking lady sitting beside me on the Portland to Salt Lake run, turned out to be a lesbian, and very anti-Mormon, but was funny and fun to talk to. I didn't agree with anything she said, but her humor made it fun. The ground transport was in better repair on the way back, and took me straight home, without criss crossing Utah, and taking 3 hours.

My son seemed the same as when I left, but Freddy the wonderdog was so happy to see me, I have never seen a dog act as thrilled as he was when I got home! Almost like having happy little kids around the house again. I slept most of the day, with Freddy one inch away from me the entire time. As much as they shed, Australian Shepherds fit me perfectly for a dog companion. I wouldn't trade him for the world.

Time it took to travel from my hotel in Hawaii to my home in Utah?.... Only about 13 hours.