Friday, November 28, 2008

Day Seven: The Beginning of Emotional Scarring

Dory On the Colorado

As I walked down the path to Phantom Ranch, which is actually set up a side canyon a little ways from the river, I was mulling over the things I wanted to do. I wanted to get a bottle of sunscreen to protect my feet which had already been burnt badly the previous day when I ran out of the little I had brought (I would carry white strips where my sandal straps crossed my feet for almost a year before they matched the rest of my skin.) and send off a few postcards which were taken out of the canyon by mule train. But the well-worn paths smelling of donkey piss were distracting my thoughts and not helping the foul mood that I would be experiencing later.

Phantom Ranch was originally a Native American trading site that was later used by prospectors of the river canyons. Theodore Roosevelt visited it while hunting and loved it so much that he worked to get it included in the national park system during his tenure in office. It has since been made into a resort of sorts that is mostly fully booked for two years in advance. There is a little cafeteria that serves only meals that has been scheduled in advance and a little shop that sells things to tourists. After seven days of being disconnected from society in almost every way, I entered the latter with high thoughts.

Almost instantly I was overwhelmed. The frigid air from an air conditioner smelled terrible stale and put my body into shock. Shivering, I bought a small tube of sunscreen for the princely sum of almost $15 because I didn't have a choice and a few postcards. I sat down at a table to write some words of humor to friends and family but couldn't shake the dry, canned, almost sterile feeling of the environment. Some piped in music over the speaker system seemed garishly loud and obnoxious as if boring through my head with a dull drill bit. Reality started slipping and everyone, everywhere were laughing and screaming like circus clowns in a horror movie with a bad plot. Suddenly I felt sick and claustrophobic, so much so that my head started reeling making me feel very dizzy and light-headed. I quickly wrote a few words, jammed the postcards into the mailbox and staggered out of the building, down the foul smelling trail now making me gag, and back to the boats along the river. There I sat in the shade of a tamarisk bush allowing the cold sweats to dissipate and my reeling senses to stabilize as I spent the rest of the morning hiding from civilization and drawing in my journal.

Globemallow

It has only been seven days on the river and it now felt like seven years. Suddenly I didn't want to go back from the world I had come from. It was a world full of artificial and unnatural things and this week, I had my eyes opened to what life was truly like and should be. As I sat there doodling a drawing of Bronco's boat, The Phantom Ranch, I realized just how appropriately it had been named. It wasn't a geographical feature now buried under miles of water like the names of the other boats but it had been destroyed just the same. For me, Phantom Ranch was something evil and foul and a place that I hope never to visit ever again. As I sat eating my lunch a little later, Bronco came by and sensed that I was not well. He asked if I was okay and I told him some of what I was feeling. I could see the understanding in his eyes and knew he felt it as well. He said it never gets any easier, got his lunch and wandered off down the beach to eat his lunch alone and away from Phantom Ranch.

Eventually the other passengers wandered down to the boats and the four new people who hiked down from the south rim this morning also showed up. They were given a brief lecture on the dos and don'ts of dories and promised a longer session in tonight’s camp. We said goodbye to the three who were to spend the night here and hike out the next morning and went on our way.

The three who had left were all people who had been on other segments of the dory trip and had come back to finish what they had started. I knew this and couldn't blame them. However I couldn't help but think vile thoughts towards them and the four newcomers. I felt the leaving three were breaking a bond that had grown to such strength in seven days one that only intense close proximity experiences that few share could create. They were leaving a huge void, one that necessarily had to be filled for financial reasons and some safety as a heavy dory deals with huge waves better than a light one. They felt almost like traitors in my mind for putting us in this position.

As we "met" the four new people, I could tell by the morose attitudes of clients and crew alike (though the latter handled it much more privately and professionally), I wasn't the only one thinking vile thoughts. These newcomers felt like intruding strangers into a world that we had created and grown close over the course of seven days. They were here for only the middle segment and then would be gone very much like a corporate raider after acquisition of some new company. They were rookies. They got into Bronco's boat and we set off downstream.

This trip has changed me in such a drastic way in only seven days and would do so to such an extent by the end of the trip that it would take a few years before I realized the full extent of my emotional turmoil. I've heard of survivors who were forced to survive great lengths of time alone have problems re-entering society and for the first time in my life, I knew exactly how they felt. Looking back, I know we were pretty hard on the newcomers those first few days after Phantom Ranch and undeservedly so. We somewhat ignored them treating them like the outsiders they were and they for the most part sensing our foul moods, rode together in a boat together so that we only had to be around them while in camp. Reading back through my journal entries of over eight years ago, I understand this now though at the time I blamed them in various ways throughout my journal entries for the remainder of the trip. Perhaps you will pick that up in some of my entries that I will post later. Gradually however, they earned their way into our group and by the time they left at the end of the second segment, I knew I would miss them. But an emotional knot in my stomach kept growing that peaked at the end of the trip and has never gone away.

Dogweed & Black Schist

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Seven: Big Water and a Small Camp

Looking Back At Group at the Saddle

Wednesday, April 12, 2000 - The sky was clear when I got down to the beach except for a few clouds off above the north rim. It was a chilly night last night even in my sleeping bag and no tent and I had to put on another layer during the night. The sun just started peeking over the rim and taking the chill out of the air when a breakfast of melon slices and good old-fashioned oatmeal was served. Today was a big day as we were stopping at the first spot of civilization since we began the trip seven days ago, Phantom Ranch. We were dropping off Mike, Betsy and John and picking up four more passengers so we packed sack lunches so that we could do our own thing there.

We pushed off and soon ran Unkar Creek Rapids that had a monster hole along the rock wall that we fortunately avoided. At Hance Rapids, we got out and scouted it first but had a clean run. The next rapid was Sockdolager Rapids and had huge waves. I decided to take a series of shots as we boated the rapids using my waterproof camera and succeeded in taking a few in the upper part. That all came to an end when a fifteen foot wave hit us and swept clear over the boat filling it to the brim with icy cold water. Between throwing myself to the high side to prevent capsizing and bailing, I didn't have time for any more photos. Grapevine Rapids also had huge waves but we ran them cleanly as well. Finally after a few more good rapids, we pulled into Phantom Ranch. That is a story in itself and I will post it in my next post of this trip.

