November 7th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I write this post sitting in the parking lot of a repair shop on Washington. I’ll be here until Monday since they are closed on Sunday.

I was heading back out on the highway this morning and a problem arose. It was windy. I have driven in winds before but my trailer has never gone down the road crooked so when that happened I thought it was odd. The winds just weren’t strong enough to make it do that and it just didn’t look right.

Then I saw something that looked like smoke trailing behind me, but my windows were dirty so I wasn’t sure. Finally I saw it WAS smoke so I thought I’d best pull over.

Smoke was billowing out of the passenger side tire on the trailer. I had stopped in the nick of time. It could have caught fire, locked up and caused an accident…any number of things – and all of a bad nature. Wheel bearing is cooked and the wheel is sitting odd:

This tire SHOULD be straight up and down…

So, lemons and lemonade and $590 later I’m staying in the trailer in the parking lot since the lot is not secured. I just replaced the battery in the trailer so I should be warm overnight with the furnace running. There’s no shore power so I am boondocking for a few nights and charging the trailer battery from the truck. Even more fun is the trailer is not level; it’s nowhere near level. The ground was already sloped…and it’s up on a jack stand! Yes, I have supports out to keep anything from happening. I’ll be sleeping with my feet downhill (I guess if it rolled over I’d basically end up standing up). Just another part of the adventure.

Oh, the things that happen to me. I usually just shake my head at them in disbelief, smile a little, and go about my day.

So, anyhoo, I left a few days ago to come back over. It was odd leaving; it’s never easy leaving any of the kids and grandkids and it certainly wasn’t any easier after being there a while. I needed to move along and take care of some things. Winter was getting ready to have another go so I needed to scoot while I had the opportunity. I pushed my luck far enough and I’m not much for winter these days. I got into a few rain showers in the mountains on the way over but no issues. From the pictures I saw at Meghan’s house this morning I’m glad I left when I did.

I brought a few extra things with me so I don’t have any extra room be it truck or trailer. I’m constantly moving stuff around on and off the bed, but it’s just a temporary thing. I’m going to find a small storage unit when I get there and put a few things in there to help with the clutter. I did a little rearranging this morning and got a bit more room.

I decided to hang here a few days to let the rains pass. I considered going over to the Oregon coast but not sure yet so it gives me time to ponder. There’s not a way over there without backtracking a bit and I really don’t want to do that. I’d like to avoid Tacoma so I will weigh my options. Thinking back eight years, I actually went over to Astoria and went north. I drove down from Mt. St. Helens and went over through Longview. There’s two really tall bridges along that route. I also remember I got a speeding ticket down in that area too.

Winter on the coast can be stormy so that’s another consideration. I would love to see a storm on the coast. I am not sure if I care to be in the trailer out there during that stuff. It’s pretty vicious. I have seen big surf but nothing like what’s out there.

I don’t really have a major plan yet. I do have things to fall back on so I’ll be fine and I have a place to be. I don’t know how things will unfold but I always have a roof and a meal. Never an issue these days but it’s been a little, shall we say “interesting “ at times. Had a few rough times here and there but always made things work out for the best.

August 21st, 2020

Just things, Music, Uncategorized

My first taste of Scotch was in the early 1980s when I was a stagehand at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

The Uptown was (and still is as far as I know) a beautiful old theatre. It was built in the 1920s and opened in 1928. It is adorned with balconies, columns, and a black ceiling with “stars” (lights) to emulate an outdoor nighttime setting. It was a movie house in the grand tradition and had a proscenium stage with big maroon velvet curtains. It was like many other theaters back then; some, like the many Fox Theatre venues still left in the country, were owned by the studios. It is a special place and holds a spot in my heart.

Back in those days the Uptown was a very busy place and was staging several shows a week. I had started there without any experience after losing my job in 1980 (given a job out of compassion by a big burly guy named Jimbo). I had earned my place as a regular on the crew through hard work and perseverance and worked many shows through both of my stints there (second run was in the late 80s in charge of the lighting rig and as house electrician).

