Father’s Memories Seek Normalcy

I often reflect about my life choices as an extension of deep-seated values that I learned from my childhood upbringing in Northeast Ohio. My late father’s influence did not necessarily stem from his physical proximity to me then but seemed to arise from my emotional reaction to his life choices that inspired positive behaviors for me as a child. No doubt, his living role model today provides a steady hand of normalcy as I attempt to act wisely in the face of the daily challenges presented to my retirement in the urban world.

IMG_0948My father was truly a man of many actions but few words. His efforts to serve his country well in flying twenty five, dangerous missions over Germany as a B-17 Ball Turret Gunner in World War II stands as a true testament of the courage I admire in him. I would also look up to him for being an accomplished athlete as I recall accompanying him to ball games on weekends to display his hitting/ pitching skills in competitive baseball leagues. Recently my mother provided further evidence of my father’s achievements by showing me the impressive medal he received for participating in the U.S. Marble Shooting Championship of 1939. Yet my most vivid recollection of this matter would be his humble nature as witnessed by his refusal to talk about these matters at home. Picture his son now remembering such paternal humility as a reason to weed out his Facebook friend list today of selfie egotists and avoid stressfully raising his blood pressure as a result of the senseless Twitter rants of the Trump Presidency.

In addition to his unpretentious character, my father took great pride in the value of hard work. Working long days to efficiently maintain a stressful schedule of shipping deadlines as a warehouse manager, he had limited time to spend with me at home. Yet I learned that taking pride in one’s “life calling” meant a great deal to him in his determination to support our family with “blood, sweat, and tears” on his meager salary. Similarly finding such intrinsic reasons for working overtime to become an effective classroom teacher in the past, I now follow his commitment to daily labor by sacrificing my precious time to volunteer for humane, political causes I truly believe in for the betterment of myself and country.

IMG_0955As a military veteran, my father learned to arrange his life in a neat and orderly fashion. Never tolerating the slightest appearance of slovenly action, his tool shelves, clothes hangings and bedroom drawers were always impeccably uncluttered. Fittingly, the American flag that was given to my mother at his funeral would be folded in precise neatness as he would have wanted. As I accumulate more physical possessions in limited condo space as I get older, I realize my father’s decision to surround himself with an organized and equally orderly world seem greatly relevant to me.

Being “passive-aggressive” in nature, my father often faced the urge to lash out when reaching an emotional “boil.” How refreshing it seems now to recall that in the face of such inner turmoil, he chose to treat my mother/son with non-chauvinist respect in times of crisis and rarely displayed his legendary temper when company matters did not go his way. I have likewise displayed a “slow burn” mentality in times of threat and crisis. Yet I see now the wise course of containing my emotions when possible in the face of a politically polarized country where angry minds feeds moments of attack on my progressive-minded values.

IMG_0951My father’s life ended prematurely at age 64 in 1991 as his body and mind wore down from the debilitating disease of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I often reason, consequently, that his body paid the price for his stoic pursuit of his physically demanding work days. Yet his humility, work ethic, orderliness, and kindness, remain as a living legacy that I wish to emulate for the balance of my life. I am truly proud to have been his son.

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So Odd To Be “On Edge” In Baseball

Baseball calms my soul whether I’ve played it watched, or simply meditated on it for inner meaning. I would never expect that this pastoral game played on a dusty dirt diamond surrounded by inviting green grass would ever become the setting for a deranged assassin. Yet today would defy my lofty expectations of this sport as a bloody scene of carnage took place at a baseball practice of Republican Congressmen near Alexandria, Virginia today. How do you explain to a child attending their first baseball game today that serious danger might lurk beyond their sight to spoil their innocent fun? Why should a family attend a live game when baseball becomes the setting of attempted mass murder?

