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Nothing to See Here, Folks

Travelogue - February 10, 2012
"I'm not even sure what I'm looking at anymore.
But if it was in my fridge, I'd probably have to buy a new fridge
and get Montgomery Wards to cart off the old one..."
Thrift Horror - Things from Beyond the Bargain Bin

A peaceful and prosperous New Year to all!

What do you mean it's already February? 0.087671 of the new year gone, gone, gone, never to be reclaimed. Alas.

Painting Christmas cookies In lieu of snail-mailing greeting cards, this year Rick and I recorded a festive holiday song and dance routine to express our joy. Please click the link and sing along...

We spent Christmas in Wyoming this year, and there was SNOW to be seen and enjoyed, woohoo! We selected a Christmas tree with "character" from the Jaycees', and we dug out all our stored decorations.

On a snowy day my friends came over for a holiday cookie swap and we had a hoot painting glazed cookies with foodcoloring. Left to right: June, Janet, Claudia, Tracy, Arlene. Janet came to the party unexpectedly, gift-wrapped in a red sheet as my Christmas surprise from the girls - YAY! She stayed overnight and we didn't get much sleep. All that buzzing on sugar and catching up...

Here are all of our Dragonfly cookies. Gosh, would you believe that only three of our number are professional artists?

Flight of the cookies On Christmas day Rick and I went for a long ski. Christmas dinner was non-traditional, as we were just trying to empty the fridge before departing for the winter.

Fridge empty and scrubbed, house locked and secure, we left Wyoming on December 28.

Christmas Day skiThree weeks later, Arlene measured 60" of accumulated snow in the Basin.

By contrast, aboard Sea Gator there is no snow. But there is a dolphin family puffing and splashing around the hull, fishing for their supper beneath silvery waves as the tropical sun sinks gracefully into the ocean beyond.

We're anchored in Pelican Bay, and we've decided to stay here for as long as we can. Nothing is happening, folks. Nada.

Rien.

Zip.


Boat Lift

Several boating friends have sent us this link to a YouTube video. Narrated by Tom Hanks, "BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience" is a 12-minute film about a flotilla of tugs, party boats, private boats, and ferries which all together carried 500,000 people off Manhatten after the Twin Towers fell, when everyone was assuming worse was to come.

OK. Now we'll summarize our adventures of summer 2011. Maybe by the time I'm finished with that something noteworthy will have occurred aboard Sea Gator. If not, well, that will be the end of this travelogue.

Jake

Rick and Jake First and best: we were THRILLED when our favorite teenage boy, Jake, came to stay with us!!! We fetched him after his last day of Scout camp and the three of us had a rip-roaring adventurous week.

Jake survived, first, a cold that he caught from his tentmates at camp. And then:

Photos memorialize our excellent day on the lake. Above right, Rick and Jake drip dry after diving off granite boulders and swimming in chilly, glacier-fed Jackson Lake.

After sunning on the rocks we piled back in the canoe and paddled for home. Downriver of the portage Jake decided he needed some more swim-time, so he and Rick spilled back into the water. They alternately swam and walked the length of shallow String Lake.

Jake in the Lake Left, Jake enjoys a quiet moment in the shadow of the Tetons.

So that his poor ol' Aunt Pat needn't break a sweat, the energetic teenager amused himself by pushing the canoe the rest of the way to the launch. As Jake powered the vessel through the water, kicking up a respectable bow wave, a man on an nearby kayak laughed "Hey, no power boating on this lake!"

Lounging amidships I hollered back, "It's OK, he's fueled by brownies!"

We had such a wonderful time when Jake was here, Rick and I were both sorry when the day came to give him up. Reluctantly, we motored to a restaurant in Pocatello Idaho - halfway between our respective homes - and there we rendezvoused with Jake's mom and my dear college friend: the beautiful and trusting Julie. Back home, it was way too quiet and lonely the next several days.

Thanks, Jake, for spending such a great time with us!!

The hills are alive with the sound of pleasant greetings

The foothills Rick continues to rack up the vertical miles in pursuit of his personal goal: to scale each and every peak that he can see from our house "while I'm still able". He bagged six new peaks this summer.

In September he hiked to the base of The Sawtooth in the Gros Ventre range, right, with Tosi Peak his goal.

From the top of the climb he looked northwest across Tosi Basin to the Grand Teton, 40 miles in the distance, below left.

From the summit Most of his routes involve bushwacking off-trail, following routes he's planned beforehand using topo maps and binoculars.

Sometimes he hikes the entire way; sometimes he can use his mountain bike to follow existing game trails until it's time to stash the bike in the brush and continue on foot. Early-spring expeditions combine hike/bike and ski/climb.