The shows ran the spectrum – Toots and the Maytals, Johnny Rivers, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls, Nick Lowe, Steppenwolf, Jean Luc Ponty…and so many, many more. It was also the place I met and hung out briefly with Robin Williams. It was a great, intimate venue for a show.

One show in particular in the early 80s I got to have a conversation with a guy in one of the bands that came through. He was one of the nicest people I ever met when I was doing stage work. Between the years that have passed and, well, it WAS the 80s, I cannot remember the date or the two or maybe three acts that night; I narrowed it down to these bands: it could have been Dokken, Streets (Steve Walsh’s band after he left the band Kansas), or Strange Daze (a great Doors tribute band who I was asked to tour with in Europe but the tour unfortunately fell through), but I am thinking that it was Dio on his first solo tour after leaving Black Sabbath. Thinking back a little more in depth I think the other bands I mentioned were all together on another show there.

At sound check, the drummer for the opening act came up to me as I was standing off stage left near the monitor console and we started talking. Not like rock star talking, but as two guys just talking about topics now long forgotten (again, the 80s). I know from being around this type of work for several years and being on the road it’s nice to just have a conversation without the star struck condescension, and that’s what this was. Human interaction.

As a stagehand you pretty much know to be a wallflower. It’s unprofessional to be star struck; your job is to make the show happen and stay in the shadows. You would get a “how’s it going?” or an unsaid “thanks” sometimes via a nod or smile, but you don’t approach people. To have someone come up to you and strike up a conversation was very out of the norm. If you think about it they are surrounded by fame, drugs and people kissing their asses constantly – all leeches and posers. I would think just having a normal conversation with someone was not very common and something longed for those in the entertainment lifestyle.

He went onstage to do his sound check and came back by. We chatted a bit more and he asked me if I liked Chivas Regal. I said I don’t even know what that is. He said to me “It’s Scotch and when I come back for the show I’ll bring a bottle and we’ll have a toast!”. I said “Okay”, thinking it was “rock star talk”.

The doors open for the show and we are all putting on the final touches dressing the stage. I get back in position by the monitor console again, ready to run onstage during the concert to fix something if need be (as I had to do about 90 minutes later in the middle of the Dio show and during other shows).

The guy I was talking with earlier walks up to me, and sure as hell he had an unopened bottle of Chivas in hand. He cracks the seal and hands it to me. I give him a toast and a nod and take a big hit off of it. I hand it back to him. He gives me a toast and a nod and takes a big hit off of it, we smile and shake hands and he hits the stage with that bottle. They were on fire that night and had the crowd in their palms. They left and we passed each other, nodded and smiled and I told him “Great show!”. Since I was getting the stage ready for Dio I did not have time to talk.

The band was Quiet Riot. The guy’s name was Frankie Banali.

I write this story because Frankie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. I had read articles lately about him being sick and it made me think about that special moment all those years ago.

I have read many tributes to him and everyone says he was such a nice guy. He really was a nice guy that night to some lowly stagehand.

Rest peacefully, Frankie, and thanks for the Chivas and the memory.

August 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

Heading south out of Livingston, MT toward Yellowstone NP – a beautiful drive!

Another day…another road trip.

I got another late start today, but it kind of hit me at the last minute to go for a drive late this morning. Actually, that is usually the case so I can’t lie. I could not sit in the trailer again. The fires are picking up and the air has gotten worse. I needed to get away and see some scenery.

I wasn’t sure where yet when I started the truck but I ended up stopping a few miles down the road and looked at the atlas before I got to the highway. I decided to go east this time. I thought about going to Billings and then taking the scenic route back through the central part of the state. I needed to be back by a 6:30 P.M. or so. As I drove along eastbound on I-90 I thought about it more and that meant going to Billings plus the route back might be a hurried trip to get back in time so I stopped in Livingston to reassess my “plan”.

I decided, instead, to go south and do the northern road in Yellowstone NP, entering through Gardiner and exiting through West Yellowstone, then heading north on 191 the way I have driven several times lately. I decided on this route because of time constraints plus it is usually the least busy part of the park. It is also a great drive with mountains, meadows and the incredible terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

I went through the Gardiner entrance, which is the classic entrance with the arch.