We went through Horn Creek Rapids that had the biggest waves we've seen so far when the river dropped 30 feet in about 100 feet. As a kayaker and canoer, almost every rapid had what I considered runnable via cheat routes usually near the inside of bends where shallower smaller water existed. Even serious rapids like Crystal and Lava Falls could be run without portaging by a weekend whitewater paddler like myself. Horn Creek Rapids was a different story. It was pinched off on both sides of the river into a narrow slot opening. The waves were horrendously big and gnarly looking. If someday I do paddle the Colorado on my own, I will definitely portage this one on the boulder fields on either side. Duffy, the son of Ote, was paddling my boat today and he did a masterful job of running the rapids, so much so, we hardly even got wet.

Above Unkar Rapids

After Hance Rapids, the rocks changed to pink granite and black schist and narrowed the canyon down considerably. The walls were pretty much sheer right down to the water's edge with no place to land. Powell would have to be scared to death entering this part of the river sign unseen. After pushing off with the four new strangers, we went only about four miles before pulling in for the night at Mile 91-1/2. The adrenaline rush from Horn Creek Rapids was still in full swing when we landed at our fairly small camp, which made it seem even smaller as we unloaded the boats and marked off our turf in the cramped quarters.

There was no organized hike due to geology constraints so I took off up ninety-one mile creek behind camp and took the left fork. I climbed up about 1500 feet to the base of the Tapeats layer where I finally was rim-rocked. The hike was extremely steep and the top third was all loose rocks. I fell a couple of times and banged up my legs pretty good so that I was bleeding in a couple places. In hind site, it was probably very stupid and very unsafe but I had to get away from the cramped quarters of camp and this was my only option. I sat up there tending my wounds and saw my first American Condor flying plus two more around over camp way below me.

Back in camp I dabbed Neosporin into my wounds and ate a spaghetti dinner complete with garlic bread and a green salad. After dinner everyone turned in right away. I stayed up with Nick, Bronco and one of the new guys a retired dentist named Bob. Soon however it was just myself and Bronco and I learned that he actually did a recreation of Powell's journey for a PBS special (which I later saw after the trip) in costume and special made boats. We talked about that until late into the night.

For the first time, we have crickets in camp, which seem obnoxiously loud in the confines of camp and a couple of loudly croaking frogs. The stars are very bright as is the moon and they make for really neat shadows on the cliffs of black schist. That and the close confines lend a real air of spookiness to our camp. It is supposed to be a big water day tomorrow and I feel a sense of dread that the boat with the unseasoned passengers might get upset in a rapids. I hope I'm not in that boat.

Above 91 Mile Camp

Monday, November 24, 2008

Angry Wind: A Book Review


Since 9/11 and what I saw as the current occupant's gross misinterpretation of the Muslim world which manifests into hate mongering by the neo-conservative side of politics to this day, I have wanted to learn more about their culture. Jeffrey Taylor's book on boating down a river in Siberia brought his name to my eye and another book of his entitle Angry Wind soon was added to my bookshelf.

Angry Wind is a chronicle of a two month trip across the Sahel region of Africa through the countries of Chad, Niger, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. These countries encompass some of the most destitute countries in Africa and in the post 9/11 world of 2003, still before the United States invaded Iraq, attitudes towards the United States were poor at best. Jeff Taylor's expertise is studying cultures in his travels and he wanted to see for himself the conflict between Christians and Muslims and Muslim attitudes towards the United States which at the time appeared to be heading towards another war in Iraq. He accomplished both goals.

Taylor is fluent in Russian, French and Arabic along with English an thus has the tools to undergo such a trip yet he struggles along the way dealing with multitudes of corrupt officials and thieving citizens of both faiths. Yet always he seems to find good Samaritans along the way to help guide him through the country via local transportation consisting of trucks, boats, trains and camels and look out for his welfare

This is the second book of his I have read and it has convinced me that I need to read more. I have another one on my shelf but for now it will remain so. My next book is the beginning of a goal that I have had for many years. I am attempting to read a biography on each of our presidents beginning with George Washington and working my way to Obama. I figure by the time I get to him, I will have several biographies to choose from. For Washington, I chose a 500 plus page tomb written by Willard Sterne Randall. I will give a report on it when I finish sometime next year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Customer Experience Story. But One of the Better Kind.

We've been getting two daily newspapers for several years now. One is the local rag that we use for around town news and events that we may be interested in such as local auctions, house showings, cultural events, etc. The second newspaper was the state rag that I used more for national and statewide news. However, since we are so far out in the boondocks of rural Iowa, the national news that reached us was a couple days old and in the age of modern updates via email and the web, it was getting to be irrelevant. So after talking about it and doing our part to cut back on expenses some just in case this economic crisis gets way more serious than they believe, we decided to axe our state rag subscription though not completely. The Sunday paper usually consists of the highlights from the past week and goes more in depth about the events than the daily print, short on space, ever could. Plus our local rag only delivers on the weekdays and the Sunday paper would fill that gap.

So I called up the state rag circulation department and after wading through ten minutes of voice actuated menus so everyone in the office thought I was talking to myself and possibly clinically insane, I got through to an extremely accented voice which with large amounts of interpretation sounded like he was asking me to hold. I said okay and there was a click. I covered the mouthpiece and leaned over so I could see my neighbor in the office across the way and said something like "Yes! I got someone who can't speak English!"

A few seconds later the heavily accented voice comes back on the line though suddenly the voice was a lot more intelligible as he said, "I assure you sure that I can speak English perfectly well, may I have your account number?"

I very nearly hung up right then thinking that now that I had insulted the guy, my chances of good service were now somewhere between "no way" and "hell freezing over." But I didn't. I gave him my account number and within 30 seconds, he said he would take care of my subscription, canceling the weekday and adding the balance to the Sunday paper only service effective at the end of the week. He bid me a good day.

The end of the week came and an entire other week went by and still the daily newspaper showed up somewhere on my lawn. On a side note, I always have to go through a several week battle when ever a new carrier starts our route to train him that somewhere on my lawn, roof, snow drift, street or flowerbed are not acceptable delivery spots and that I prefer it somewhere on my expansive front desk that even a paraplegic could hit from the street while wheel chairing by at 50 miles per hour. We evidently had a new carrier and for the last month, I couldn't get my paper in the dark before going to work simply because I couldn't find it and had to wait until I got home to see where he had tossed it this time. This also played a part in the timing of why we decided to finally cancel the daily paper. On another side note, we've never had a problem with the Sunday paper simply because it is too heavy to throw from the street.

So side notes aside, I called the newspaper circulation desk again just to make sure the accented guy from my previous call hadn't decided to just screw me over due to my rudeness even if it was the truth. He hadn't and the lady assured me that she would take care of the problems.