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Coincidentally, me wife and I chose this infamous day to attend our first Miami home game on a hot and rainy Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park. Proceeding to the entry gates, ninety minutes before game, I immediately noticed an alarming number of armed policemen patrolling along the stadium perimeter. Sensing it might be wise to it make it easier for security to inspect my small backpack now, I calmly placed it on the designated table, unzipped the bag, opened my binocular case, and flashed my cellphone in front of security personnel.

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Unexpectantly,showing them such contents did not suffice as I was curtly told then to remove (or perhaps dump) everything from my backpack on the table. Hearing conversations take place about the content of these items, it seemed my apple and bag of chips became immediate items of security concern. I then patiently awaited for several minutes for them to make their momentous decision. The silence broke as my apple fell on the floor and I received an aloof directive from one of the officials resulting in their decision to disallow it in the ballpark today.

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Reloading my bag, I spread my arms for the next wave of security. Displaying my cellphone for the third time in this ordeal, I was now told to empty my pockets. All of this activity took place as I felt surrounded by blank police stares, impatient, inspector body language, and an eerie feeling that something would get lost in the item removal shuffle. No doubt, my anger and confusion would eventually subside  as I finally gained access to the fun distractions awaiting me in this air conditioned,  indoor facility.

I reason that we might have chosen the wrong day to see live baseball in Miami. Witness today’s Virginia tragedy then as an unwelcome sign of distrust amongst our American populace that has escalated in the divisive political environment we experience today. Yet this scene took place for this fan who simply wanted to enjoy a Major  League baseball game. Don’t tarnish the game for fans who attend baseball contests to relish the light hearted spirit and peaceful escape from harsh reality today.

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True Tests To Avoid The Daily Grind

It’s nice to be home finally after our ninety six day road trip across America. The timing of off-season living in South Florida over the wet and humid summer allows me to escape the hectic presence of tourist traffic and school routine that will inevitably resurface by September in my surrounding community. Yet it seems difficult to release my mind at times from memories of urban survival every day for almost thirty years as a classroom teacher. It seems I need a set of reminders now to verify my detachment from my former life as I commit to more simplicity and freedom of extended travel in retirement. Imagining my new identity surfacing on the beach as I casually sip on my favored coconut milk, I thus prioritize the following actions on a daily basis to maintain commitment to this desired lifestyle.

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APPRECIATE SILENCE MORE

Picture myself as the white cat who appears at my condo front door every morning now. Be curious to observe the natural environment surrounding you by embracing anything interesting in the present moment. Slow down your “monkey mind” activity with silent yoga and gym workouts. Develop your skill in digital photography as a way to enhance your sensory observations of your natural surroundings. Find a quiet place in the Barnes and Noble Cafe to read quietly in the company of your favorite cup of coffee in finding roads to “authentic history” for wanderlust travel.

GET OFF THE “HIGH ENERGY” TREADMILL

Realize that the fire-pole of daily crisis that you have slid down for years to begin your stressful day no longer serves your interest. Obsessing on perfection in pursuit of career challenge seems unnecessary now. Slow down now and enjoy full course meals. Limit your intake of caffeine from regular coffee and Diet Coke. Drink more water instead. Turn off the “Trump” media disaster by limiting your access to Facebook/Cable News when needed. Turn down your radio volume in the car and switch to non-commercial, new age /classical music stations when possible.

REJECT AMERICAN DREAM “SPIN”

The ideal of materialistic gain no longer appeals to you. As an independent world traveler, you have learned that carrying less not more enhances your frequent travels. Address debt obligations/Medicare with electronic “auto pay” As a paperless world seems more practical for your now, throw out unneeded advertising brochures. Embrace conversations that unite rather than divide according to the globalistic philosophy of the Paris Environmental Summit and third party progressivism of fairness/equality for all. Utilize alternative medicine methods of chiropractic care, sensory-cranial massage, and herbal nutrition to better manage chronic medical concerns. Avoid exorbitantly priced, corporate tickets on Ticketmaster for major concerts/sporting events on weekends.

