A Flock of Sparrows

by Bob Sparrow

Sparrows in the 50s

Last weekend was a very special weekend, as it was a gathering of Sparrows.  My two siblings and I, along with our spouses, met at Jack & Sharon’s last weekend in Santa Maria.  As you might imagine, Suzanne and I communicate rather regularly as we have each other edit our blog prior to posting every Monday (guaranteed that Suzanne finds a lot more things to edit than I do!) as well as talking on the phone periodically.  Brother Jack and I usually talk on the phone about once a week, but during football season, it jumps to sometimes 4-5 times a day, as we have practice bets in preparation for real bets when we get to Vegas, which is in two weeks.  But personal visits are much rarer, once, maybe twice, a year the three couples get together – so last weekend was special.

What I think is most unusual about our sibling relationship, is that I can’t remember a harsh word spoken between us since . . . ever!  I truly love both my brother and my sister.  Some of you are thinking, “Duh”, who doesn’t love their brother and sister and some of you are thinking, “You don’t know my brother/sister!”  We have our parents to thank for creating such a loving home.

So, what do we do when we get together, you ask?  Eat, drink, laugh, share what’s happening in our lives, talk about our kids and grandkids, then eat, drink and laugh some more.

Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn

As fun as the weekend was, it didn’t start out well, given traffic for Linda and me going north on 101 through Santa Barbara – it seems for the last 20 years they’ve been widening that freeway, but it seems to get narrower.  Suzanne and Al experienced similar traffic conditions coming south from Nipomo.

Once settled in Santa Maria, the festivities began with a fantastic dinner and family history discussion at one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara County, Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in San Ynez, where, after Jack and I hoisted a martini to our dad, I had the best Petrale sole I’ve ever had.  Everyone’s dinner was delicious!

Saturdays during football season is something the three of us love, so the day was spent in our ‘football jerseys’ in front of the TV.   Jack and I made some ‘pretend bets’ in preparation for Vegas; and like the week before, we killed it with our ‘pretend bets’.  If you don’t hear about our bets in Vegas in a couple of weeks, you’ll know why Vegas can keep the bright lights on all night!  The day went well, with Suzanne and Al rooting USC to a comfortable victory of Stanford, while Utah was able to handle Southern Utah 73 – 7.

Finally, before leaving for home, we took the requisite photo of the three Sparrow siblings.  You can see that we’ve hardly changed a bit!!

Sparrows in the 60s



Sparrows in the 70s







Sparrrows in the 80s

Sparrows in the 90s






Sparrows in the 00s

Sparrows with hats

Sparrows now








By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are at Labor Day.  I know that because I saw the Christmas decorations up at Target this week.  I wish that we could celebrate one holiday – heck, one season – at a time but I suppose there isn’t any money in that.  Still, as a former Human Resources professional, I do give some thought to Labor Day and its origins.  Our annual honoring of labor dates back to 1894, when Congress declared that the first Monday in September would be set aside as a “general holiday for the laboring classes”. I think they assumed that a day off once a year might compensate for low wages and deplorable working conditions.  When I searched for Labor Day photos, I found this one of the Women’s Typographical Union float.  Ironically, our dad was required to join the typographical union when he first went into the newspaper business.  Fifty years later, when he went to retire, the Typographical union bosses had “mis-invested” his 50 years of contributions.  I have not been a fan of Big Labor since then, but regardless, I have enjoyed having a day off at the end of summer.

I like to follow the trends in employment, not because I’m considering re-joining the workforce, but because I am fascinated by the dynamic between employees and the companies they work for.  In the 80’s the trend to become an entrepreneur was popular, albeit some pretty wacky ideas stemmed from people who tried to out-invent each other.  That led to the “intrapreneur” phase, where people tried to be entrepreneurs within a corporate structure.  Let’s just say that didn’t go well.  In the mid-1990’s Fast Company published Tom Peters’ The Brand Called You.  The article became the launching point for the “Me, Inc.” phenomenon, whereby employees were encouraged to develop a personal brand that they could use to advance their careers.  Michael Jordon posed for Inc Magazine as the poster child for personal branding.  I’m not sure anyone working for a big company achieved the pinnacle of branding Jordan did and the idea died within a couple of years.

