OUR ANNUAL USELESS CHRISTMAS GIFT GIVING GUIDE – 2021

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

It’s the time of year that finds many of you in the throes of holiday shopping.  That is, if you can find anything on the shelves.  I bought some Christmas cards for the family the other day and noticed that there were a lot more “slip the money in the slot” cards this year.  Money always fits and never has to be returned, but it’s not much fun to open.  So, for those of you who like to actually give a gift, we offer the 2021 edition of our Useless Christmas Gift Guide.

It seems that everyone is on a health kick these days, trying to take off the extra pounds packed on during COVID.  We offer Kale Candy Canes as a gift that won’t be forgotten.   It’s a genuine two-fer: a candy and a vegetable!  That said, I wouldn’t recommend giving these to your grandchildren, lest you be forever branded as the grandparent that gives really lousy candy.

If you are living with someone who has put on the aforementioned extra weight, we strongly recommend that you not make mention of it.  But if you are foolish enough to do so, we suggest you stock up on bandages for the resulting scrapes and bruises.  What could be better than Bacon Bandages?  The problems may set in when you have to explain why you are wearing bacon, but hey, you got yourself into this mess so you can get yourself out.

A lot of people discover new ailments, many of them imagined after watching infomercials on TV.  If you are living with a hypochondriac, we have found just the right stocking stuffer – the hypochondriac 50 Things That Might Kill You deck of cards.  The recipient simple shuffles the deck, chooses a card, and then complains of that ailment for the rest of the day.

 

Of course, if you’re of a certain age, you can blame everything on your bad memory.  But blaming memory issues on someone else calls for a deft hand.  After all, you don’t want to insult them by mentioning their seeming incoherence, especially during the holidays.  So much like you might offer a breath mint to someone who just ate tzatziki sauce, we suggest you offer them Memory Mints.  These are extra-strength, which comes in handy if you’re hosting your in-laws and have heard the same story 50 times.  These mints could save your marriage.

 

We’ve all seen the news lately where gangs of thieves are bursting into stores to rob them.  As you are out doing your holiday shopping it pays to be on alert and to protect yourself as best you can.  To ensure your safety we suggest the Switchblade Spork.  It will come in handy as you celebrate a holiday meal but can instantly transform into a deadly weapon.  Sort of.  No guarantees.

 

And who among us hasn’t acted a bit snippy lately?  It’s hard to find good news and we’re all tired of pandemic panic.  As mentioned in a previous post, there has been a rise in rude behavior, road rage and generally bitchy moods.  Speaking with some degree of authority on this, I’m tired of saying, “I’m sorry”.  How much easier to deal with an apology if we simply use the Apology form?  It covers everything from, “I forgot” to “I’m a schmuck”.  There’s even a place to check to indicate whether you will – or will not – ever commit that infraction again.  You might want to stock up on these.

Finally, and I hate to beat a dead horse here, but it has been a trying couple of years.  Many of us could use a little polish on our social skills.  Our final recommendation is a classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and I think should be handed out free at the DMV.  Or Starbucks.  Anywhere that might get to the greatest amount of people in the shortest amount of time.  We are hanging onto civilization by a thread these days.

I hope this list helps make your holiday shopping a bit easier.  Or at least provided a laugh.  Next time:  Pop’s famous Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe!