Original entrance to Yellowstone through Gardiner was through the arch

I remember man years ago driving through this arch to go in and out of the park, but they have re-routed the road now and it is off to the side. I, for one, think this should have been left alone. For one, it was the traditional, original entrance. It is history; leave it the hell alone. If memory serves me right, it looks to me like they re-routed the road to go through more downtown shopping than it used to since you have to go around a loop to now go through it. This should have never been allowed to happen.

The area around Mammoth encompasses not only the terrace hot springs, but also lots of touristy shopping, food, and the Park HQ. It was very busy, but honestly I think I have seen it busier in the past. Needless to say I did not stop though. Not going into crowds for one, but I am just wanting scenery from the privacy and socially-distant interior of my truck; I have done all this stuff a time or two in the past anyway.

It’s amazing how when you drive in this entrance you start going up, then down. It has not been that long ago that they realized that the park is actually a giant caldera of an ancient volcano.

Thermal feature – one of countless natural wonders in Yellowstone

That means when you go up and them come back down you have actually entered the volcano. As you drive along you will see signs for various natural and thermal features and to stay on the trail or you can die. Even this lake had a small fumarole on the right side of it (but it is out of camera range):

I did not see many animals along the way. Other than touristas, I only saw one deer and a few bighorn sheep and that was about it. No bear, moose, antelope or even bison.

There are a lot of beautiful meadows in Yellowstone, mountains, and rivers along with the animals and geysers.

Classic Yellowstone, a classic among America’s National Parks

The trip north out of West Yellowstone is one to really avoid right now. There are MANY miles of road construction going on along the roads in the extreme NW corner of the park on 191. I took 191 this time because I was going to make a stop along the way but it took me about THREE HOURS just to get through the construction so I could not make the stop I wanted to make after all.

A better alternative (at least for now) is to go 287 through Hebgen Lake area and Earthquake Lake toward Ennis. I wrote about this route a few months ago and it is quite spectacular. In fact, it really is a much more beautiful, varied, and interesting drive than 191; I would recommend this route as opposed to 191, which goes on the outskirts of Big Sky and follows a river through the canyons – pretty but all the same. Whenever I am down that way I will take the 287 route from now on.

So that was today’s adventure. Not too far away and plenty of scenery. There were a lot of people out, but not the usual Yellowstone craziness.

See you next time!

June 12th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

After an eight-hour nap I woke up at a leisurely pace this morning, thinking how strange it was to not have a dog sitting on me and staring me down first thing in the morning. I also thought about how nice it was too – I was able to lay around for a few minutes after waking up and not be rushed. I saw people out walking their dogs last night and it made me miss my little furry cohort but I left him with Meghan for this trip. Among other reasons he has to get a rattlesnake booster shot (yeah, weird, eh?) during the time I would be gone. He will get a chance to hit the road again soon.

First things first. Coffee and some breakfast. A delicious, eye-opening cup of Sumatra dark roast and a breakfast burrito. I unfortunately neglected to bring cheese, but I had Spam (hey, don’t judge me…it’s easy and delicious), potatoes O’Brien, eggs (of course) and another new hot sauce from Culinary Tours that I discovered recently called peri-peri that hails from Central Africa. Heat and a delicious smokiness that is soooo delicious and actually not that hot. (I also discovered the magic of Chohula hot sauce on Mexican food recently as well. Another new favorite.)

After securing everything in the trailer for the road I have some personal business that I need to attend to here in Douglas so the timing of this adventure has actually turned out good. And no, I am not in trouble.

I got to Douglas to take care of my personal stuff and that ended up not working out very well unfortunately. But, since I was coming by this way anyway, I thought I would stop and give it a try. It just means I have to do things by mail when I get home.

I decided to head east into Nebraska. I had no particular plan except going to the easternmost part of the Nebraska National Forest in the central part of the state. Yes, seriously, there is a National Forest and Grasslands in Nebraska. More on that in a minute.