The expeditions start before dawn and take all day. He seldom encounters anyone else, other than the occasional cowboy or hunter. Or critter:

When I exited the trees I was greeted by three cow elk. "'Morning" I repeated to each... I often talk to wildlife I encounter. Trust me, it's not what you think, I just believe a calm voice offers some minor reassurance that I'm not a threat. And when traveling solo, wildlife are my companions and deserve a greeting...

The foothills in fall In October he covered himself in hunter-orange and scaled the unnamed peak above Shoal Falls, the wide peak in the center, right.

As I crested the slope I was greeted by a herd of at least 30 pronghorn antelope. Like the gallery reacting to a judge entering a courtroom, all the antelope rose as I entered the plateau.

"Morning", "Morning", "Morning"... There were too many to properly greet.

I was at once elated to have witnessed the large herd so closely but discouraged that I had caused their hasty departure, and this during antelope hunting season. Were they watching the campers/hunters below? I immediately crossed the grassy plateau hoping they would return to their bucolic beds.

From Shoal Peak Left, his eastward view from the summit of the unnamed peak.

Well, he's down to only four peaks remaining for the upcoming summer (and those you have to lean out the window to see, so they are bonus peaks).

I asked him what he'll do when he's finished the first round? He says he's going to start over. And he assured me that if I can climb and descend Snow King (the town ski hill) twice in one day without trashing my knees, I can go along. We'll see.


Jazz Hands!

I, too, achieved a personal goal this summer: in August I certified to teach Jazzercise. Woo!

Jazz grads Here is our certifying instructor Mary (left) at her studio in Boulder, Colorado, with the three of us who passed the audition: Kristen, me and Lyndall. Yes, we're doing Jazz Hands (that's for you, Robbie).

I thought the audition and following two-day training was rigorous - then I actually started teaching classes so now I know what work is! But it's also even more rewarding than I anticipated and I must be having fun because Janet said "You're like a cheetah up there!" I hope that's a good thing. I think she said cheetah... Maybe she said chipmunk. Or chicken which is more likely, considering the source.

At the Halloween class Arlene made her hair stick out all over with a handful of mismatched barrettes. I asked her what she was dressed up as and she said "You." Her classmates solemnly agreed. Hmm.

Jen and Leslie Thanks to my two great mentors, Jen (a.k.a. Boss Lady) and Leslie (a.k.a. Fairy Godmother). Here they are at our festive Jazzercise Christmas party. It's not their fault I have chicken feathers instead of manageable hair. You ladies rock!

So far this winter I've been learning new routines like a house a'fire. However, the rond de jamb on "Can You Feel It" endangered Rick's head, so I started working outside. Then the shimmies on "Show Me How You Burlesque" were startling to the fishermen, and when I flung my arms out on "Magic" the seagulls went berserk. So I loaded up my iPod and mini-speakers and dinghied to shore where I hiked to the beach and worked for awhile with the sound of the surf for company, until I had dredged a trench in the sand that tripped me up on "Moves Like Jagger". Sigh. Anyway. I'll spend the winter learning routines (and their lyrics, so watch out) and I'll be ready to go in May.

Speaking of fitness (?) here's a snack tip: Nutella on pretzels. Whoa!


Soaking up the free energy

Rick studies his mounting configuration Rick was anxious to take advantage of all this wonderful sunlight showering down around Sea Gator. He spent last year or two learning everything he could about the technology (his trial projects successfully keep the batteries alive in his tractor and truck, and bubble water in a terrace fountain). During the summer he did all the calculations, planning, and purchasing online for Sea Gator's needs, so that all of his supplies were ready and waiting for him in Florida.

Rick spent plenty of time in la Marina's garage. He fabricated frames to support the two large solar panels. Then he built fittings to support the panels while deployed, and another system for storing them safely while we're underway. Then he added disconnects at the panels and ran wires through the flybridge lockers to a new charge controller near the battery bank in the engine room.

Deployed solar panels It's pure genius: after Bump Head is launched we "deploy" (that's the required terminology) the two panels atop the frame of the dinghy's cradle, left. We fasten them to the cradle using stainless steel U-bolts and wing nuts around the cradle arms and through the panels' custom frames. Then Rick connects their wires and Viola!

Rick reports: "The solar panels are excellent! We're bringing in around 50 amp-hours on a sunny day, which is at least half of our daily power requirements. Free amps from the sky; I wish we'd done this sooner."

Now we run the genset only 30-45 minutes per day to top the batteries and make hot water, compared to 2.5-3 hours a day when we first got Sea Gator.

Now Rick is planning a whole solar array to populate the west pasture at our house. That will make us popular with the neighbors.

Speaking of renewable energy...