Another week goes by with a newspaper and another phone call.
Another week goes by with a newspaper and another phone call.
Another week goes by with a newspaper and another phone call.

No those weren't typos. Four and a half weeks after I called and cancelled my paper immediately, I kept finding papers here and there on my lawn, soggy with rain, buried under the leaves that hadn't already blown down the street and generally giving my house an unkept appearance. I was beginning to wonder what a guy had to do to stop the newspaper carrier from delivering a paper. Then this past Monday afternoon after I got home from work, there was no newspaper. I assumed I had missed it on the roof or the flowerbed but by yesterday, it was still absent. Now if I just continue to get the Sunday paper, I will be happy.

But my story, long as it is already, doesn't end there. For some unexplained reason, my local rag that gets delivered by a nice girl about 4:30 every afternoon while I am at home, kept getting delivered but the previous days edition would also be waiting for me when I got home. Who delivered this and why? I don't know. Concerned that someone was delivering the wrong route and because I just got through canceling the state rag which was already a day late in the news, I didn't need a local rag a day late in the news either especially when I had read it the night before. So I called up the office and explained the situation. They said they would look into it and figure it all out. I know they will be more prompt since I work with the husband of the circulation department and thus know the lady of the circulation department quite well. What a bizarre world.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day Six: Another Day In Paradise

Confluence of the Rivers

The clouds of yesterday's late afternoon shower cleared out during the night and it dawned a beautiful day. However, it was a bit chilly when I woke up and for the first time since the start of the trip, I had to put on my jacket before packing up and walking down to the kitchen. Cooks Mary and Heidi were already heating up water so by the time I arrived, a steaming mug of hot cocoa was waiting for me. Life just doesn't get any better. Unless perhaps you have a few slices of perfectly ripened melons to munch on before a breakfast of French toast and sausage, which I did.

We struck camp and I rode in Elaina's boat for the day. We made good time even stopping once to scout out the massive Kwagunt Rapids before pulling in at the junction of the Colorado River with the Little Colorado River. The Colorado River is a beautiful emerald green in color and the Little Colorado laden with potassium carbonate is an extremely brilliant blue. Where they joined was a myriad of colors and breathtakingly beautiful. As we hiked up the Little Colorado to a little rapids about three fourths of a mile away, I had to scramble to keep up while stopping to take several rolls of pictures.

The day was warming up considerably so we put on our life jackets diaper like to protect our tailbones from rocks and floated through the rapids in train style where the person in front held onto your ankles and you held onto the ankles of the person behind you. It helped ensure that nobody got caught in a recirculating eddy at the bottom of the several small falls we went over. It was a lot of fun and we went over in various train combinations until we were all exhausted.
Confluence of the Rivers


Back at the confluence of both rivers, we ate a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches, potato chips and pecan cookies. During meals, I usually single out somebody to get to know them better and learn about them. Today I talked with assistant cook Mary who turns out is the same age as I am. She lives up in Haines, Alaska that sounds beautiful but not someplace I could ever live. Living with several months of twilight and conversely several months of no darkness just doesn't sound appealing, especially the former.

After lunch, we hit the river and a couple big rapids, namely Lava Canyon Rapids and Tanner Canyon Rapids. Rapids in the Grand Canyon are very easy to locate with any topo map. All you have to do is look for where a side canyon enters the canyon proper and there is bound to be rapids. This is because rocks washed down from the side canyon during torrential flooding accumulate in the main canyon constricting the river and thus forming a rapid. Sometimes two side canyons on opposite sides of the canyon proper meet at the same place and usually that signals even bigger rapids than normal.

We pulled in early at mile 71 near Cardenas Creek. It is a nice camp with tons of individual camping among the tamarisk but was very hot. Today we passed a big fault and the constricting confines of Marble Canyon are now behind us and the wider more open canyon that many people associate with the name Grand Canyon have begun. If the fault weren't indication enough of this, the sudden appearance of hikers along the shore is another indication. We saw quite a few during today's float, another animal I can add to my "spotted" list.

After camp was set up, we set out on a short hike up to some Anasazi ruins. These ruins are theorized to be part of a lookout system of towers set up as an early warning device for unexpected visitors. From these ruins, you can see up to both sides of the canyon and ruins located there including the famous Desert View ruins on the South Rim. I think the Tartan Trail from there to the river was the one that I hiked down so many years ago.

The rest of the group seemed content to just sit up by the ruins so Jorge and I hiked further up the nose about two or three miles to an incredibly exposed and beautiful lookout further up the canyon walls. I took quite a few pictures of flowers on the way back and we took several "imminent death" pictures of us sitting on an exposed overhanging ledge. When we got back to the saddle where the first ruins were situated, we ran into Bronco and Elaina who stayed behind when everyone else headed back to camp. We stayed and talked for a while before heading back to camp with them.

There waiting for us was some cheese and crackers that I enjoyed on the beach while watching the sun go down. I still can't get used to watching the sun go down so early due to the high horizon line of cliffs and having so much time to kill before it is even close to bedtime. For supper, we had grilled chicken quarters, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and cornbread. Because it was Don's birthday, we also had a carrot cake for dessert. After supper, everyone but Bronco, Nick and I went right to bed. The three of us sat up for a while talking about how they got started in the boating business and various hikes they had done in central Idaho. I likewise filled them in on the Wind River Mountains and Ozark Mountains, which I was familiar with. Their lifestyle is so appealing to me that I would love to give it a try sometime if only for a few months. Right now, my life back in Minnesota seems so distant and in the past.
Anasazi Lookout Ruins

Monday, November 17, 2008

It Had a Chipotle Heat!


One of the better gifts I have ever given Mrs. Abbey has been a big rectangular baking stone and a baking peel. They were two things that she has wanted for a long time and two things that I have mostly commandeered for my own uses. I think she has used it to bake bread once since September when she got them and I have used them seven or eight times to make pizza.

Growing up, I thought there was nothing better in this world than Pizza Hut pizza. Then about five or six years ago, either it started getting worse or I developed other tastes and I preferred my own pizza to it. I would bake it in a cookie sheet and life was good. Then September came and I tried a pizza on a baking stone in a screaming hot oven. I was in heaven. Since then, we have had pizza at least once a week on that thing.

Normally we have our pizza on Friday night but last Wednesday, the stars aligned just right. My wife had found a recipe for chipotle chicken pizza in an aisle of the grocery store, I had some leftover chicken that needed to be used up and I had the time to make some dough so that it had time to rise. The recipe was from Pillsbury and called for all their pre-maid stuff, which didn’t interest me, but I had all the raw ingredients and thought I could improvise.