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY SAVVY TRAVEL

You taught your academically challenged students in college to research academically in an online course environment. Now it is your turn to find technological solutions to your own informational challenges of extended travel in retirement. Therefore, you must continue to utilize those travel apps that have served you well in the recent past to promote affordable, independent travel. On the road, consulting Siri for Google searches and at home asking Alexa on Amazon Echo for voice activated responses also seem indispensable. Managing the “Cloud” will likewise enable me to make efficient use of my mobile device, picture/video storage space. Eliminating book clutter in road-trip travel with Kindle and streaming personalized music in lieu of CDs for desired music seem equally indispensable now.

Just in Time For The Deluge

Home at last from our three month road trip means readjustment to the complexities of urban life we knew before. Thankfully, the yearly cycle of summer soaking in South Florida slows down this transition process. Now I will remove myself from such routine-driven inconvenience and find ample time to bask in wonder amidst the tropical greenness of our waterlogged climate. No doubt, I desire to sit on my patio and appreciate the opportunity to experience “pity- patty silence” in the ceaseless rainfall. For today, I will realize that the rare sighting of a roseate spoonbill congregating in our adjacent lake or the echoed clap of approaching thunder provides more interest than venturing out on the wet highways today.

I also will find satisfaction In knowing that summer rain idleness also brings a much needed rest for my steady 2008 Honda. No doubt, the pelting rain  provides a natural way to wash my car of caked-on dirt and nasty, insect entrails embedded on the body from over 12,000 of long distance driving. Intrinsically, the inconvenience of emptying the trunk and backseat in my car of overloaded storage in pouring rain feels equally useful as I logically begin to question how much stuff I really need to live comfortably at home.

Certainly, I am somewhat “out of touch” with the latest talk in the Fort Lauderdale community after my long absence here. Yet, I can ease in to the idea of being social again amidst our likely, storm-related Internet loss today by striking up a weather conversation with nearby residents who live in close proximity to us in our two story condo building. Perhaps, I may even brighten someone’s spirits then with my brief prognosis of a sunnier day tomorrow.

Never knowing when the rain will end, I think of productive ways to change my time- tested routines at home. Use chopsticks to savor your appetite more slowly, find that perfect novel, or go through your latest collection of travel brochures piled in your spare bedroom. Most importantly, enjoy the idea that these slow downtimes at home again in such inclement weather conditions will reenergize you mentally/physically for your next travel adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Wright From Kitty Hawk

When Orville Wright lifted from the sands of Kitty Hawk at 10:35 on the morning of Dec. 17, 1903 , we were on our ways to the moon and beyond”(Placard at Brothers Memorial”)

Visiting the The Outer Banks of North Carolina proved to be a difficult yet rewarding challenge for my wife and I as we made our way south along the eastern seaboard coastline of the United States. It soon became clear that the limited bridge access to and from the mainland was primarily designed to provide access to the tourist- driven, towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills only. Clearly, it would take a great deal of driving time to traverse the barrier islands of the entire 131 mile long, scenic byway. As a result we decided that we would limit our time spent to the historic, Wright Brothers National Memorial followed by a loop venture for a few miles along the remote Cape Hatteras portion of this highway. While inclement weather had become our norm for a good portion of our 2017 road trip. we would be fortunate that our Outer Banks tour on Wednesday would comfortably take place without rain or wind appearance.

I anticipated stopping merely for a brief glance of “authentic” history at the Kitty Hawk site of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first successful flight of a powered airplane. Yet an aviation exhibit outside the Outer Banks Welcome Center convinced me to observe this significant event on a wider scale. At the adjoining “Monument To A Century of Flight” walk path, I thus gained more in-depth understanding of aviation history as I walked amongst the impressive series of black granite obelisks, there.