The drive throughout most of Wyoming actually sucked due to the road conditions. The interstate was filled with little hills that made the road like a roller coaster. Little to no maintenance ever appeared to have been done on many roads. Most sections looked as though they had been there since they were first built and not touched since. Pretty inexcusable and I will leave it at that.

Other than the wagon trail conditions of the highways, there were some beautiful areas I drove through. The area around Shawnee has a lot of family history on my mom’s side that we explored a few years ago.

Near Shawnee, WY

I went on to Lusk and headed east toward Chadron, all new territory for me and I had no idea what to expect. It was quite varied terrain for much of the trip, with beautiful rolling hills, vast grasslands and several miles of highway construction that was two lanes of gravel. I guess they’re at least making progress.

Near Lusk, WY

Around Chadron I came across my first section of the National Forest as I drove along US 20. It was a very beautiful area that kind of reminds me of parts of Colorado, South Dakota or Montana. Remember, this is Nebraska. Rolling grassy hills, lots of trees – a very nice drive.

Sorry about the bugs on the windshield!

At this point I knew where I wanted to end up but no plan on how. I decided to go south after seeing a sign for a point of interest that I had forgotten about but wanted to see…

Carhenge.

Yep, down south of where I was and close to Alliance was Carhenge. Well, the adventure took a right turn and I was kind of excited that I was going. I wanted to see it ever since I heard of it but was not going to make a special trip. Simnce I was in the area I thought I would take advantage of it though.

Carhenge – Alliance, NE
Cadillacs, Willys, and Gremlins, oh my at Carhenge – Alliance, NE

The story behind it is in this link. This may not be for everybody, but there were actually quite a few people there to have a look and take pictures. One family there was rather interesting. The family stayed in the minivan while the mom got out ran up took pictures and then she got back in the van and they left. you could tell they were just bagging sites and not having a vacation.

I took another look at the trusty road atlas and figured out a way to head east for the national forest and camp for the night.

I came across a place called Fort Robinson nestled amongst the cliffs and the sand hills. It had been turned into a state park. They have a campground there that I could’ve stayed in but it was still relatively early and I got such a late start on the road in the morning I was trying to get as far as I could so I took a few pictures and went on.

Fort Robinson, NE

I took a drive up a Forest Road which almost turned out to be a really bad decision. Being nestled in the sand hills of Central Nebraska (which were quite beautiful by the way).

Near Thedford, NE

The road was basically sand. It was OK for a truck, jeep, ATV, etc., but not pulling a trailer which I soon found out was a bad thing. I got up the hill and immediately tried to find a place to turn around but couldn’t turn around because of the soft sand. Eventually I was able to find a spot and do a 27 point turn to get out of there.

I got back to the highway and went over to the recreation area of the national forest. I was not impressed with the campsites as they were basically on top of each other. There were none to be had anyway being a Friday night so I went back out towards the highway for a look at the atlas for a back up idea.

I decided to backtrack 15 miles and head south on US 83 toward North Platte Nebraska.

The Sandhills – south of Thedford, NE

I got about 30 miles outside of North Platte and saw a sign for a campground in a little town called Stapleton. I pulled in to the town and saw a sign but it looked like it led down into a residential area and was made of gravel. It really didn’t look much like a road to a campground in a town so I thought maybe the sign meant the next road turn right.

The next road didn’t look much better but up ahead a block I saw another blue sign for camping. This time it happened to be in the city park. It was $15 a night and I had electricity and water, and there was a sewer dump station for the morning before leaving. Perfect! I’ll take it!

Camping in the city park – Stapleton, NE

I have stayed in one or two city parks before and they are actually a pretty good value plus you can really help support the local economy. I will be looking for more of those in my travels. I have my trailer so I am fairly self-contained. No need for a bathroom but given the miserable weather conditions the electricity is great for the A/C. I am going to need to get a generator soon so I won’t need to rely on campgrounds. I can boondock and take a shower outside.

I got dinner and sat to relax. It was hot and so humid that the A/C didn’t seem to keep up. I went to bed and tossed and turned for a bit but eventually I got a decent night’s sleep.