One batch of dough makes four small pizzas about six or eight inches in diameter so I had the first two out of the oven and the third in when my wife got home from work. We sat down and by luck of the draw I took the first bite. It was great but instantly, the inside of my mouth started tingling from the spice. I made a comment to my wife that the pizza had a kick to it and went in for a second bite. The tingling turned into heat and was within seconds so intense that all I could do was suck air through pursed lips in gasps and guzzle down my iced pop to quench the fire. The forehead sweats never even had a time to appear. Even Little Abbey who normally loves spicy foods was whimpering. I gathered up the pizza and threw it away. I have never been so disappointed in my life.

As we heated up some leftovers and drank milk, water and pop to quench the fires in our mouths, I looked to see what had gone wrong. I had never cooked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce before and had mentally associated them as a smoky mild flavored pepper. Inspecting the can showed no signs that what lay inside was insanely hot. There were no words of warning and only a fairly plain label stating chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Had I read Wikipedia's entry on chipotle peppers first I would have understood and this could have been avoided. But I didn't until after it was all over with and we were lucky enough to still be alive.

I next checked the recipe from the store that I had just lightly skimmed before doing my own thing. There I found my mistake. What I had thought said to chop up 1/2 to 1 (7oz) can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce actually read chop 1/2 - 1 pepper FROM a (7oz) can of chipotle peppers. There had been five or six peppers packed into that small seven ounce can and I had chopped up the entire lot of over ripened and smoke dried jalapeno chilies packed in a sauce.

So I did what had to be done. I made a special trip to the grocery store for some more chicken and made pizza the very next night except this time I used regular green peppers and instead of adobo sauce I used my all time favorite smoky barbecue sauce called Cookie's BBQ Sauce. It was heavenly and since it was cooked on a baking stone, it was the way pizza was intended to be cooked. As a bonus, I could eat it without gasping for error and liquids!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day Five: Climbing Nankoweap Butte

Author on way up to saddle with Nankoweap Butte in background

Another spectacular night here at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I know I have written that several times already in my journals but I haven't lied yet. I woke up once during the night because the clouds of yesterday evening had cleared off and the moon felt like a spotlight shining down on me. I would have been annoyed but the stars were just so beautifully bright unlike any that I have seen before. It was only with willpower that I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
In the gray of false dawn, I packed up and went down to the kitchen area where Mary was beginning to heat up some water. A loud shriek startled me and seemed very loud down in the close confines of the canyon. A mouse had found its way into one of the kitchen buckets last night and drowned. I helped out by sending the mouse to his final resting place in the river gently floating downstream. For breakfast we had eggs with a chili sauce and bacon.

As breakfast was winding down, Bronco cornered me away from the group and gave me the information I had wanted to know since yesterday evening. Lee, Nick, Duffy and him have been wanting to hike up to a high mesa and would like me to come along but couldn't allow me without opening it up to the older and less physically able clients. It was going to be a fast and hard hike to do it within the time they had and asked that I not push the issue. I understood and agreed. As a concession, he allowed Jorge and I to hike up to Nankoweap Butte, which was a high point on the map closer than the mesa. Disappointed but understanding, I asked permission to start early and promised to meet the rest of the group at a fault line that we would be using to climb up to the Butte.
View from Nankoweap Butte back towards the saddle

It was a nice hike but a lot of boulder scrambling to reach the fault line and my bum knee was already starting to give me grief. I wasn't sure that I would be able to make the climb after all but decided that I would do the best I could. I took some Advil and lay under the shade of a lone shrub like tree to wait for the others to arrive. The others did show up about an hour later and turned out to be Jorge, his father Jurgen and crewmember Elaina.

After a few minutes of rest, we all set up for the saddle above. It was a real scramble in places with little solid footing and lots of a tightly woven bush like weed that made you force your way through. We did stop and see some rocks that were over one billion years old and twice as old as any seen from the river. By the time we got to the saddle, the sunshine had disappeared and Jurgen needed a breather. Elaina stayed behind to keep him company and Jorge and I set up for the top of peak of the butte.

The last half-mile and 400 vertical feet to Nankoweap Butte elevation 5430 feet, was brutal. (Camp was at approximately 2800 feet.) In the loose pebble sized stones, it was like the stair climber from hell. You would take one step forward and put your weight on that foot only to slide three-fourths of the step back. Several times I had to stop to suck air or risk breaking ribs from gasping so much. But finally we made the top.
Jorge at the summit

The wind immediately started picking up and big fat raindrops began to hit us as we hurriedly snapped some photos of each other and the surrounding area. Lightening off in the distance made us realize that we needed to get back down in a hurry. A slow controlled descent was not an option so throwing our fates to the winds, we literally jumped off the peak into the loose pebble sized stones. When we hit, we would slide twenty or thirty feet as if on skis before we would come to a halt with a shower of stones continuing on down the mountain. Before we would come to that halt, we would jump again landing further down the slope on a different foot skiing through the rocks. What took 45 minutes to climb took us all of about a minute to descend but left us high on adrenaline.

We hunkered down in the rain underneath a large rock on the saddle and ate our sack lunch. (Sadly no mention in my journal of what that lunch consisted.) The hike back down the fault line was as always harder on the joints than the ascent. My knee was really starting to scream even with another dose of Advil and I knew I would pay for it later. We met Lee, Nick and Duffy on the way back down and learned that they had gotten lost and hadn't made the mesa. They were more than a little envious to learn that Jorge and I had made the top of Nankoweap Butte. We talked with them for a few minutes and then continued on our way down.

When we reached the creek below the beginning of the fault line, we parted ways. Jorge headed upstream to do some photography, Elaina stopped to do some drawing so I set off downstream to find a nice soaking hole. My knee was swollen and throbbing and screamed with delight as I lowered myself into the ice-cold water. The failed mesa crew passed by and I stayed on until I felt I would endanger myself to hypothermia by staying longer. I got my shoes back on and hiked back into camp, limping but happy.
Very distant view of camp

Because of the few sprinkles, some fellow clients had taken upon themselves to set up my tent and throw my two waterproof bags and waterproof ammo can inside so that they wouldn't get wet. They were just being nice but now I have to wait for my tent to dry so I can pack it up again because I don't plan on sleeping inside tonight when I have a mosquito free bed of fine sand and starlight outside. I took a bath down by the river and put on my first set of truly clean clothes for the trip!