Seeking firsthand evidence about the first flight at the site of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, we noted a grassy field with airstrip clearing dominated by the impressive heights of Kill Devil Hill. Passing various markers along our walk around this obscure, takeoff site, we viewed actual photographs of the twelve second, first flight takeoff. Our followup hike up the steep hill to view the Wright Brothers monument gave a clear perspective about their numerous challenges in glider use to obtain lift, thrust, and control” conditions necessary for flight. On the far side of the hill, we now descended to view a replica of the original 1903 Wright flyer. The appearance of realistic, human sculptures around the plane clearly provided the impression that the residents in the Kitty Hawk community as well as close friends were critical factors in the success of their mission.

Cape Hatteras marked the beginning of an “environmentally protected” portion of our tour of the Outer Banks Highway. The natural beauty there provided by lonely beaches, historic lighthouses, and wind sculptured dunes certainly tempted us to drive down to the end of these barrier islands, Yet a realization that a lengthy journey by car ferry to the mainland as the only transportation option seemed impractical for us as a day trip only. We would thus settle for a quiet walk along the Atlantic beach followed by a brief, driving tour of colorful, stilted houses along the Hatteras coast today.

Summer’s arrival means heading back to South Florida as home seems important to both of us now. Reassessing the impact of our recent travels, we continue to show great interest in this nomadic and generally economical way of maximizing our quality of life in retirement Perhaps our ambitions exceed our energy at times as witnessed by the inclusion of a challenging tour of India as a sidetrack to our 2017 car trip. Yet soon we will grow restless  to “hit the road” again and I will expand my interest in blogging to find new sites of traveler interest. Stay tuned.

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Cleveland Finds Winning Formula

The timing could not have been better as my childhood home of Cleveland became our most recent destination on this road trip. Just in time to watch the Cavaliers qualify for the NBA finals, take in some now popular Indians game and groove to my kind of music at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You might interpret this present joy as a reflection of my refusal to accept my birthplace as a place that has endured its fair share of loser jokes/criticism.(ie. Why do ducks fly over Cleveland upside down? Because there is nothing worth crapping on).

Take the Lake Erie lakefront for example. With springtime in the air, Friday morning seemed the ideal time for us to head downtown and leisurely tour two, captivating sites along this shoreline. Positive energy filled the air to start our visit as high school jazz bands arrived to entertain in the front atrium of the Rock and Roll Museum. Immediately south I gazed in awe at the nostalgic orange and brown of Cleveland Browns Stadium. As vivid memories filled my mind of past Browns game highlights on frigid Sundays, I would gladly endure the Lake Erie wind and cold to sidetrack from our museum visit to walk around the entire perimeter of this historic site today.

It is generally recognized that American “Rock an Roll” became popularized on radio in greater Cleveland with the teeny-bopper programs of Alan Freed in the early 1950s. Likewise, keeping this musical genre alive in Cleveland seems equally important. On this particular visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Museum, we found the featured exhibit displaying artifacts from the history of Rolling Stone Magazine to be of keen interest for us. In addition, a brief shopping stop at the extensive collection in the museum store would allow me to purchase a priceless box set of recent, Induction ceremony, musical performances.

The Cleveland Indians are on the upswing from its 2016 appearance in baseball’s World Series and thus I  decided to spend Wednesday/Friday night at Progressive Field Ball Park. Unfortunately, I am still somewhat haunted by the dismal memories of my late 1960s youth where a perpetually losing team played in the cavernous silence of old Cleveland stadium. At the first game, soggy weather on a weeknight discouraged the crowd attendance,but on Friday, almost 30,000 fans enthusiastically packed the new stadium on $1.00 Dollar Dog Night to watch winning  Indians baseball.

I will never forget Lebron James’ statement, “It’s Cleveland Against The World” at the 2016 ring ceremony of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship. While my boyhood city has been “under fire” for most of my lifetime, times have changed. This winning “feel” for resilient Cleveland brings inner strength for me in “trying situations as a person. Thank you for “having my back” when I need you.