Now we are in the era of either “quiet quitting” or “quiet firing”, depending on your vantage point.  Quiet quitting is the act of doing the absolute minimum required to hold on to a job.  These people used to be known as “slackers” – expert at getting others to do all the work.  Today it’s been elevated to an art form.  There are several threads on social media discussing tips on how to fool your employer into thinking you’ve actually accomplished something. No doubt the COVID pandemic and the resultant “work from home” wave made it far easier to fool a boss into thinking work was completed when in reality the only work completed was the laundry. Perhaps as a natual reaction to that, employers have started “quiet firing”, whereby they withhold information, give interesting assignments to just a handful of people, and don’t provide a pay raise for years.  They stay just this side of “constructive discharge” to avoid lawsuits.

Lost in all of this “quitting” is that the people who actually do a lot of the real work in this country don’t have the ability to quit while still on the job.  They are the checkers at the grocery store, the truck drivers, the construction workers and God knows, the medical professionals.  So, I suggest that on this Labor Day we honor the people who do all the work that is often unappreciated and let the people in the corporate “quitting” wars throw their tantrums until finally, on some sunny day in the future, they learn to simply be quiet.

North to Alaska – Part 3: The Final Days and Some Observations

by Bob Sparrow

Another ‘no-photo’ of Mt. Denali

After our seventh day at sea, not seeing whales, dolphins or sea lions, we pull into Whittier, which is the port for Anchorage, for our three days on land where we won’t see moose, but will see a bear and some eagles.  Actually, I enjoyed the land portion of our trip more than our time at sea.  The three days on land gave us a real sense of what Alaska is all about.  The cruise part visited three coastal ports, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway which are all fairly similar – tourist towns filled with bars and gift shops; and the rain in every port didn’t help! Perhaps being able to take the scenic train ride out of Skagway might have made a difference, but for now my YouTube train experience will have to do.

The two-day, 417-mile trip from Whittier to Fairbanks starts with a train ride to about the halfway point at McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.  From there we take a bus on a four-hour ‘wilderness tour’ that the driver/guide made really interesting and informative.  This is where we saw a bear fairly close up as well as several caribou and a few bald eagles.  We stopped along the way and had a native Athabaskan give us a lecture on all the plants that surrounded us and how each was used for a different medicinal purpose.  The next day we were on a bus through Denali National Park, staying at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.  That evening we went to a dinner with a show that describes the climbing of Mt. Denali in song – it was quite good.

Sled dog farm along the river

The next day we went on a riverboat, which was probably the highlight of the trip for me, as we stopped to visit a sled dog farm and heard from the trainer and watched a demonstration of the dogs pulling a sled on wheels – they are truly amazing dogs!! On land we stopped at an Athabaskan village where we heard a presentation about life amongst this native tribe – very interesting!

We then move on to Fairbanks and on our last night of the tour we are told that, if the clouds go away, the ‘Northern Lights’ would be visible around midnight, so we asked the front desk clerk to give us a call if they were visible . . . big surprise, no call.

Some observations

  • Princess ships are beautiful, the staff is gracious, the entertainment is great, but the quality of food, or lack thereof, will keep me from sailing on Princess again.
  • We discovered, too late, that in Alaska, August is considered ‘fall’ and the rainy season – we can definitely confirm that. I’d recommend traveling in late May to early June
  • In August the sun sets just before 10:00 pm, which for us meant that we got to actually see the rain until almost midnight
  • The highest mountain on the north American continent, Mt. McKinley, had its name changed to Mt. Denali in 2017, we

    We’re told this is what Mt. Denali looks like

    were hoping to catch a glimpse of it at some point, but we were to learn that only about 25-30% of people spending a week or two in Alaska, will see Mt. Denali. So here’s a photo, not taken by me, so we all can see what it really looks like.

  • I asked almost every one of our servers or workers that I came in contact with, where they came from and how long they’d been working in Alaska. People come from all over the world to work in Alaska for the summer, very few stay there through the winters, where temperatures can get to 60 to 70 below zero.
  • If you’re thinking about a similar trip to Alaska that we just did, I’d recommend doing it in reverse order – do the land portion first as I think it gives you a better sense of Alaska, then relax and do the cruise – preferably not on Princess, if you like food.