We had a lecture on the geology of the Grand Canyon before supper of lasagna, French bread and a green salad. I joined Jurgen down on the beach for a while sipping some of his cognac and staying upwind of his huge fat cigar that he was smoking. From his broken English, I can tell he had done quite well for himself at whatever occupation he did and was now for the most part retired. He and his son Jurgen, probably 40 years in age himself, now just travel the world doing things like this. This is their second trip down the Grand Canyon. They are one of those that had just did the third segment the first time and realized that it was a terrible mistake to not do the rest.

I could tell after awhile that Jurgen wanted to be alone and since I know that feeling, I big him good night and joined the others up by the fire. We sat around talking until it was just I and my journal left. Tomorrow it is back on the river and hopefully a light day of hiking to give my knee a chance to recover. Of course if there is a big hike planned, I know I will just take more Advil and hike anyway. I figure there will be time enough to heal when the trip is done.
More Anasazi ruins found on way back to camp

Thursday, November 13, 2008

GM Bailout Rant

Ugh, here we go again. We've already been asked to bail out greedy Wall Street who made bad loans for the sake of money and wound up loosing their shirts only to have us the taxpayer buy them all silk ones. Now GM wants a piece of the pie and with a Democrat president to be and the heads of both houses of congress calling for it, I expect it will happen. I try to look at the facts and can't fathom one single idea of why this would be a good thing to do.

1. GM has been bleeding for years, even when the economy was going well. Why? They got into the habit of deciding what we the Joe Driver wanted instead of letting us tell them what we wanted. It caught up with them. Don't forget the unions. They busted balls with their strikes until now GM can't afford to pay them or their pensions or their health benefits. While the first thing may or could change, the second thing isn't. GM has stated that they are loosing over $2 billion A MONTH and that figure is expected to increase after the first of the year. How many billion do you have to give a company bleeding billions of dollars every month to save them? Our government's solution so far is about $25 billion devided between the big three. That comes to a little over $8 billion for GM's share or just until mid-March when things are supposed to be worse for them they they are now.

2. Yes, giving billions of dollars to GM right now will help the very union that helped bleed GM dry live to see another day and possibly another strike so that they can stick the company for more money. Is that what we really want? When the starting salary for a new hire is $29 per hour and when the average experienced union line worker makes twice what an non-automotive industry engineer other highly degreed individual, something is not right. Union wages have been artificially inflated for years and now that an economic recession has come home to roost, they are paying the piper.

3. Yes the union members trickle down their wages to others. Since when does building your economy around three failing companies make good sense? Obviously the American public has spoken by saying they would rather by cars from other companies than GM. Why don't we invest money in companies of our future instead of dinosaurs of our past?

Evidently the currant occupant soon to be evicted it against this and I say more power to him. If he wants to try and redeem himself a marginal amount from being the absolute worst president, he needs to stand up and veto any bailout legislation for GM. But we all know what is going to happen because this will be another bi-partisan load of crap meaning that everyone in government and big business wins and every taxpayer gets screwed. Bush will hold out for free trade with Columbia and sign both pieces of legislation. Government wins again, we lose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arched Arbor Trellis


A long long time ago, in a house far far away, a wife asked her husband to build her an arched arbor trellis. The husband replied that it would be in the way of the painters when they painted the house. When will we get the house painted she asked? We'll see he replied. Well 'we'll see' eventually happened this fall and with excuses run out, I designed an arched trellis on my CAD software, went to the store for materials and set to work.

The cutting out of parts went okay but as I have experienced in the past when cutting dimensional lumber with my band saw, not great. I had thought that my fine tooth blade meant for fine tightly radiuses cuts was the culprit and had bought a much wider rougher toothed blade. That is how I found out my band saw is just a weenie and woefully underpowered. So as happened the last time in a similar situation, I ended up cutting all the curved pieces with a jig saw. It took half a day just to do them.

With all the pieces cut, the actual construction went quickly and I soon had two side panel assemblies and a top arch assembled and ready to go. Not wanting to paint the thing in my garage over the course of a couple weeks, I decided to just paint the ends that went into the ground and paint the rest when it was standing. I borrowed my father's pair of jobbers of which I am intimately familiar with having spent many a hot summer afternoon digging fencepost holes with them. They were worn out and about 30 seconds into the first hole, we laying on the grass in several pieces. A trip to the local hardware store and $30 later, I had a new but inferior set of jobbers in which to finish the digging of four holes. I say they were inferior because they were the two handles kind instead of the split handles type. Those who have handled jobbers before will know what I'm talking about.

With holes some three plus feet deep dug, I lugged the side panel assemblies, some 200 pounds of wood each, and tipped them into the holes. I checked them with the level and yanked them out again. Three attempts later, I finally got them in the holes and level. Now for the tamping part. My dad always said that a good tamping job would mean that you could get all the dirt that you dug out of the hole back into the hole even with a four-by-four post occupying the better part of the space. I ended up with about 80% of a well-tamped hole. The rest went to fill in some holes in the lawn behind my house where trees used to fill.

Well I ended up being wrong. Instead of a couple weeks in my garage, it took me the better part of a month to get the arbor painted between all the rains. Little Abbey helped by keeping me company and trying to get into the paint every time I wasn't looking. Fortunately we ended up without any disasters in that area. As you can see, underneath it are some concrete pavers half buried under the grass and dirt left behind by a previous owner. Perhaps next spring if I am feeling ambitious, I will landscape the path from the arbor back around the house. Mrs. Abbey will also plant three more climbing roses around it to supplement the last one we were able to buy at the local nursery.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veteran's Day

Only fourteen years old, this was an adventure. We set off down the sloped ramp past wreaths, photographs and other people lost in their thoughts each of us going our own way. I counted sections until I found the one that I was looking for and started searching through the list of names. There about halfway down, I saw his name. He was the son of my neighbor and when they had found out that I was going there on a field trip, a place they had never been too, they had asked me to find his name. I took a piece of paper and placed it on the surface lightly scribbling over it with a colored pencil. His name slowly appeared in white on a colored background of scribbling. That done, I carefully folded up the paper and stuck it in my back pocket. I looked back at his name one last time and saw something else that I hadn't seen before. There in the smooth reflective black marble surface of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, I saw myself. I knew then that my neighbor's son, a man who I never knew, and a wall full of thousands of others whom I never knew, died so that I could live. For that, I will always be thankful of our veterans.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Donnie

Once when I was young and naive, I believed that social ills of society such as racism, poor parenting, etc., could be bred out of society. I felt that anyone could get himself or herself out of almost any situation if they had the willpower to do so. Now older and much wiser in the ways of the world, I understand that some people never had a chance. Donnie was one of those people.