Midwest Shows American Character

Returning east to the flatlands for the Midwest leg of our road trip on the surface seemed to be somewhat of a letdown. Long driving days would no longer be rewarded with a stunning mountain vista or peaceful canyon. Traveling Interstate 80 to the heartlands of the Midwest, I curiously shifted my viewpoint from glorious vistas of natural landscape to inward thoughts of American values that would assist me to reaffirm pride in my country now.

What can be said about tiny, West Branch, Iowa, a town that celebrates the life of its most famous citizen, President Herbert Hoover? What about college town, Urbana, Illinois, where iconic structures of red bricked academia at the University of Illinois dominate one’s view? What lessons from a minor league baseball team in Columbus, Ohio. would influence famous Yankee pitchers, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera to strive to reach major league star stardom? It soon became clear that these three stops in my Midwest travels would provide impetus for a strategy to restore optimism in my country’s future.

1. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

History has rarely been kind to Mr. Hoover as he has been persistently blamed for the prolonging of the Great Depression beginning in 1929. Yet my visit to this extensive archive of Hoover memorabilia spanning his life from childhood to the Presidency revealed  another side of our 31st President’s persona. He was a shy man of modest Quaker background who overcame early struggles in school, earned his degree in Geology from Stanford University and ultimately served his country as a well-respected civil servant. I became particularly impressed with his efforts in providing food humanitarian relief to war ravaged victims home and abroad during World War I. Evaluating these challenging times of Hoover’ life, I realized that his example of hard work and determination seem worthwhile attributes to maintain as a symbol of pride in our country now.

2. University of Illinois Main Quad

The winter term has ended at this revered land grant institution. Yet a casual walk at dusk amidst these  time-tested edifices of academic pursuit suggested  that America’s universities remain stubborn islands of intellectual pursuit amidst the vast sea of “dummy- downness ” propelled by our current Presidency today. Notably, Bill Gates has in fact announced that Microsoft Corporation has hired more graduates from this U of Ill. than any other academic  institution in the world. As a past-dedicated teacher/professor, the U of Ill. experience has truly “hit home” that supporting the value of a worthy college education as a political funding action today seems highly worthwhile.

3.Columbus Clippers Baseball

On a rainy Tuesday evening at downtown Huntington Field, my wife and I joined an enthusiastic crowd to watch the hometown Columbus Clippers play their rivals, the Scranton Rail Riders, in a scheduled minor league game. With crowd interest in mind, various marketing ploys were conducted including bobble doll raffles, on-field spectator races and $1.50 barbecue rib discounts during the course of the game. Turning to the contest itself, many of the these baseball players would not get the chance to be successful at the major league level. Yet the players unselfish desire to win as a team for these loyal fans while simultaneously furthering their individual opportunities to be promoted and play “big league” baseball remained strong. In both of these examples, the “competitive fire” of baseball thus seemed so American in uniting us a people in that moment.

I take great pride in being born in the American Midwest even though I have not lived there for over 50 years. Having long-lasting memories about “family” and “community” in my Ohio childhood, I view this portion of my road trip as further evidence that the democratic foundations of my country must be restored.  With renewed vigilance, I thus visualize the following mantra for assertively protesting my deep concern to our current leaders in our political system .”Please represent our democracy according to its intended form. Be willing to work hard, think and act intelligently, and unite with others for the sake of country.”

 

 

Western Tour Evokes Frontier Spirit

I had been looking forward to seeing snow throughout our latest road trip. In our morning departure from Jackson, Wyoming, I finally got my wish. It started innocently enough as I gazed with childish wonder at a thin layer of white crystals landing on vehicles outside our motel window. By the end of the day, road conditions on our selected route southeast to and from the town of Casper would deteriorate into blizzard conditions, combining blinding “white outs”, fierce crosswinds, and dangerously iced over road surfaces.