Some random photos

The bear we saw

The Pacellis, singer, Sarah Shelton, the Sparrows

Native Athabaskan dress

Iditarod dog in training

North to Alaska – Park 2: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

by Bob Sparrow

Beautiful Skagway, Alaska

Skagway when we arrived

Next stop is Skagway and from the ship it’s hard to tell Skagway from Juneau or Ketchikan as the accompanying photos would indicate.   There is no deep-water port next to Skagway, so we must anchor off-shore and take ‘tenders’ into port.  Unfortunately, it’s windy and rainy and the seas are too rough to run the tenders the morning we arrive.  We are concerned about getting ashore, as we have a very cool excursion planned on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, which was established during the 1890s Yukon Gold Rush – the scenery is said to be spectacular!

As we wait in the morning mist and rain, the wind finally dies down and we get word that the tenders are now running.  We are excited and among the first to get ferried ashore.  We find the train and are escorted to our car and as we’re reading the brochure on what an awesome adventure we’re about to go on, the conductor comes on board and tells us that there has been a rockslide up ahead that has covered the track and that there will be no tour today!   The Alaska gods seem to not be shinning on us this trip!  I later watched the train trip on YouTube – looks fun!  I’ll never know!!  We walk the main street of town and have lunch at the Red Onion, a bar that was formerly a brothel (I think every bar was a brothel back in the day), and head back to the ship.

Glacier Bay on a good day

Glacier Bay for us

Our next two days are at sea as we cruise in Glacier Bay and College Fjord, working our way north to Whittier, the coastal port for Anchorage.   In spite of the low cloud cover and rain, we do see a number of glaciers and in fact, see a couple of calvings.  I have to say that I wasn’t as impressed, as I thought I would be surrounded by white and looking up at massive glaciers.  Our ship put us at eye-level or above the glacier and the glaciers lost some of their majesty, perhaps because the mist and clouds covered the surrounding mountains, it seemed less grand.  As I read the history of Glacier Bay, I discovered that in the 1700s the whole bay used to be a glacier.  So, looking at the where the glacier was in certain years, made it a bit sad, as it’s gradually receding and will eventually be gone!

Mt. Denali

Mt. Denali is rumored to be there

Once in Whittier, we board a train and head to Denali National Park in hopes of seeing Mt. Denali.  If Mt. Denali sounds foreign to you, you may remember this mountain as Mt. McKinley.  It is the tallest mountain on the north American continent at 20,310 feet in altitude.  The name was changed by President Obama who asserted that the name should go back to its original Athabaskan name meaning ‘the great one’.  But none of the local refer to it as either Denali or McKinley, they just refer to it as ‘The Mountain’.   Of course, it was never visible to us at any point during our trip, as we find out that only about 25-30% of tourists get to see it, the rest of us see nothing but clouds.

Christmas in August

One of the first things we notice when we check into the Denali Wilderness Lodge is a Christmas tree in the foyer – fully decorated and other yule time trimmings around the hotel.  Those of you who have traveled to a National Park in August, know why the tree is there.  For those who haven’t, and previous to this, I was one of them, I’ll explain.

On August 24th, 1912, a sudden, unexpected snowstorm stranded a group of travelers in Yellowstone National Park. The travelers, making the best of the situation, decided to celebrate Christmas by singing carols and preparing a sumptuous Christmas feast. They enjoyed the celebration so much that a tradition was born.

Next time: North to Alaska Part 3: The Final Days and Some Alaska Dos and Don’ts

North to Alaska!

by Bob Sparrow

Part 1 – Nowadays Getting There is Not Half the Fun!

At a time when Covid is still dictating travel protocols, we chose to further complicate our cruise to Alaska by picking up our ship in Vancouver, Canada; thus making us enter a foreign country in order to get on a ship to sail to the United States!  So, we ran the risk of not only having to be Covid-free to enter Canada and Covid-free to re-enter the United States, but having to be Covid-free to get on board the ship.  Fortunately, the four of us, Bob & Jeannie Pacelli and Linda and I, studied diligently and passed all our requisite tests.