LEED rating system While Rick was plotting his solar project I was attending a lengthy and surprisingly entertaining study group, and as a result passed the LEED Green Associate exam (with quite an impressive score, if I say so myself). Ta-daa!

(Silence)

Cue crickets... chirp chirp chirp

Seriously. LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which objectively quantifies energy efficiency and resource conservation in the built environment:

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. - USGBC

Arlene and Tam Therefore, Ta-daa!

The exam was made even more fun (?) because our friends drove with us to the test facility. While I slaved away under buzzing flourescents Rick, Tam and Arlene had jolly times at the Home Depot in Pocatello. Here are Arlene and Tam at dinner in Idaho Falls later that evening. We still had a two-hour drive ahead of us, but everyone maintained good cheer.

Another highlight of this summer is our growing friendship with these very neighbors, Tam and Arlene. In a town of 100, what took so long? Well, better late than never. We have had some fun.

Abrupt stop On one notable day in December, Arlene did what I'd been nervous about doing for 20 years: she hit the ice under our gate and slid with a loud crunch! into the gatepost. A drift of snow, precariously balanced atop the span, was dislodged. Arlene and I sat for a moment in stunned silence, then turned to look at each other. As our eyes met the falling snow hit the hood of her car with a thump!

We burst out laughing, and cackled and staggered all the rest of the way up to the house. I'm so glad she was such a good sport about her crunched fender. And about everything else that we dragged them through this summer.

Thanks, friends!


Romance

Den and Debbie's wedding In August, my youngest brother Dean and his sweetheart, Debbie, were wed. Yay!

It was a lovely ceremony, held in Debbie's parent's expansive garden. The groom was handsome and charming, the bride was beautiful and blushing, and everyone had a good time. We laughed. We cried. We ate cake. Lots and lots of cake.

I say, lots and lots and LOTS of cake!

When I volunteered to make their wedding cake per Dean's (a.k.a. Groomzilla's) exacting specifications, my biggest worry was how to transport the thing from our house to Tooele, Utah, in the heat of August and through the inevitable WyDOT construction.

Ehrm Fam So I made a trial cake complete with iced flowers and garlands, plopped it in the trunk of my car and drove as fast as I could across cattle guards and over the dirt-and-gravel ranch roads to see how much abuse an iced cake could take. Surprisingly, quite a lot. The real cake we transported much more delicately, each layer in its custom box with little brackets for dry-ice, the boxes stacked in a multi-level plywood frame that Rick built to fit the trunk.

And fortunately my mom came to Wyoming in time to help slice and stack and make batch after batch of icing. And she and Rick and my dad helped with the last-minute design decisions. It was a fun project, and then it was a relief to turn it over to Debbie's son, Brannon, when we arrived at their house. Thank you, Millie and Carl!

Here is my family the day after the wedding, on the newlyweds' porch. A tad over-fed but still smiling!

Visitors

Nancy and George Yet another wonderful thing happened: friends Nancy and George of Jenna Star came to Wyoming this summer. We were so pleased to share our land-based corner of the world with them.

We dressed for maximum visibility during deer hunt season, and safely enjoyed an excellent hike in the hills above our house. The fall colors were brilliant. George and Nancy, seen here strolling through a wonderful aspen grove, earnestly searched the surroundings for wildlife - but all we found were cows and a deer skull, which George kindly carried all the way home (I sent it to my niece Angie for her "Arts in Orthopedics" project).

Later that afternoon we met our neighbor Jerry, chief of the community's volunteer fire department, for a tour of the department's new wildland fire fighting equipment. That was particularly interesting for George, the retired urban firefighter (and 9-11 responder, which is important to bear in mind while watching BOATLIFT).

A day later the four of us enjoyed a hike around Jenny Lake, and later still we rendezvoused in Yellowstone for a lovely hike to Shoshone Lake.

Thanks, George and Nancy!! We'll see you in the Keys before the end of March...

At the Ranch

Pat and Janet horseback After we bid a reluctant farewell to George and Nancy, Rick and I journeyed out the east entrance of Yellowstone to the little town of Cody. From there we drove another 50 miles to the end of a dirt road, and to a wonderful welcome from Janet and Robbie at the Ranch.

Our friends are managing a hunting ranch which was formerly the haunt of Buffalo Bill himself. The place has numerous historic cabins around a central lawn; horses, cattle, chickens, dogs; all on the banks of the Upper Shoshone River.

Highlight Janet's domains are the menagerie, and the restored log cookhouse where she slings some fancy hash indeed. There is a lovely old-fashioned dining room attached to the kitchen, and nearby a low-ceiling walk-in cooler disguised as an outbuilding. The kitchen's cooktop and stove are industrial and there are two refrigerators: good thing, because the couple would spend the winter there, snowed in or not.