Tahoe – The Lake, The Ridge and the Tavern

by Bob Sparrow

The Ridge Tahoe

About a month ago I was notified that we had a timeshare week given to us by Interval International during Covid, that was going to expire by December 24th of this year.  We had just returned from our Mexican cruise and with the ‘holidaze’ fast approaching and air travel becoming less and less attractive, it seemed as if the week would be wasted – unless we could find somewhere that we wanted to go, was within driving distance, and was available between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As I surfed Interval’s available online options, I came across The Ridge – Tahoe, which sits on a ridge (I’m guessing that’s where they got the name) above South Lake Tahoe by Heavenly Valley Ski Resort.  Growing up in northern California, I have many fond memories of Lake Tahoe, as my family started weekending and vacationing there when I was about eight years old (Yes, that was back when the earth was still cooling).  I had my first ‘sort of’ date there when I was in junior high and older brother Jack, who was in high school, brought his girlfriend for a stay with our family at ‘The Lake’, and she brought along her younger sister, who was a year younger than me.  We met at Tahoe Tavern and watched a movie.  I don’t remember what movie, and it wasn’t because I was preoccupied with my first date, I was petrified and probably was busy eating popcorn and didn’t even offer her any.  Sorry, Meg Howard, wherever you are.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern was a classic!  It was first opened in 1902 as a luxury hotel just outside of Tahoe City, at the northern end of the lake. It had 225 rooms and a casino – yes, a casino in California.  You could get there by road, rail, or raft and its opulence attracted San Francisco’s high society.    The resort’s dress code for lunch and dinner became so formal that a dress and heels were required for women and a coat and tie for men.  Aside from the very high-end restaurant and theater, there was a bowling alley and a bar with a beautiful view of the lake.  Unfortunately, it burned down in the mid-60s, so I’m glad I got a chance to see this magnificent hotel.  Condos have been built on the property since and it’s not quite the same; no, it’s not even close to the same.

But I digress.  Linda and I left this past Saturday afternoon to drive up picturesque Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  We spent the night in beautiful Bishop so we could drive up to the lake and be in front of a television by Sunday afternoon so we could watch her Vikings play my 49ers.

Creekside Inn

We got to Bishop and had a great dinner at Whiskey Creek restaurant, which has been there since 1924.  We stayed at the Creekside Inn in Bishop, which I would definitely recommend, although I have no complements for their complementary breakfast – go next door to the famous Schat’s Bakery & Restaurant.

The Sunday morning drive from Bishop to South Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful in the state, particularly on a crisp cloudless morning which shows the spectacular snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.  We arrived in time for the Viking-49er game, which I was a little happier about the results than Linda.

Our time at Tahoe next time

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH TSA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

People of a certain age may remember a song we sang in grammar school this time of year: Over the River and Through the Wood.  The gist of the song is that a happy family bundles into a sleigh and glides over the snow to their grandmother’s house.  In the song, it is noted that the horses knew the way, which was a good thing because they didn’t have Google Maps when this song was written.  I remember singing that song and wishing that we lived in a place that had snow, rather than our rather mundane California sunshine.

Those were simpler times in many ways, not the least of which it was a lot easier to direct a horse through the woods than navigate an airport on Thanksgiving weekend.  Now that the pandemic seems to be abating everywhere except Arizona, there are predictions of a heavy travel week ahead, both on the ground and in the air.

4.2 million travelers will take to the skies this Thanksgiving.  That is an 80% increase over last year, witch isn’t saying much since no one was traveling last year.  At the beginning of the holiday travel period last Friday, TSA screened over 2.2 million people at airport security checkpoints around the U.S.  TSA has warned that passengers should arrive early and expect long lines.  They have also reminded everyone what is and what is not allowed in carry-on baggage.  I stipulate up front that since most people did not travel in 2020 it can be difficult to remember all the rules.  But  as you can see from the photo of items that were confiscated, there are people who apparently need remedial help.  One wonders why it was necessary to take a bottle of Heinz gravy and a can of yams to wherever this person was going.  If they are flying to a city that has an airport, one might reasonably assume that there is also a grocery store, one that carries such gourmet items as bottled cranberry sauce.  Well, to be charitable, perhaps this person was afraid of being stranded at a gate for eight hours and wanted to have some provisions.  I will say that the wine is totally understandable given a) they aren’t serving alcohol on planes due to belligerent passengers and b) it’s wine.  This person might also be flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor, where the concession employees have declared a strike for this week.  So not only will there be no food available at the airport, there will not be any Starbucks.  Between no food, no coffee, and having to wear a mask, I suspect there is going to be a plethora of grouchy passengers.

Speaking of which, the day before Thanksgiving sees more drunk driving accidents than almost any other day of the year. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the biggest bar night in America. Others call the day “Drinksgiving.”  It is particularly popular with college-aged kids coming back to their home towns and the parents of said kids, who suddenly find their empty nest strewn with laundry and filled with music that has undecipherable lyrics.  Nevertheless, lots of people will be on the road this year.  AAA is predicting that 48.3 million Americans are expected to travel by car this week.  The worst time for traffic will be between 1:30 – 6 p.m. on Wednesday, particularly in big cities.  So if you can sneak out a bit early you might save yourself hours of staring at the rear end of a semi-truck.