The travelers

We spent the night in Vancouver and had an easy 15-minute walk to the ship the next day.  It was a pleasant day, as it turned out one of the few days of our trip where rain was not a factor.  On board, we spend those first several hours exploring our magnificent ship, the Majestic Princess, with a capacity of 3,560 passengers.  Alaska is often referred to as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because it can get up to 22 hours of sunlight a day, however, as we were to learn, sometimes it gets no sun at all – like our first full day at sea – we got liquid sunshine, the kind for which this part of the world is known.  I’ve attached a photo from our first full day at sea that shows the visibility from our balcony – about 100 yards.  But we weren’t worried . . . yet; we had seven days on board and another three day of land tours, so we figured the clouds, fog and rain would eventually move along and we’d be able to take in those amazing views that matched all the photos in the brochure.  And besides, we had a whole ship to explore.

So, while sailing to our first stop, Ketchikan, we found lots of things to do, lots of shows, lots of interesting lectures, lots of games, both in the casino and out, and fortunately, lots of bars to ensure we got our money’s worth on our ‘unlimited drink package’ – a perk we thought we’d be denied based on our predilection for alcohol consumption on previous cruises!

Chamber of Commerce photo of Ketchikan

Ketchikan the day we arrived

We woke up on Sunday morning docked in Ketchikan, a town of 13,000 that can only be reached by sea or air, no roads coming in or out.  We schedule a morning tour of the city, which was quite interesting.  Our guide was a young lady who was a native Alaskan of the Tlingit tribe, she was born and raised in Ketchikan and did a great job of walking us through the small downtown area and explaining everything we saw from the totem poles to the brothels.  After our walk we stopped and had a beer at a local pub on the water and ran into the lead female singer from the show we saw on the boat the previous night.  She sat and had a couple of beers with us and was most delightful.  A mid-afternoon departure dictated that we get back on board early, so back on board we went and embarked for Juneau.

Juneau Chamber of Commerce photo

Juneau the day we arrived

‘Geared up’ for the Mendenhall float trip

We woke up Tuesday morning as we cruised into downtown Juneau.  We did a quick walk through town, to make sure we could locate the famous ‘Red Dog Saloon’ for a cold one after our day at Mendenhall Glacier.  We signed up for the Mendenhall Glacier float trip – assuming that we were going to ‘float’ up to, or at least in the vicinity of, Mendenhall Glacier.  Not so fast, we did, indeed, see Mendenhall Glacier across Mendenhall Lake, but we were then told to ‘gear up’ and get in our raft.  ‘Gearing up’ included putting on rain pants, rain boots, rain jacket, life preserver and getting in a rubber raft for 12 and float on Mendenhall Lake, AWAY from the Mendenhall Glacier to Mendenhall River and shoot the rapid (more of a float than a shoot) taking us further away from the Mendenhall Glacier.  The float trip lasted for 15 hours . . . or so it seemed, while we froze our Mendenhall’s off.  Travel tip: Don’t do the Mendenhall Glacier Float trip.

When we were mercifully finished, we went back into town and hit the ‘Red Dog Saloon’ and the ‘Lucky Lady’ Irish Pub, trying to wash the taste of that float ride from our minds.  Thankfully we find that a few cocktails have us laughing at our river rafting experience.  The only mediocre show in the ship’s theater we’ve seen, caps off our day to forget.

Next time: Part 2 – And the Hits Just Keep on Coming!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dr. Chapman – Bob’s mentor

Ten years ago, Bob and I changed the format of this blog from a poem-inspired take on the news to its current form of writing a narrative about anything that strikes our fancy.  Some columns have been better than others, but to our credit, in those ten years we have posted something every Monday morning without fail.  We both were inspired and encouraged to write by very good teachers. So, besides our genes and love for college football, we share one other trait: we both love to write.  I say that with some trepidation as one of my favorite writers, Fran Lebowitz, once said, “Anyone who says they love to write is generally not very good at it.”

Bob and I will occasionally have conversations about books and authors that we love.  One author we both admired was Pat Conroy.  We waited anxiously for each new book he wrote and then discussed how it compared to his previous tomes.  From The Water is Wide, to The Great Santini, from The Prince of Tides to Beach Music, Conroy took us on a voyage, sometimes wrenching, but always exquisitely written.  We were devasted when he died in 2016 at age 70 from pancreatic cancer.  No one since has been able to match his ability to take readers on a painful journey, yet enjoy the ride.