Donnie was a classmate of mine and the son of a person the local dubbed "Wild Horses", so named for his method of trying to tame horse with chainsaws without chains. As the name suggests, I think the horses probably end up more wild than tame. I can't say this for sure as I never saw him with horses or a chainsaw. It might have even been one of those urban myths.

I did know Donnie and to some extent his older brother Paul who was a grade or four above me depending on the year and if the teachers had passed him or not. Paul would graduate in the grade above me but couldn't add two plus two or spell cat. He was mentally challenged as they refer to such people these days. Most teachers just passed him onto the next grade because no one knew what to do with him. Those that flunked him got him again the next year and didn't repeat their error. Thus he eventually graduated destined for a janitorial job for life.

Donnie and Paul came to school dressed in rags even from my childhood perspective, which tended to overlook such things. While most kids got new shoes to start off the school year, Donnie's parents would cut the toes off of last year's shoes and give him a pair of ratty wool socks to keep his toes warm during the winter months. His hair was always greasy and in tangled knots and streaks of dirt liberally applied to the rest of him. The only time I ever saw Donnie in a state that I would say was clean would be on special days like our Christmas pageant.

Donnie was a bright enough kid but his lack of parenting caught up with him and during our freshman or sophomore year, he flunked out of my grade. About the same time, got sent away to the state's custody and eventually some foster parents. To earn that honor, he pulled a gun on his drunken father, who was getting ready to whip Donnie, and pulled the trigger. Donnie and Wild Horses both new the gun was unloaded so it was more of an expression of Donnie's hatred towards his father and Donnie still came to school the next day covered in welts. Wild Horses must have got worried that next time the gun would be loaded and Donnie was hauled off one afternoon from school into state custody. He came back briefly a year later and told a tail of how he had stolen a car from his foster parents and had been involved in a multi county car chase that ended up with him boxed in by the law and ramming cars. He said it was the most fun he ever had in his life. I thought he was lucky he hadn't been shot.

His stay was brief for a day or two later, the police showed up at school and hauled off Donnie in handcuffs. I never saw him again and always wondered what happened to him. Then last week, I saw his name in the paper under the police blotter section.

Donnie evidently was living in his parent's home because the address is still the same. I drive by it on my way down to the farm and it is a shack of a building that appears as if it will fall over in a cloud of dust at a loud cough. According to the police report, Donnie was reported for firing several gunshots into the air. When police arrived, they found Donnie dazed and confused. A subsequent search of the property revealed a meth lab in a shack out back. He is now in jail pending more charges and a trial. I'm guessing he is going to be doing time and I doubt that it is his first. Donnie never had a chance.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Day Four

Saddle Canyon

It is an amazing thing to lay awake stargazing and counting shooting stars after so many years of living away from the farm in big cities. You take those things for granted until nights like the last one when the shear beauty of it almost reduced me to tears. It was only with effort that I finally closed my eyes to sleep. Once I set my mind to it, sleep comes easily. My beds so far this trip have consisted of powdery white sand that lets you sink 3 or 4 inches when walking across it. I usually lay out my ground cloth to prevent the sand from infiltrating everything completely and then spread my sleeping bag on top of it. It has been warm enough that I have been starting off the night on top of it and only end up inside it sometime during the early morning hours. Sand always finds its way inside no matter how careful I am but with nylon, it is fairly easy to shake the large majority out again in the morning.

One of the observations I have seen on this trip that I wasn't expecting was the exceptionally clean state of the beaches. They are immaculate and absent of fire rings, charred wood and scraps of trash that you come to expect at other heavily used campsites. With 25,000 people going through here annually, it is an amazing feat. Every morning as we pack up, we are all encouraged to do a sweep through camp picking up any stray debris that we might spy and pack it in bags that go on the baggage rafts and are hauled out. Since we are the first trip of the year, I have yet to find anything that wasn't probably dropped by someone in our own group earlier. The lack of fire rings and charred wood is most doubted attributed to the lack of firewood in the bottom of the gorge. The only wood that we find is stuff washed down the side canyons by floods and pissweed which we don't burn for obvious reasons since it is named after the odor given off when burning. The few fires we had during the trip were all from scavenged wood in side canyons and built on a metallic tarp so not to scar the land. Great care was made to completely burn everything to ashes and then they were packed out. The occasional unburnt knot of wood was tossed into the river for removal downstream. All the effort shows.
Unknown

I have to take back my harsh thoughts towards the group that camped on the upstream side of our sandbar and took away my initial bathing spot. Not a peep was ever heard from them and except for one flashlight beam a few seconds long up on the cliffs last night while I was stargazing, not a sight either. I guess if you wait for so long to go on a trip like this and you have the patience to do so, then you also probably cognizant of others around you and how your actions could affect them.

The cooks and I were the first ones up again and Chester, one of the early rising retirees was almost the last one down today. The hike he went on yesterday up to the break must have tuckered him out. Although I don't have a watch, I am guessing we are often on the river by 7:30 or earlier, earlier than normal for most groups judging by the tired looks on some of the crews’ faces in the morning. Bronco had told me before that sometimes they get groups that are lucky to pull out by 10:00, which makes for shorter hikes in the evening. So I guess I'm lucky for a bunch of early rising geriatrics that accompany me on this trip because it gives up lots of extra hiking time.

Breakfast was steak strips, eggs, potatoes, English muffins and two different types of melon slices. Meals just keep getting better which means I am in trouble. We loaded up the rafts and today I rode in the Lava Cliff that was manned by Ote's son Duffy. Barely out of his teens, I sense a wild streak in him a mile wide. On days with big water, I'm guessing a ride with him will be well worth the entertainment. I will also keep my belonging in waterproof containers below decks at all times as the likelihood for tipping will also be greater.