Regardless of where you will be spending Thanksgiving this year, my brother and I wish you a very happy day, filled with fun, family and food.  I plan on driving this year on Thanksgiving – right down the middle of the fairway.

Imagine If YOU Handled YOUR Money This Way!

by Bob Sparrow

At a time when there is as much divide in the country that most of us ‘seniors’ have ever experienced, I will try to use the tried and true method of uniting disparate groups by giving them a common enemy.  To mis-quote War of 1812 Naval Commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, “We have met the enemy and it is us!” 

We here at From a Bird’s Eye View, rarely, if ever, wade into political battlefields, as we understand that there is no winning there, but indeed this blog is about our government.  Both sides.    Admittedly this missive was borne out a closer look at the recent staggering $1 trillion ‘infrastructure bill’ – and while it’s easy to take shots at Biden, this is a shot at our entire government, past and present.  

 Warning: If your day has been going along just fine so far, you may want to skip reading this blog as it may be upsetting to those who might think that our government is a well-oiled machine. 

 Following are just some of the places where your hard-earned tax money has gone . . . 

  • Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the Department of Education
  • $200,000 is going for a tattoo removal program in Mission Hills, CA  
  • Congress recently gave Alaska Airlines $500,000 to paint a Chinook salmon on a Boeing 737 
  • The Pentagon recently spend $998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida 
  • The National Institutes of Health spends $1.3 million per month to rent a lab facility that it cannot use 
  • We spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.  Yep!!
  • The Security & Exchange Commission is spending $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington DC headquarters 
  • Lawmakers diverted $13 million from Hurricane Katrina relief spending to build a museum celebrating the Army Corps of Engineers – the agency partially responsible for the failed levees that flooded New Orleans
  • Congress appropriated $20 million for “commemoration of success” celebrations related to Iraq and Afghanistan 
  • The Defense Department wasted $100 million in unused flight tickets and never bothered to collect refunds even though the tickets were refundable  
  • More than $13 billion in Iraq aid has been classified as wasted or stolen, another $7.8 billion cannot be accounted for
  • Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties 
  • Health care fraud is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $60 billion annually 

A GAO audit classified nearly half of all purchases on government credit card as improper, fraudulent or embezzled 

Unfortunately, these are small drops in a very big bucket – I don’t blame Democrats and I don’t blame Republicans or anyone in between – I blame the politicians who WE HAVE ELECTED! 

If these billions of reasons don’t justify term limits, then we’ll be stuck with the politicians that we voted for, who are making lots of money for themselves while they are irresponsibly wasting ours!

As the American journalist and satirist PJ O’Rourke once said, “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” 

Have a nice day!

 

 

 

 

MISS-ING MANNERS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Have you noticed that peopled are on edge a bit more these days?  Every morning I read an article about road rage or someone going “postal” on a store clerk or delivery person.  A friend of ours who owns a small gift shop says that almost everyone who comes in is a bit chippy.  And pity the poor flight attendants working in this environment – in the past few months one had her two front teeth knocked out and another had her nose broken by unruly passengers.  Last week a friend and her husband attended an “ABBA” cover band concert at a church.  They were seated next to two twenty-something women who carried on their animated conversation long after the concert started.  Finally, unable to enjoy the concert due to their talking, my friend turned to the woman next to her and asked if they would please take their conversation out to the lobby.  To which the young woman responded, “We’re enjoying the concert.”  When my friend said that she was not because she couldn’t hear over their chatter, the young woman retorted, “Oh, shut up!”  My friend is about the nicest person you would want to meet so she let it drop.  I would have carried on a bit, but then I’m not as nice.

Still, I do have a working knowledge of manners and I have been appalled by how rude people have become.  It has apparently become a huge problem for business owners because, imagine this – their employees don’t like being treated like chattel.  I’ve seen a number of signs outside of restaurants and stores imploring customers to be kind.  The most popular sign says something to the effect of “Our service may be slow due to understaffing.  Please be nice to the people who have shown up for work.”  Even at our golf club, several members of the board of directors were recently accosted and verbally abused by members who disagreed with a policy decision.  We’ve been a member for 23 years and that is unheard of – until now.