This week we lost another of my literary heroes, David McCullough.  If you are a history fan you may have read his best-selling biographies of Truman and John Adams.  But McCullough was more than a presidential historian; he had a wide-ranging scope of interest that led him to write about topics as varied as the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge.  For those of you who have never read one of his books (really, you need to put that on your bucket list), you may be familiar with his baritone voice narrating Ken Burn’s documentary, The Civil War, the PBS show The American Experience, or the movie, Seabiscuit. McCullough had a unique ability to ferret out interesting stories of previously unknown people and weave them into the type of book that is hard to put down.  He made American history both exciting and interesting.

I loved every one of his books, but I was also intrigued his typewriter and writing shed.  McCullough wrote all of his books on a 1941 Royal Standard typewriter, which he bought second-hand for $25 in 1964.  He thought it was quite an investment at the time but surmised that if he was going to be in the business of writing he needed to have good equipment at home.  He continued to use it for all of his books, long after computers made writing, and re-writing, faster. When asked why he didn’t make the switch to more modern technology he said, “I love putting paper in. I love the way the keys come up and actually print the letters. I love it when I swing that carriage and the bell rings like an old trolley car. I love the feeling of making something with my hands. People tell me if I used a computer, I could go so much faster. Well, I don’t want to go faster. If anything, I should go slower. I don’t think all that fast.”

McCullough’s writing shed, which he referred to as “the bookshop”, might be the envy of anyone who writes, crafts, or simply wants to spend time alone.  It measures eight-by-10 feet. There is no telephone or running water.  Its walls are lined with more than 1,000 books, and the only furniture is a desk, a comfortable chair, and a lamp.  He often said, “Nothing good was ever written in a large room.” McCullough started writing in the shed when his children were young because he didn’t want them to have to tip-toe around the house when he was writing.  Each morning he repaired to the shed for peace and quiet and from that tiny enclave, some of the best chronicling of American history was crafted.

I will miss the anticipation of a new McCullough book, just as I have mourned the loss of any further works from Conroy.  A counterpoint to Ms. Lebowitz, they both loved writing and were thrilled that they attracted a large legion of followers.  How lucky we are that such writers engaged us with stories of fact and fiction. We will not see the likes of them again.

In Memorial – Namaste!

by Bob Sparrow

Patrick’s Memorial Hike

A week ago Sunday I had the pleasure of going on a ‘Memoria Hike’ for our dearly departed friend, Patrick Michael.  It was his birthday and he had passed a year ago April at 62; he is still missed every day, not just by his family, but by our entire neighborhood and a whole host of friends and co-workers.  The hike took place at Peter’s Canyon in Orange and was attended by 20+ neighbors and family, and several dogs!

Like I’m sure most of his friends think, my relationship with Patrick was special – he always had time for everyone, could make or fix anything, although sometimes it cost him a finger or two, lost via his table saw, and he always had a great attitude and a good sense of humor – especially the ability to laugh at himself.

Whitney hikers

After moving into the neighborhood, for years I didn’t really get to know him, or rather knew him as the guy who sang “There once was a man from Nantucket” on a co-ed party bus during the holidays.   At another neighborhood holiday party in 2007, Patrick told us that he had just returned from climbing Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States at 14,505 feet.  This intrigued several of us at the party, so we asked him if he was interested in helping us train and lead another assent of Whitney.  He, of course, agreed – and thus was born, The Trail Boss.

He trained us on local mountains, climbing Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) many times and Mt. San Jacinto out in the desert.  By June 2008 we were ready.

The night before our hike, we camped at Whitney Portal (altitude around 8,400 feet) at the trailhead to Whitney to get acclimated to the altitude. The next day about two-thirds of the way to the summit, one of our hikers, who is diabetic, could go no further due to a blood-sugar imbalanced, typical of Patrick, rather than continue the hike to the summit, he turned around to accompany the hiker back down the mountain, while the rest of us continued on.