We went just a few miles downriver before pulling off at Saddle Canyon for a hike. About a mile up the canyon, it narrowed down to the point where you had to either stop or get your shoes wet wading through pools of unknown depth. I opted for the latter but because I had left my waterproof camera at the boats and only had my non-waterproof 35mm, I left it behind with my other stuff. We waded through 50 yards of water sometimes over our heads to a waterfall, which we climbed up the middle of it about 12 feet to another bench. There was another large pool and an even larger waterfall of spectacular beauty. You have to take my word for it. I soaked it all in until lunchtime before heading back down, stopping frequently to photograph wildflowers. I never tire of seeing the bright red monkey flowers.
Anasazi Graineries

For lunch we had sandwiches made from hummice and taboula, the latter, which is made of bulgur wheat. Both were something not found in my normal diet back home but both extremely delicious especially with some spicy mustard, sprouts and shredded lettuce. After lunch we set out through a couple of riffles followed by several long pools to our camp for the evening at the base of Nankoweap Rapids at mile 53. It was a beautiful camp and definitely the finest so far. The hot afternoon sun was already behind the cliffs so we will get early morning sun tomorrow, always a treat when waking up down in the confines of a cold and damp canyon.

I lounged around camp until the others had pitched their tents and then we set off for a hike up to see some old Anasazi graineries built into the cliffs. Elaina gave us a long talk on their history as well as that on Stanton's Cave above Vasey's Paradise. The leading theory is that a cliff across the river from camp sheared off and damned up the river some 50,000 years ago causing it to back all the way up to Stanton's Cave where logs have been found but no mud. On the way back Jorge and I hiked out onto the site of the former dam and poked around a bit finding the remains of another Anasazi building.
Mary On Trail Up to Graineries

Halfway back, still a long ways from camp, we heard the suppertime conch blow. With a long hike and a bunch of ravenous retirees, we weren't expecting much left for supper. There wasn't much left but we were each able to get one cold chicken fajita with all the works. That will teach us to dally around suppertime. Being that we are still driftwood rich at the moment, we started a fire at sundown and sat around enjoying the evening. I spent a long time talking with Mary the assistant cook who hails from Haines, Alaska. We swapped stories of trips that we had been on and books that we had read for a long while. These seem to be the two most common topics of conversation on trips like these. After she left, Bronco and I were the last two survivors at the fire. We talked about the big day tomorrow, which was going to be an all day hike. I sense that I may not be wanted on one particular option and that Bronco will make his final decision tomorrow.
Anasazi Graineries


Across the River From Graineries


Downstream From Graineries


Hole In the Wall & Snag

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Case of Poor Customer Service

I don't get worked up to often but sometimes someone can just push all the right buttons and in this case he did, though it took the better part of half a year to do so. Let me explain.

Our house had been in need of painting for several years. When we bought it, it was in the early stages of needing paint but because I hated the Masonite siding that was on it, I hoped to put it off for a few years and save up for vinyl siding instead. Masonite is a cardboard like siding that doesn't tolerate moisture at all on bare spots, ripples like a potato chip and doesn't hold paint well. Plus with the great room addition being done in wood, I thought new siding would tie it all together to look like the house was built all at one time. However, economics made me decide that perhaps I should just go the cheap route and paint it instead and maybe try siding it again in another ten years or so when it needs repainted… IF I even still live there which I hope isn't the case.

Because I hate painting and didn't want to spend my entire waking non-work hours all summer painting my house, I decided to get some quotes first. I had in my mind what I thought it would cost to hire it done and knew that I would probably end up doing it myself to save some money. However, the first guy that quoted it gave me such a good price, I shook his hand and immediately wrote him a check for half the quote with the balance due on completion. A few weeks later, a sign appeared in my lawn padlocked to the utility poll out front advertising the painter's business name and phone number. This sign is the heart of my problem.

All summer, I had to mow around that thing and because it was cabled and padlocked to the utility poll, I couldn't mow underneath it. Now I am a lawn minimalist and that means I avoid trimming if at all possible. I have my lawn arranged where I can quickly mow it with a push mower and have no need to weed eat to get any remainders and thus I don't own one. However, with this sign that I couldn't remove, the grass would quickly grow up into weeds and every couple weeks I had to go out there with a pair of scissors to knock down the weeds.

The months ticked by, summer turned into fall and I still had a sign in my yard and an unpainted house. No phone calls giving me any idea when he might show up. Finally one night Rick the painter called saying he would be over next week to paint my house and would like my back deck cleared of the grill and furniture. I cleaned off the deck and we put off grilling until we could return our grill back to the deck. Weeks went by and no Rick or painting crew. Finally he came and primed the house and then disappeared again for another couple weeks with no word on when he would be back. Finally on Labor Day he showed up to paint but after pointing out that he still hadn't calked all the windows and doors as promised, he spent the entire day doing that. Another couple weeks go by and finally he finished. He even charged me $50 extra to hang new shutters up to replace the old ones he took off when I could have very easily have let him put the old shutters back on for no charge as agreed upon in our contract. There was no difference other than the shutters were unfaded plastic. They were exactly the same in every other way including mounting hardware and holes. But because I was so happy to finally have a painted house, I wrote him a check for the balance plus $50 without saying a word about it. He asked if he could leave his sign up for two more weeks and reluctantly I agreed.

A month goes by and the sign is still there. Our cities annual brush pickup is underway and that sign is where I normally stack all my brush because it is out of the way and next to the street. I call Rick and tell him he is now two weeks late in picking up his sign and I want it removed so I can stack my brush there. He never returned my call. So I stacked the brush on the edge of my driveway and spent the next few weeks driving around it and generally cussing that sign every time I came home and saw it still there. Two weeks ago, I had enough, my buttons had been pressed. One sunny afternoon, I came home, saw the brush had been picked up but a big gouge left in my lawn because they couldn't reach it as easily with their grapple hook thanks to the sign, saw the sign still there, and cut the cable with a pair of bolt cutters and tossed it onto my scrap pile of stuff for the annual spring trash pickup.

Another week and a half goes by bringing me to last Thursday night as I was sitting down to dinner and the doorbell rings. There is Rick looking for his sign. I go to the garage and get the sign off the spring trash cleanup pile which right now has a bunch of paint cans and old faded plastic shutters exactly like the ones on the front of my house reminding me again, the insult of being charged $50 to hang up the same shutters, only newer. He asks me how I removed it and I told him I cut the cable. The rest of the conversation can be summarized like this:

Rick: Why did you do that when you could have called?
Me: I did call and besides you said only two weeks.
Rick: I've been busy the last two weeks and not home until late and I've left very early.
Me: I have an answering machine and you have a cellphone that I've seen you stop painting and make dozens of phone calls a day on while you were painting my house.
Rick: I don't call late at night and I've been very busy the last two weeks.
Me: It's been seven weeks and I would have been happy to receive a call at any time saying that you were swamped and wouldn't be able to pick it up for awhile.
Rick: So are you going to pay me $7 for a new cable?
Me: I don't think so.