There was a time, not so long ago, when people knew how to behave in public.  Whole generations of kids were taught to treat others as we would want to be treated.  Somehow that concept has been lost.  Some say that the COVID pandemic has caused much of the tension, but surely there were signs of it before 2020.   One psychologist has opined that rude behavior began with the advent of online discussions.  The anonymity one can achieve behind a computer screen allows for comments that would never occur in a face-to-face discussion.  Without any filters, people feel that they can say anything.  The pandemic, and the never-ending aftermath, has contributed to the extent that it has brought people to their breaking point.  The candid, often rude, comments once reserved for online, have now spilled over to restaurants, offices and, clearly, airplanes.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about school curriculums but I don’t see much about teaching kids the Golden Rule.  Perhaps we should bring back Judith Martin, or as she is better known, Miss Manners.  She has been writing a weekly column about good behavior since 1978.  She addresses everything from how to handle picky eaters at a dinner party to sidewalk etiquette.  As a society, we would be far better off if we all learned how to treat others with a bit more kindness and respect.  Maybe we could start with Congress.

Crusin’ Through the Pandemic

by Bob Sparrow

To misquote Samuel Clemens, “The reports of my possible death have been greatly exaggerated” . . . by me.  Yes, I’m happy to report that cruising and Mexico were both safe and fun as we arrived home alive and well, albeit a few pounds heavier.  OK, maybe more than a few!

Our cruise started in the Port of San Pedro, which, as mentioned by Suzanne in last week’s blog, the docks are filled with hundreds of thousands of shipping containers, yes, hundreds of thousands; while over 150 ships wait off shore to off-load more.  Reminding me that this Christmas could be the one that the Grinch actually steals.  But we’re not worrying about Christmas yet, Linda and I are headed to Cabo San Lucas, if we can navigate through all the ships anchored in the harbor, on a five-day cruise aboard the Grand Princess.  I’m guessing that Linda is thinking “24/7” or 5 with no other couples, only my spouse – yikes”!!  Oh, maybe that was me thinking that.  She was thinking about the casino!

As we set sail, (There really aren’t any sails) we see that we are far from the ship’s passenger capacity, which is 2800; in fact we are less than 25% full at 650 passengers! The crew numbered 1,150!

Aside from nearly a two-to-one crew-to-passenger ratio and a staff, from all parts of the world, that was friendly, accommodating and professional, here’s a few more things that made this cruise a success:

  • DSB (Don’t Stop Believin’)

    Great entertainment –a British Invasion group that was awesome, a Journey tribute band, DSB, a Hall & Oats tribute band, another 80s cover band (in case you’re wondering, the theme of the cruise was ‘The 80s’, which had me wondering if that wasn’t the average age of the passengers). It was close.

  • There were so many bars on board that, one day at sea, we decided we’d do a ‘Pub Crawl’ and count them.  We only got to seven . . . I think; we lost count, but we were proud to have maxed out our ‘unlimited’ drink package, which led me to wonder, how do you max out an unlimited drink package?  Well, we did and the only ‘crawling’ we ended up doing was back to our room.
  • We met some great people – including a couple that own a dinner theater in the Inland Empire where they perform. We’ll be hitting one of their shows soon.  We also met several awesome Veterans when we attended a Veterans-only gathering on board – one Vet was 99 years old and fought in World War II.  Thank you for your service!!!
  • Because of the small number of passengers, we never had to wait for anything or worry about getting a dinner reservation or a good seat for a show.
  • There were various classes on board, we both took a ‘line dancing’ class and then we followed our passions as I took a cooking class and Linda headed for the casino.

Our one complaint would be about the food – it was marginal at best, with the exceptions of a couple of good steak & lobster dinners at the Crown Room, and the pizza, that was good enough to have for breakfast!

Oh yeah, about our stop in Cabo San Lucas. We spent a couple of hours there walking through the harbor, where we were bombarded by vendors selling everything from sombreros to their sister, and then took a water taxi to ‘The Office’ a restaurant/bar around the corner from the harbor and right on the sand.  We had a ‘good day at the office’, then headed back to the boat.

All in all, a very fun experience that further whet our appetite for more cruising. We do have an Alaska cruise on the Majestic Princess next summer, so we’ll just have to remember to eat before we go.