Half Dome cables to the top

Me, Kirin, Dom, Patrick in Nepal

Patrick had reintroduced me to hiking and I loved it, so I wanted to do more.  We planned to hike Yosemite’s Half Dome, but the first time we tried, the cables that get you to the very top of the dome, were down, so our hike ended at the base of the final assent.  In 2012, we returned, and with the cables up, we were able to reach the top and take in that spectacular view. After hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and neighboring Ladder’s Canyon, in 2013, Linda had given me a 70th birthday present of a hike in the Himalayas in Nepal (I checked to see if it was a one-way ticket!)  The trip was for two and she thought that my brother, Jack would accompany me, but he was not really into hiking, so my obvious choice was to ask Patrick – I did and he happily agreed.  So, in June of 2014 I enjoyed my favorite hike of all time with one of my best friends of all time.  On that 12-day journey, Patrick and I enjoyed the people and the culture of the Himalayas and shared many amazing experiences.  It’s where we learned the meaning of the original Sanskrit greeting, Namaste – “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”  As a reminder of Patrick, a Namaste plaque and Buddhist prayer flags from Kathmandu, hang in my patio. As an aside, I still stay in contact with, Dom Tamang, our Nepalese guide for that hike.

A year later, Patrick and I, and a childhood friend of Patrick and the friend’s son, did a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to

Patrick at my mirror

Machu Picchu – another spectacular experience that Patrick’s enthusiasm and curiosity made even more special.

After returning from Machu Picchu, we discussed where our ‘next big hike’ should be; I suggested Kilimanjaro, which Patrick, for whatever reasons, wasn’t too keen on initially, but some time later he came to me and said, “Let’s do Kilimanjaro”.  Unfortunately, that box will remain unchecked.

I keep the program from Patrick’s memorial service next to my bathroom mirror, so I see him every morning and am reminded of three things, 1) I was fortunate to have Patrick in my life, 2) I should strive to be more like him, and 3) no one is guaranteed tomorrow – live life to the fullest.








By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

              Torreon Golf Course

Twenty years ago, my husband and I ventured up to Show Low, Arizona, to play golf at the Torreon golf club.  We made the three-hour trip up and back in the same day.  I think we were younger then.  Since that trip, our summer vacations have entailed long car rides with overnight stays in roadside hotels.  The allure of those trips has faded, right along with my arthritic back, so this year we decided to plan for at least one of our summer trips to be closer to home. We were enticed by the idea of finding a summer getaway that was quick and easy. We remembered Torreon and, as luck would have it, I was able to secure a cute house for rent on Airbnb that was right in the heart of the community.  Only after I had rented it did I learn that Torreon had been bought out by the membership and outside play was no longer allowed.  I asked the pro at our club if he could wrangle a reciprocal tee time for us, but after he stopped laughing, he reminded me that summer is their “high season”.

       Our Little House in the Pines

Undaunted by the prospect of not being able to play bad golf, we decided instead we would use this trip to explore the area.  We were hopeful that if we liked it, Show Low might become our “go to” vacation spot.  Easy drive, no overnight stays, and a twenty degree drop in temperature from Scottsdale.  So off we went, Dash the Wonder Dog in tow, for a week of rest, relaxation and exploration.  The house was as advertised – clean, cute and nestled in the pines.  What they had not made clear was that they had no cable or satellite television hook-up.  So, no live tv, including news or, more critically, sports.  We could log into apps to get clips of events, which was better than nothing, but not ideal.  You may be wondering why no live television was such a big deal, when the purpose of our trip was to explore the area. Well, there were two good reasons.

         Downtown Tahoe city

First, the town of Show Low was a bit of a disappointment.  I grew up spending summer weekends in Tahoe City, where we strolled the main street, enjoying the cute shops and restaurants.  As an adult, my husband and I have spent time almost every summer in Mammoth Lakes and Sun Valley.  Again, quaint mountain towns with charm that provide an escape from big city living.  Show Low, on the other hand, was like visiting a suburb of Phoenix.  Every big box store imaginable is there – Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS – as well as a plethora of car dealerships. The main street in town is Highway 60, so there were no nice sidewalks to amble down.  Instead, it was a series of strip centers followed by one of those ubiquitous “big” stores.  The number one rated restaurant in town is Cattlemen’s, which is fine if you’re into eating half a cow “with all the fixin’s”.  My husband also observed that some of the people we saw could possibly be distilling their own liquor.