There was about five minutes of conversation but evidently Rick was hard of hearing and kept asking the same questions over and over so I weeded out the extras. On my old blog, I wrote several posts on various incidences that all came down to the same thing, poor customer service. R. Sherman has reposted several posts dealing with poor customer service relating to the airline industry. I've come to realize that poor customer service is now the norm these days and anything better than poor should come as a shock to me. I haven't been shocked in a long time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Breaking News!

7:34 PM - I'm sitting on the couch, feet up in the air, laptop fired up and the television blaring out the results. Obama at 103 and McCain 34. I'm a happy camper even if my guy is losing. Mrs. Abbey made it in to vote and there was no line so she was in and out. It was her first vote as a U.S. citizen and I'm proud of her. Little Abbey got her flu shot without hardly a wimper. I think I will now celebrate by popping some popcorn and opening up a cold brew. This is what America is all about!

8:20 PM - Little Abbey in bed... check. Cold beer... check. Popcorn... check. Latest Results: Obama 174, McCain 64.

9:07 PM - Popcorn... completed. Beer... one down, President... still undecided. Obama 207, McCain 129. Iowa's polls are finally closed so the real results I'm interested in should start coming in.

10:00 PM - Mrs. Abbey has deserted me so I'm alone now. I'm hoping to hang in there until at least we have a president.

10:03 PM - Well that wasn't long. NBC called it for Obama. I might hang on a little longer anyway. Tonight only comes once every four years.

10:30 PM - John McCain's speech is over. All I can ask is why couldn't he have spoken so eloquently during these last six months? If he had the election would now be a landslide in the other direction.

11:01 PM - President Obama is giving his speech and I'm officially calling my race to bed as over. See everyone tomorrow.

Ed's Ballot Results

President Baldwin - Defeated
US Senate Reed - Defeated
US Representative Miller-Meeks - Defeated
Iowa Representative Whitaker - Won
County Supervisor Burghmeir - Won
County Supervisor Demitt - Won

This Voter Has Voted

It was most definitely spur of the moment. On my way to work this morning after dropping off Little Abbey at daycare, I realized that the polls opened in a half hour. I didn't have any meetings or pressing issues first thing in the morning and it was dawning on a beautiful day. Why not drive by the polling place and see what the crowds were like if any. So I did and there was just one man in line reading a book.

So I sat and chatted with him and other voters that began to arrive for the half hour we had to wait. By the time the poll doors opened at 7:00, there were 50 people or more standing in line, about 47 more than I have ever seen at our polling station at any one time in past elections. I was suddenly very thankful that I decided to vote early.

This year, instead of just showing our identification and getting cross referenced in the books, we had to fill out a paper with our printed name, signed name, full address and phone number. What used to take just seconds per person now takes a minute or two per person. They never did look at my identification which I offered to show them. I'm guessing this was not the year to institute those changes.

I filled in the ovals on my ballot and brought it out to the electronic scanner. The one gentleman who was in front of me out front was also there holding his ballot. They asked me to "try" my ballot. The machine took it and spit it back out, evidently the same thing it had done to the other guy. So while they were tinkering with the scanner, we had to dump our ballots in a side mounted emergency holding tank until the scanner was working. Also not good for a day when record numbers are expected to vote.

But fifteen minutes after the polls opened, I had done my patriotic duty and voted. Now I am free to get to the public health office after work to get Little Abbey a flu shot without worrying about how long the line at the polls will be. Mrs. Abbey won't be able to vote until later this evening so Little Abbey and I will accompany her and I am free to entertain Little Abbey while Mrs. Abbey does her patriotic duty albeit I'm guessing in a much longer line. My fifth presidential election that I eligible to vote in is now over with. Tonight I shall watch the returns over a cold beer. It doesn't get more American than that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Last Political Blog Post... Until After the Election

How is it that nothing on earth sounds louder than a politicians electronic phonecall while your daughter is taking a nap on the hallway floor? For some reason, she didn't want to sleep in her bed or ours, her two normal napping spots and instead took a nap on the hallway floor. In my effort to be quiet, I spent time down in the office paying bills, etc and trying to desperately stave off the phonecalls before they woke up Little Abbey. I answered two of them in the space of 10 minutes and those have been just a couple of the dozen or two I have received this weekend. Yes this is an election of epic proportions.

It seems like years ago (figuring it out now, I think it has been over a year and a half anyway) when my political journey began by walking up to the city square to hear one of the dark horses in the presidential race, a man named Barack Obama, give a speech. Wanting to get away from the crowd of 100 or so people already there, I asked if I could sit on the other side of a roped off area. Little did I know that in doing so, I put myself in direct position to shake Obama's hand as he made is way up to the stage to talk to the almost 1000 people then gathered to hear his speech. I should have realized that is 1000 people in a town of 10,000 show up to hear someone speak, big things were happening. Now a year and a half later, he is poised to be president, or at least the pundits are saying so. I guess tomorrow we shall see.

I wasn't impressed with Obama and his speech that day. It sounded expensive to me to be able to afford all these programs that he was proposing and that was way before the economic meltdown. But he was a charismatic fellow and had a good handshake which made me think I could like him as a friend just the same even if I wouldn't vote for him.

Back then, I thought the likes of Mitt or Rudy were the likely GOP contenders and McCain hadn't been brave enough to show his face in Iowa after having ignored us in previous elections. Despite his inattention, I still hoped he would win because he was a moderate whom I could see some promise in. To my surprise he eventually was nominated and I avowed on several blogs that it was his election to lose. He had it wrapped up. Then he spent the next six months tying himself to Bush and foresaking all those that got him elected. He did what I had feared and lost the election, or so the pundits say. I don't think I will ever be able to forgive him for that but that is okay, because unless this guy is Abraham, his election days are over.

Which brings me back to where I kind of began, my election days are thankfully numbered as well. Tomorrow I have a guest coming to sell me life insurance (oh boy) so I will get out of the evening political dicing on the news. Tuesday, between getting Little Abbey her flu shot and getting to the polls myself, it will be all over but the poll watching. My wife is set to watch her show Desperate Housewives as I write this so I will most doubtedly get a few more to watch but after the television goes off tonight, the elections are done for me. For that, I am extremely thankful.

P.S. If you are one of the few who haven't apparently voted early, go out and vote tomorrow. Vote your conscious and know that whoever wins, life goes on Wednesday... just without the political ads.