Keep in mind, I live in South Florida and have had little experience actually driving in snow. Clearly, I was searching for answers to maintain my composure as I left Casper in such stressful, weather conditions. Then suddenly I observed that the traffic lanes ahead were turning to an icy sheen, requiring me to slow my vehicle to less than 40 mph. As my car now began to shimmy sideways in the approaching slickness, I recall thinking about Oregon Trail survival in my head. Imagining myself as a mid 19th century frontiersman, I saw myself becoming  a wagon driver, steering my prairie schooner, through  a similar crisis of weather in that time period. My main thoughts at this critical time  would be “hold the reins tight”, “keep the horses/oxen calm”, and “maintain a steady course”. As a result of this timely dream, I began to focus more clearly on driving safely through the ice and ultimately succeeded without mishap.My wife in the passenger seat would subsequently praise me in the aftermath of this weather crisis as her own personal ox.

What might best explain my fortunate return to the past this day? I am a former, American History teacher who is clearly interested in America’s westward expansion in the mid 19th century. In fact, our road trip route through Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska had offered me a chance to exit the Interstate highways to explore famous landmarks and museum showcases adjacent to the Snake and North Platte Rivers that provided authentic evidence of this trail-blazing era.

Thus, as the western leg of our road trip would end that day, I would assume a pioneer mentality. with my mind consumed with thoughts of exploring wagon ruts, and museum relics of this era. In this regard,  I had chosen to take a longer route to our motel destination in Casper, requiring me to walk in blustery frigid weather to reach carved signatures on the famous Independence Rock. In addition, I had delayed our early departure from Casper in early morning, which would have allowed me to escape the brunt of the inclement weather in order to further satisfy my trail curiosities at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.

Leaving the the American West today brings sadness as I reluctantly exchange the serenity of wide open, rural spaces with the stress of my routine-driven, city lifestyle. I can now clearly understand that there are numerous, survival challenges in these often inhospitable lands. Yet It suits me well to feel truly free to be a personal witness of the authentic, western experience. The ox image that I have acquired will inspire a return west again next year to shed my yoke along the untraveled road.

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Allure Of The Snake River Corridor

As my wife and I now begin the turn east from southern Oregon, our intended route would be influenced by visits to family/friends now. Crossing the arid plateau east of the Cascade Mountains, we would spend three nights reuniting with our old, South Florida neighbor, Tina, in Boise, Idaho. Enjoying relaxation time in the simple comforts of her home combined with playful attention to her loyal, Labrador Retriever, Molly, it had become apparent that homesickness had surfaced after two and one half months on the road. Unmotivated to sightsee in Boise on this quiet visit, we could have stayed longer in Boise for sure. The “downtime” here, however seemed to regenerate our enthusiasm to move on eastward to complete our long journey back to South Florida.

Choosing the high, arid plateau along the I-84 corridor across Southern Idaho now, we became acutely aware of magnificent valley ravines/river gorges cut deeply by the winding Snake River alongside our highway path. Stopping at Massacre Rock State Park for a two mile walk in cold and blustery weather conditions, we discovered an interesting path along the historic Oregon Trail to view wagon ruts and boulder inscriptions of westbound settlers from the mid -19th century homestead period.

More practically, this meandering river would lead our way to the rugged highlands of Grand Teton/Yellowstone National Park. Taking a shorter but steeper route over the snowy Teton pass, we would rejoin the Snake again at popular, Jackson, Wyoming. We would be fortunate to find a reasonably cost motel at the Antler Inn downtown before the summer rush of tourist arrival. We would also find the springtime weather suitable for two, full days of mountain country viewing.

On a quiet, Sunday morning, we would begin our latest tour with a short drive along the Snake River highway path to reach Grand Teton National Park. Sidetracking at the Moose Visitor Center for an obligatory ranger orientation, we were told that taking our intended walking path near Jenny Lake would be risky due to lingering snow and muddy conditions. We needed a practical Plan B option. With these steep mountains being cloudlessly viewable today, we thus opted to enjoy these nearby panoramas by driving leisurely the forty two mile loop road to traverse the entire National Park. How exciting it seemed to understand that the stark beauty of        these faulted mountains and associated glacier formations had resulted from volcanic forces shifting the earth’s plates upwards and sideways over eons of time.