Absent any charm in Show Low, we ventured 20 minutes down the road to Pinetop-Lakeside.  Both my niece and a good friend had recommended the town, and they were right.  It had much more charm that Show Low, some good hiking trails and a semi-private golf course that looked beautifully kept.  However, even Pinetop has suffered the effects of the economic downturn – there were many closed stores and restaurants in town.  We would have spent more time checking out some of the lakes and trails except for the second factor that interfered with our vacation: the weather.  The temperatures hovered near 90 degrees; a full 10 degrees hotter than normal for July.  At an altitude of over 6300′, the sun felt like it was four feet away.  Hiking mid-day was out of the question.  More importantly, the combination of altitude and heat proved to be too much for Dash.  He paced and panted, without relief.  We spent as much time as possible indoors (thus the need for some television entertainment) but finally, when the temperature was forecasted to reach 95 degrees, we gave up the ghost on Wednesday and went home.

The old adage is true, there is no place like home.  Dash was instantly better when he was returned to his air-conditioned surroundings and his cooling mat with a fan blowing on him.  My husband had the golf and hockey channels to watch, and I resumed cleaning out closets and watching Brit Box dramas.  Fortunately, the weather at home has been below normal, so we can even venture out for walks every morning and could sit outside in the evenings. It was good to get away for a few days, but sadly, our quest to find a nearby summer escape continues.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

by Bob Sparrow

Sagers, Budds, VanBoxmeers, Sparrows

The sky was deep blue and the air was clean and thin, very thin – the mountains, still with some snow on their peaks, rose up beautifully before us.  I knew I wasn’t in Kansas or even in southern California anymore – it wasn’t air I could get my teeth into.  I was in the ski mecca of the mountain west, Park City, Utah.  But this time of year, the hills are not covered with “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, but rather we see green ski runs cut out of the mountains, with lift chairs spanning over them, and cutting through stands of pine, fir and quaking aspen.  Summer is indeed a great time of year to visit this magnificent place.

Canyons Golf driving range

The gift of a timeshare week brought the Budds, Sagers, VanBoxmeers and us to this home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which has done nothing but grow since then.  Our main activity, other than eating and drinking, was playing golf – some good and some bad, both score-wise and course-wise.  We played four rounds of golf; we tried to get on a few private courses, but they must have been forewarned about our golf acumen, so all our rounds were on public courses.  Three of them were south of Park City in the Heber–Midway area, the best of which was Homestead, a good course that they say new ownership is going to make great!  The one I would not recommend is next to Olympic Village in Park City called Canyons Golf.  I see online that it got a 4 out of 5 rating, but trust me, all this course needed was a windmill and a couple of clowns’ mouths to putt into to make it a completely hideous experience.  There was one hole with a 250 yard drop in elevation from tee to green.  The gas, instead of electric, golf carts made it extra special.  See the photo of their driving range – we should have known before we started that this wasn’t going to be Pebble Beach.

Grappa Restaurant

So, my first ‘Don’t’ travel tip is don’t play Canyons Golf.  My second tip might be regarding Park City’s most famous restaurant, Grappa.  The setting is beautiful, an interesting building at the top of Main Street, with lots of deck space for outside dining, which is gorgeous on a summer’s evening . . .HOWEVER, high-priced food is one thing, over-priced, very average food is quite another, and that’s what we got.  So, nice setting, good service, but very average good for a very premium price.  Let’s move on to something more positive.

If you come to this area, I would highly recommend a visit to the Stein Erikson Lodge, which is just over the hill from Park City in Deer Valley.  Stein Erikson was a champion skier and Olympic gold medal winner from Norway, who moved to Park City and built the lodge in 1982 – it earned the prestigious Forbes Five-Star rating and has maintained this rating ever since and is still Utah’s only resort property to have a Forbes Five-Star status.

Alpenglobes on deck of Stein Erikson Lodge

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying there, as it is fairly pricey – regular rooms start around $700 a night and goes steeply up from there.  But we just went to look at the facility to see how the ‘rich people’ live – they live very nicely!  We did have a drink on the lodge deck imagining ourselves on a snowy winter evening in one of those ‘bubble tables’ that rotates and keeps you warm while sitting on the deck during snow season – I was to learn later that they are called Alpenglobes.