Robbie is less thrilled about the proximity of the river as he spent much of the spring trying to keep it OUT of the restored cabins, then spent the rest of the summer trying to keep water ON the pastures. He did a good job - everything was beautiful.

Janet and I rode the nearby trail across the river and up the mountainside to a fabulous promontory, where we rendezvoused with Rick on his hike. We all had a lovely time. This photo memorializes my favorite moment of the entire summer.

Thank you, friends!

The Long Dark Night of the Soul

What, again?! And after all the great things the summer brought? Ah jeeeeeez. At least this one wasn't my own doing. After spending the past several years trying (unsuccessfully) to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, by this summer all my gears were stripped and I admitted defeat. So now, mixed metaphors aside and long story short, I'm doing what the doctor ordered which is: very little.

Balancing act My job this winter is to rest up. Amazing how, as soon as I received permission from the medical establishment to crash [insert whistle in a descending scale] I did so.

It's going to be a different sort of winter. For example, in past years when other boats anchored near us my first thought would invariably and cheesily be "Oh boy, new friends!" Now my first thought is "Cripes, why right next to us? I hope they're gonna be quiet over there."

Worse (for you): Jim H. reminded me that I'm supposed to tell the truth in these Travelogues. Of course, I've threatened to do that in the past and nothing came of it. But this year, what if I really mean it?

It will be either a very traumatic or a very boring Travelogue year.

Caveat emptor, my friends.

Fear Factor

Caution

To prove my point, here's what counts as event planning around here: I've decided that I'm going to film the next cat-barf cleaning extravaganza and send it in as my audition for Fear Factor. It would be especially compelling if I could capture the actual purging on film as well.

Last night's action-packed sequence began with Goldie dozing on the helm seat. I turned when I heard her gag, and viewed the action LIVE! in profile as she opened her mouth wide and projectile-vomited a stomach full of matted hair and tuna paté in a steaming trajectory halfway across the salon. As always, her aim was impeccable and I got to clean the aromatic mess out of the (yes) rug.

I'm not complaining, because she's a very fine shipmate otherwise. But I wish she would learn to aim for linoleum or parquet. Since that will never happen, I'll order this janatorial warning sign from www.supercoolpets.com

And another box of rubber gloves. And some face masks.

Everybody, Back in the Pool

Rick surveys the new seawall cap Well, when we arrived in FL we cleaned and prepped Sea Gator thoroughly at la Marina des Rick's family. It was tricky bringing supplies aboard as the powers-that-be were in the midst of replacing the old crumbling seawall cap, right, but that work came none too soon.

I built a drawbridge across the moat and we scrambled back and forth without too much trouble.

Meanwhile Lucille was pleasant and accommodating as always. She let me entertain myself in her kitchen making soups (rich Roasted Red Pepper, complex Sweet Potato, and a Bean Soup and Beer Bread from kits my brother sent), and homemade Apple Pie with a lattice cheddar-laced crust. She treated Rick and me, and Rick's cousin Marc and his lovely Shana, to Rock of Ages which was head-banging fun.

Marc and Shanna Here are Marc and Shana at the outlet mall. We met them there for what Rick and Marc were mislead to believe would be merely "lunch" and which Shana and I turned into an extended meeting of the soul-mates over high heels and fashionable blouses. Yay!

Then, we shoved off from land on January 20th, and motored directly to anchor at our favorite: Pelican Bay.

This is where we started this 'logue.

We spent our days working, napping, reading, and dinghying to the island for long hikes and the occasional aerobic jumping workout. And I kept up with some fun websites when I was supposed to be working, like Thrift Horror and Cake Wrecks.

One memorable day we decided to take Bump Head to the town of Boca Grande for fresh groceries. As Rick fired up the outboard I dropped my purse into a plastic bag to keep it dry... unfortunately that particular plastic bag was actually a tube in disguise and its narrow bottom funneled my purse in a flawless trajectory straight into the water. By the time Rick interpreted my squealing and fished my nice leather bag out of the drink - just before it sank from sight - its contents were quite juicy.

Later, in town, I paid for my mom's birthday gift out of a soggy wallet. I told the saleslady what had happened to my purse and she commiserated, "Tsk. I hate it when that happens." That gave me pause. I wonder how often she pitches her own purse into the sea?

Ft. Myers Beach moorings

On Thursday, February 9, we weighed anchor and motored 4.5 hours to the bustling Ft. Myers Beach mooring field. We're on mooring #15, for those of you in the vicinity. The coffee's always on... No, that's not true. But please come by anyway.

0.109589 of the new year, gone.

And, nothing keeps happening. As promised, Travelogue ends.

Take care, everybody! Stay warm, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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