Yellowstone National Park marks the origin of the Snake River and would again serve as our main guideway as we made a brief visit to America’s first National Park the next day. Realizing that hordes of tourists would head directly to Old Faithful area, we selected the less visited West Thumb geyser and Yellowstone Lake regions as our primary destination today. Picture an inviting combination of pristine forestland serenity, spectacular lakeside vistas with a sprinkling of entertaining birdlife/wildlife. Undoubtedly, both of us had become mesmerized by the natural amenities here. Fittingly, we have decided to apply for part time work as a retired couple in this Yellowstone Lake region within the next two years.

The more that I experience the wildness of the American West, the more sensitive I become to the paradox of natural beauty and physical hardship experienced in traversing these spacious lands. Around each rising mountain pass or below each river canyon lies a myriad of curious wonders yet so much of these locations appear inaccessible to human contact. Nature thus has spoken loudly to us. Our natural ecosystems are here for us to enjoy yet human encroachment should not be allowed to wreck them.

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Klamath Falls: Solitude&Splender

After spending six weeks along the populated, California coastline, traveling north through remote areas of California would come as a welcome break from civilization. Following an uneventful path through prairie-like environs of the Central Valley, my wife and I ascended on Highway I-5 to the stunning beauty of the Cascade Highlands. With its immense, conical peak of snowy glitter interspersed with steep bluffs and canyons, Mount Shasta would dominate our visual attention for hundreds of miles throughout this Northern California leg of our adventure. Crossing into Southern Oregon in mid afternoon, we felt confident that spending three days at our next destination, Klamath Falls, would provide ample time for us to to experience additional, natural scenery for the next two days.

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Klamath Falls may best be described as an an isolated, western town that takes great interest in its nearby environmental amenities. Thus its location in close proximity to important, national landmarks/parks seemed to offer us a major “plus” for staying there. Specifically, Klamath would provide an ideal place for us to start a new week by exploring watershed areas of national birding interest, driving along an ancient, volcano crater and descend into the mysteriousness of volcanic, underground caves.

On a cloudless Monday morning, we set out south from town to take in a spectacular view of Mount Shasta in the distance. Beyond the California border, we looked forward to bird watching at the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge as our first activity today. After conducting a a brief talk with the ranger at the National Bird Refuge Center, we selected two places where avian sightings would be most likely found today: Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Preserve. Traveling slowly along well-paved auto routes at both of these vast, watery sloughs, we frequently stopped to take photographs of several  species: delicate, white pelicans, noisy, Canadian geese, black camouflaged ducks, and dive-bombing swallows… On several of these occasions, feeding deer, curious prairie dogs, and a farm-enclosed llama also caught our attention.

In stark contrast to the prolific, animal presence in the Klamath Preserve, our auto tour continued into the lifeless environment of jagged, volcanic rocks at the Lava Beds National Monument. Eerily silent for eons, the conspicuous piles of  heat-blackened rocks everywhere would seem impossible to explore on our own today. Yet underground, a massive system of seventy+ lave tubes would attract our interest as a spelunking activity this afternoon.

Picture descending steep steps with a bulky lantern into an unknown labyrinth of dark and moist caverns that requires frequent bending and stooping along the way and you would have had a fairly accurate account of our hiking challenge today at Golden Dome and Sunshine Caves. Yet stunning, natural formations to photograph along the walls of each cave along with the exhilarating newness of this activity would well justify the physical effort expended today.

I can honestly say I missed the inner serenity of waves and sea life induced by the enticing, Pacific Ocean shoreline as we traveled inland. Although we did not have time to visit our third destination, Crater Lake on this visit, Klamath Falls, however, provided another form of positive energy for us. For during our visits to protected wetlands and volcanic caves, I sensed the continuing need for preserving America’s natural environment for future generations to appreciate. No doubt this realization is a useful, reality check for now me now, as I have found a new motivation to volunteer my time in retirement.