 

 

THANKSHOLLOWISTMAS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

             Cargo Ships in L.A.

By now I’m sure you have read about the supply chain problem that has hit the nation.  I’ve heard various excuses for why it is happening, from no workers to unload the cargo ships to a plot by the Chinese to ruin our economy.  So once again our trip to Costco looks like a rugby scrum as we dash back to the paper towel and toilet paper aisle.  This week several media outlets warned that turkey is in short supply this year.  Specifically, small turkeys will be hard to find because, like last year,  many people are limiting the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings.  Last year, of course, we were in the throes of the COVID pandemic so it was understandable that families might keep the guest list  short.  But this year?  I’m thinking people are limiting the size because, having unburdened themselves from hosting a huge dinner last year, they realize how refreshing it is not to hear drunk Uncle Louis tell his breast and thigh joke again.  Regardless of the reason, the good folks who run the turkey companies are advising that we should buy our turkey early this year.

               

A really frozen turkey

Just how early do they expect us to purchase our turkey?  I suppose if you have a good-sized freezer you could buy one this week.  According to Good Housekeeping, a turkey can stay in a freezer for up to a year. But if you’re like me and made the mistake of purchasing a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, we’re lucky to fit in a couple of frozen Cornish game hens.  So I thought maybe we could have beef for Thanksgiving, but then I read that meat is also in short supply.  Throw in the scant supply of bacon and liquor, and I think we have the recipe for a real national disaster.

Food is not the only thing that’s hard to find this year.  Gifts and toys for holiday celebrations are also on the endangered list.  The most sensical recommendation I read was to buy early.  If we see something we want, buy it, as there is no guarantee it will still be available a month from now.  The head of the toy manufacturers group advised parents and grandparents to “plan for alternatives”.  That sounds a lot like “disappointment” to me. Large toys are going to be especially hard to find this year because they are more expensive to ship.  That includes large Lego sets.  Having some experience with young boys who treasure Legos, I suggest you order today or risk being branded as the grandparent who gives pajamas for Christmas.

         

                What a surprise!

One pundit on TV suggested that we merge all of the holidays into “Thankshollowistmas“.  Well, why not?  Just the other day when I entered our local department store the greeter made a point of directing me to the Christmas decorations, which were right next to the jack o’lanterns. Anything related to Thanksgiving was relegated to an end cap at the back of the store.  Not enough money in Thanksgiving, I suppose. Maybe it’s a good idea to celebrate early this year.  It’s been a tough year by any measure and we could all use a little lift in our spirits.  So I say we buy all the beef, liquor,  bacon and Legos we can get our hands on.  Otherwise the “big surprise” you’ve promised your family might end up being a giant package of toilet paper.

 

Adios Amigos?

by Bob Sparrow

Here’s us relaxing on our Mexican cruise

Last week the wife says, “Hey, Bob, wanna go . . . .”, and before she could finish the sentence, I say, “Sure”.  And then ask, where are we going and with whom?  “Mexico, with no one else” she replies.  Then I wondered, ‘Is she just sending me to Mexico with a one-way ticket’?”  She says, “It’s a cruise and we’re both going and it leaves on Monday!”

So, I say, “Let me get this straight, you’ve booked us on a cruise ship, which for the last year-and-a-half has been a germ-infested, floating petri dish and we’re going to a country that is rated ‘HIGH’ in terms of risk level for COVID-19.  Is that correct?”  “Yes, she replies, “but it’s not rated ‘VERY HIGH’ and I got a great deal!”

For Linda, nothing trumps a good deal, apparently not even death.

I Googled ‘Is it safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas?’ and found:

“Because of the current situation in Mexico, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Not a good start!  I then found a site that gave me the risk levels of the various aspects of traveling to Cabo.  Regarding the ‘risk level’, I suspect that those who are doing the rating may have received a few pesos to make the levels look better than they actually are, so I took the liberty of moving all the levels ‘up a notch’, however the comments remain unedited.

Cabo San Lucas -a beautiful final resting place!

Transportation: (HIGH) there have been reports of people being robbed by the unlicensed taxis. Also, taxis are not metered, so always negotiate the price before the ride.  The public transport is not safe since theft on buses is common and buses have also been hijacked in conflict areas.