February 17th, 2020 – Day 9: Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Kansas City, MO USA

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

IMG_0221

On the way to Schiphol Airport from Amsterdam Centraal Station

I woke up at 4:30, an hour before our alarm was supposed to go off. I laid there in the darkness, contemplating our trip during that time; all the things we saw and did and the fun we had. We have a 9-hour flight to ATL then a couple more hours to MCI.

It was such a great trip and after getting back home I am still thinking about it all. For me returning from this trip was much different than the first time over; having been there I already had that initial excitement of being in Europe. I also knew what to expect for not just going to Europe, but parts of the trip (Köln and Amsterdam, and a little bit in Dublin). I really had no idea what to expect about being all over Ireland and that’s the part I am still having trouble processing. The people were so wonderful and friendly. Everywhere we went in Europe everyone was friendly and helpful but Ireland has the overwhelming feeling of belonging. Galway (and the areas around it) was an even more comfortable place to be…not surprisingly, a feel of home given the centuries-long family history in the area.

The adventure of travel – domestic or international, be it by foot, transit, air, sea, or land –  is so fun and amazing. It is also what you make of it and to be self-reliant in a country where you are a visitor/outsider gives one pause to think about that a little deeper (at least it should) when they return home.

You must get out of your comfort zone to actually learn things and have great experiences when and where you travel; it’s not just about taking pictures of the same famous things like everyone else has posted online. Get in the alleys, go in a coffeeshop or a smart shop, do something you wouldn’t normally do, go someplace where your language is not spoken primarily, eat foods you cannot pronounce, try to have conversations with a local. I guarantee you will have some amazing life-changing experiences and countless stories and memories that last a lifetime.

This trip also included my first stay in an Airbnb property (Landsmeer) and I think that its a great way to travel now that I have done it. I will be looking into doing that more on my own – it’s a great way to get the local flavor of where you are and a great alternative to the same old boring chain hotels here in the States. Being retired, most of my travel will probably be with the trailer but there will one times I need to fly someplace and need a place to stay.

A few thoughts about Amsterdam – it’s a fun, easy city to be in but it is so overrun with cannabis tourists and all of the businesses play it up pretty well – to me it is really overblown and gaudy. I can stay home for that without the commerciality but Washington is overrun with people as well, especially the Seattle area.

I do feel really bad for the residents of Amsterdam; it is tough enough just living in a tourist area but what they deal with is pretty bad. Many tourists don’t care about or respect the locals and that is bad – trust me I know firsthand, having lived in touristy areas since 1996. We avoided being in the city on Friday and Saturday night and waited until Sunday to walk around at night.

I will probably be back, but will stay in the outskirts since I not only want to minimize my impact on the city but I also have other places I want to see in The Netherlands. I really do like Amsterdam’s progressiveness (which some call “freedom”…but only if it fits into their own morals). If you have a closed mind Amsterdam is just not for you.

…and some more thoughts about Ireland – I will definitely be going back to visit this beautiful place, full of some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. Dublin is fun and there’s a lot of history there that I still want to explore. There is so much more of the island I want to see. I had a lot of fun driving the car and really enjoyed the challenges and the differences (but not the Dublin traffic madness) and I will definitely get a car every time I go there. There is so much more to see and do in Ireland and I have to see and do it. For me, Galway has that indescribable special magic I feel when I am in the mountains.

In all we walked a total of about 58 miles in 8 days; not counting the day we left that’s an average of 7.25 miles a day. Some days were more – I know one or two were 10 miles a day! Pretty good amount of exercise! The girls did great figuring out the public transit and they fit right in. The only issues we had were the mapping apps not updating like they should (slow data speeds on our free international plans) and sending us in the wrong direction for a bit almost every time we wanted directions.

It was their first trip abroad and their first trip carrying everything around on their backs in a backpack and they did fantastic. They really adapted to this new style of travel really quick and they looked like experienced travel pros from the moment we left. To share travel with someone else makes it even better. When it is with someone you care about it is even better yet. I am so glad we got to go.

Thanks for a great trip, girls. I am looking forward to our next adventure!

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The End!!