The other highlight for me was to visit my, and son Jeff’s, college alma mater in Salt Lake City, Westminster College – the campus was quiet, as it was a summer Sunday, but still looked magnificent.  The tour for the rest of the group was not quite as thrilling I’m sure, but they were able to see the brick at the Alumni House that shows the seal for the college that I created.  OK, it wasn’t just me; in my senior year I needed a couple of units in the arts, so I took an art class.  The college board had just come to the art teacher and asked if he could have his students create a new crest for the school.  Two nights before the assignment was due, I invited my football teammate and center, Bruce Takeno to the local pub, The Sugarbowl, to help me create something to turn in.  With the help of a few beers and the lions on the Coors beer bottles, we scratch something out on a bar napkin.  When we had a rough draft, Bruce, who had much greater artistic skills than I, and lived in Salt Lake, said that he would take it home and ‘make it pretty’.  What he handed me the next morning, slightly resembled what was on the napkin, but done

Westminster College crest

My old college girlfriend was still there!

in oil paint on stretched canvas – it looked spectacular!  I turned it in, and the school board voted it the winner.  I did confess to my art teacher that while I contributed to the overall design, Bruce was the artist in the group.  I passed the class!  It has since been replaced.

Another highlight was just walking Main Street in Park City – it is filled with gift shops, bars, restaurants and . . . more gift shops, bars and restaurants!  Great location, great friends, clean air, great trip!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

               It looks so innocent

The summer doldrums are in full effect here in Arizona.  With temperatures soaring well over 100 and the nightly lows in the mid-80’s, it’s an optimal time to be indoors.  Apparently, it is also the perfect time for our smoke detectors to set off in the middle of the night.  We are no strangers to problems with smoke detectors – they seem to have an almost human-like sense for the most annoying time to go off.  Kind of like the neighbor who blares heavy metal music on the very night you retired early to read a good book.  Last year we replaced all of our smoke detectors and inserted long-lasting batteries.  We were under the naive illusion that we would be spared any problems for the next ten years, by which time we would either be dead or have moved.  Not so fast.

                  Sadly accurate

I’ve had plenty of experience with chirping smoke detectors.  As a new homeowner, I once thought the chirping was a sign that fire was imminent, so I grabbed the dog and ran outdoors in my nightgown, sure that I had evaded a fiery demise.  The neighbors got a good laugh out of that one.  I have also set the smoke detectors off numerous times while attempting to cook dinner.  Most of the time it was simply my inept frying skills or a forgotten pot of soup that set off the alarm, although once I actually did set fire to the oven while cooking a roast.  As the fire trucks rolled up to my house the neighbors got a kick out of that one too.  In our current house the smoke detector in our living room went off one August night.  The problem is it is a 16-foot ceiling, and we don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach it.  Long story short, we ended up calling the non-emergency line at the fire department and three hunky firemen came to fix it.  I thought the response was so gracious (and they were so cute) that I’ve tried to think of reasons to call them back ever since.  Eventually we ended up taking the battery out of that unit, which I later discovered, has rendered it useless.

In any event, our latest foray into the vagaries of smoke detectors has been the smoke detector in our master bedroom (naturally) that has not just chirped but sounded the alarm several times over the past few weeks.  Not a constant blaring, just one scream. Enough to give you cardiac arrest at 2 a.m. in the morning.  Since the unit is only a year old, I knew it didn’t need to be replaced.  The green light was going on and off every two seconds, which I learned means it needs to be reset.  So up on the ladder we went, disconnected the unit, pressed the test button for 20 seconds, and then reinstalled it. Done and dusted!

But it got me to wondering WHY they always go off in the middle of the night.  I did some research with the smoke detector company, and here is what I learned.  The chirping is caused by the relationship between the battery’s charge level and a home’s air temperature.  As a smoke alarm’s battery nears the end of its life, the amount of power it produces causes an internal resistance. A drop in room temperature increases this resistance, which may impact the battery’s ability to deliver the power necessary to operate the unit in an alarm situation. Most homes are the coolest between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. That’s why the alarm may sound a low-battery chirp in the middle of the night, and then stop when the home warms up a few degrees.

Okay – whatever you say.  But in Scottsdale, where the A/C is running at a constant temperature day and night in the summer, I’m not buying it.  This week, a unit on the other side of the house has started chirping periodically – like every 10 hours or so. Always in the middle of the night. I still say there are gremlins built into every unit, intent on ruining a good night’s sleep and triggering anxiety with every “chirp”.  At this point I feel a bit like Bill Murray and the gopher.  Explosives may be my only option.