Pickpocket: (HIGH+) There is a high risk of pickpocketing in Cabo San Lucas. The risk is especially high for foreigners because thieves usually target them regarding the fact that they have either money or expensive items with them.

Mugging: (HIGH+) Virtual kidnapping is very common, so it is advisable not to share any personal information while in Cabo San Lucas. Also, criminals tend to kidnap people who wear expensive jewelry or watches and who show off with their latest gadgets.

Terrorism: (MEDIUM) Although Mexico does not report recent attacks, you should always be watchful.

Scams: (HIGH) Be watchful of people who offer you help, since they might ask for money for that.

Women Traveler Risk: (MEDIUM) There have been reports of sexual harassment in bars and nightclubs and assaults when traveling on public transport. Females should take precaution, even in areas close to hotels, especially after dark.

Drug-related violence: (MEDIUM) Drug-related violence is occurring less in Cabo San Lucas as the Mexican government makes a lot of effort to stop the crime and protect major tourist destinations from thieves and other criminals.

Natural disasters: (MEDIUM) hurricanes between July and September, earthquakes and volcanoes.  There are some areas, like Land’s End, the tip of the peninsula, where the beaches are not safe for swimming due to the currents.

So, not only am I going to a country that doesn’t really have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, I’m captive on a boat with a gang of partying, non-social-distancing drunks.  Sounds like a relaxing get-away to me!!!  But “Look at the beautiful ship”, says Linda.

Grand Princess

So, while you’re reading this blog in the comforts of your own home, having a nice cup of coffee or a shot of tequila – whatever gets you started in the morning – I may be in the Cabo San Lucas hospital, jail, morgue or quarantined, albeit on a beautiful ship, for the next two weeks.  And, wouldn’t you know it, my last hope of missing this cruise was lost when I tested ‘Negative’ for Covid!

If this is my last blog, I’d like to thank all you subscribers for your loyalty over the last ten years, especially those who take the time to respond frequently.  Sister, Suzanne, it’s been a great pleasure to be part of this ‘homage to our father’ with you. I suppose it’s only right that I should succumb to the ‘travel bug’?

Hasta Luego?

THE LONGER ROAD HOME

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Before I begin my tale about the second half of our visit to Sun Valley, I have to acknowledge our sharp-eyed subscriber (and childhood neighbor), John Thomas, for pointing out that in my description of our drive up to Sun Valley I said we traveled on Highway 95.  I don’t’ know why I was confused, we’ve made that trek at least 20 times.  Anyway, it was Highway 93 that took us through the lovely town of Ely, Nevada.  93, 95…I never was any good at math.

Marilyn at the North Fork

When I left off last time the snow had begun to fall in Idaho, dusting the mountain tops and causing the trees to begin turning luscious shades of gold and orange.  We decided to venture a bit north, up to Redfish Lake, which is always a serene place in which to observe nature.  Redfish is 60 miles north of Sun Valley and you would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful drive in the United States.    The first landmark one encounters is less than 10 miles north of town – the North Fork Store.  That may not sound too exciting, until you learn it is where Marilyn Monroe filmed “Bus Stop” in 1956.  It is still a going concern, with a café and gas station, and remains popular with film aficionados.

             Galena Overlook

Half-way through our journey north is another spectacular spot, Galena Summit.  If you stop at the overlook turn-out you can see views of the Sawtooth range to the northwest and the headwaters of the Salmon River.  At a whopping height of 8,701 feet, the view is simply unbeatable.  The Sawtooth Valley below is approximately 15 miles wide and 30 miles long…and you can see all of it from the overlook.  It’s hard to imagine as you spot the headwaters of the Salmon that after the river leaves the Sawtooth Valley it will then travel 900 miles to reach the Pacific Ocean.

             Redfish Lake

Finally, we reach our destination, Redfish Lake, and it does not disappoint.  Somehow all our ridiculous little problems melt away in the presence of such spectacular scenery.  We were surprised by how many people were there, although given how crowded Sun Valley had been we should have expected it.  There is a lodge and small restaurant, along with an outdoor grill and they all seemed to be at capacity.  Still…as we walked the trail that wends around the lake we were reminded of why we keep coming back every year.  I love Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes in California, but there is nothing like the serenity that comes from viewing Redfish.

                 Downtown Kanab

After our visit to Redfish we ventured back to Sun Valley for a few more days before heading home.  We decided to drive the interstates most of the way.  That was my bright idea and as much as I hate to admit it, I was wrong.  It wasn’t a drive home, it was a death march.  First, we drove down to Twin Falls, Idaho, just 90 minutes from Sun Valley, to get a jump start on the long stretch ahead of us the following day.  That required an additional night in a hotel, with all the joys that go along with uncomfortable pillows and people banging doors at midnight.  What was I thinking?  The next day we drove from Twin Falls, through Salt Lake City, down to Kanab, Utah.  Kanab is a beautiful little town, but after TEN hours in a car, I couldn’t really appreciate anything except terra firma.  Finally, on the third day of our trek home, Dash the Wonder Dog decided to make life interesting by getting sick.  We took him to the vet when we got home and turns out he picked up a bacterial infection, plus the vet said that she sees some dogs get very stressed out from very long car rides.

Mom, please don’t make me get back in that car

Well, guess what?  I also get stressed out from long car rides.  I told my husband when we arrived home that he could not use the words “car” or “ride”, especially if they were in the same sentence.  I’ve already started looking for places to visit next year that are less than five hours from home.  So we may have seen Sun Valley for the last time, but who knows what next year will bring.  One thing I’ve learned from the COVID pandemic – don’t plan too far ahead.

 

Water, Water Everywhere, But . . .

by Bob Sparrow

I take you back to the world-wide ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis in 1894’.  Yes, the proliferation of horse manure and the inability to remove it from the streets was considered the greatest obstacle to urban development at the turn of the century.  An article in the London Times stated,

“In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

 Having the luxury of hindsight, we now know that technology, in the form of the proliferation of the automobile, solved this problem.

Why, you ask, I am writing about horseshit?

It seems to me that we have a similar problem today.  Not with horseshit, but with water. Particularly in California where we are experiencing severe drought conditions and devastating fires.  It occurred to me, on my flight to Hawaii last month, that there is a hell of a lot of water in the Pacific Ocean, and if my geography serves me, California has over 800 miles of coastline that abuts to this salty water supply.  I know I’m not breaking news here and there have been attempts at ‘desalination’, but for my money, and I pay a healthy amount of taxes in this state next to the Pacific, we’re literally doing nothing serious to prevent the horseshit from piling up.

Several of today’s solutions seem to be akin to how people were looking at the horseshit problem in 1894.  They are:

Desalination process

Desalination – costly, increases fossil fuel dependence, increases greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbates climate change, threatens marine life, blah, blah, blah.  Change the process!

Pipelines – We get oil to California from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Africa (not by pipelines, but by ship – I’m simply making the point that if we really want something we’ll go anywhere in the world to get it); today we import most of our oil from Canada and over 90% of that oil comes via a pipeline.  So why isn’t there a ‘pipeline’ sending some of the excess water we get in Washington and Oregon, to California?  The simple answer is that today, water does not have the same economic panache as oil.  Oil keeps most of our vehicles and industries moving, water only keep us moving.

Seed the clouds – expensive, requires the use of potentially harmful chemicals, could create other weather problems, depends on atmospheric conditions, unknown long-term effect.  Stop wasting your time!

Making water – it’s just two elements, right? Hydrogen and oxygen, which are both plentiful in our atmosphere.  So why not just ‘make water’?    Because just mixing hydrogen and oxygen together doesn’t make water – to join them together you need energy – lots of it.  So, if we solve the energy problem have we’ve solved the water problem?

To be sure, this is not just a California problem, it’s worldwide, in fact we already have a horseshitesque quote from another country that is surrounded on three sides by water:

“There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today”   

Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Aarhus University, Denmark                                                             

So you’re telling me that we can put people on the moon, create driverless cars, get stuff we ordered from Amazon delivered the next day, but we can’t find a way to effectively use a resource that covers two-thirds of our earth?!!!

Horseshit!!!

And speaking of horseshit, if we only used a small percentage of the money our government wastes on really stupid stuff (possibly my next blog rant) to solve our ‘water problem’, we’d have it fixed by Christmas.