Posted tagged ‘alaska’

Batting 0.500 This Week

November 4, 2009

Sometimes when I paint, I have a really good day.

Like last Saturday, when I finished this one:

Painting 1

And then some days aren’t so good.

Like two days later:

Bad Art (Skating)

Oh well.  They can’t all be gems.


A few new Watercolors

January 18, 2009

In between my blogging and my kids’ story book, I’ve somehow managed to get a few more landscapes in.  Especially since my painting group started again last fall.

These first two are quick (~ 1 hour) sketches.  These scenes are from Gatineau Park, from the cross-country ski trails.

From a pure laziness point of view, I like winter scenes, because it involves less painting (i.e. you have to leave lots of white).   The down side, though, you have to know WHERE to leave the white.    (It’s really easy to screw up a winter watercolor painting if you’re not careful).



This next scene is from Alaska, between Homer and Anchorage.   Alaska is awesome.   You can see glaciers like this right from the side of the road.


This next one you might recognize.  It’s from a photo I posted last October, from Upstate New York.   I couldn’t resist the brilliant yellow colors;.


Finally, here’s one from my summer vacation, at Neys Provincial Park.     The North Shore of Superior always fascinates me…it’s so untamed and rugged.    And cold.   This was Labor Day weekend, and you can see the leaves were already starting to change.


My Favorite Touron (*) Moments

August 7, 2008

(*) Definition:

Tou*ron: noun. A tourist moron.

Video-Taping Life it Instead of Living It.
Imagine a beautiful fairyland of orange-red pillars of sandstone, colored so brightly that the rocks seem to glow from within.

That’s Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah.

I was standing on the edge of the canyon, taking in all of nature’s glory, just before taking the path downwards to hike into this maze of wonders.

Except there was a traffic jam on the hiking trail.  A bunch of Japanese tourists were walking single file, with their cameras all clicking away.

The best was the Touron woman in front of me, who was blocking my way, walking ahead at 1 m.p.h. while she videotaped her hike.

Apparently it was more important for this boson to view Bryce Canyon through a  1-inch view-finder,  than to put the F$%*&ing video camera down and just LOOK at the scenery in real-time.

Eventually, I managed to squeeze by her.

Though I congratulate myself for not pushing her over the cliff as I did so.


Just Ignore the Mountain
Normally, I hate Touron buses and avoid them like the plague.  But in this case, I had no choice.

Since they don’t permit cars past a certain point in Denali National Park, the only way see some of the sights is to book a space on the Touron Bus.

And you have to get there early, because the bus fills up quickly.

But this day was worth it.  The weather was exceptionally clear and Mount McKinley was perfectly visible.

The bus driver told us this was rare:  two-thirds of the time, Mckinley is covered in clouds.  Today was the best day he’d seen all summer.  We had truly lucked out.

We pulled over on the side of the road at a lookout, and got out of the bus to look at one of the most awe-inspiring sights I had ever seen.

Mt. McKinley (or Denali) was a white icy pyramid-castle thrusting itself 18,000 vertical feet upwards into a deep azure blue sky.  I was looking at the roof of North America and felt I could almost touch it.

It was so beautiful, I almost wanted to cry.

Did I say we got out of the bus?  Well..MOST of us did.

There was this 80 year old Touron Bat who couldn’t be bothered.

Her elderly son tried to plead for her to come out and take a look, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t.

While the rest of us were outside, Ooohing and Aaahing, she just sat there inside the bus.   I don’t know if she even looked out the window.


What a waste of a bus seat.

What a waste of DNA, for that matter.

Promise me something, folks.

If I ever become that old and jaded, please shoot me.


Shittiest.   Hiker.   Ever.
There are several ways you can get to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.

If you’re ambitious, you can hike up the 4000 vertical feet to get there.

Or you can take the toll-road to the summit in the comfort of your air-conditioned car.

Or, if you’re too wussy to even DRIVE, you can even take the Touron Bus.

On top (next to the cafeteria/museum/post office complex), there’s 5-foot pile of rocks with a signpost.

It indicates the summit elevation of 6,288 feet above sea level, the highest point in the North East.

Almost everyone there (including myself) walked up to top of those rocks.

After all, I HAD to touch the summit. (Especially, as I’d just finished a grueling four hike, climbing  up steep ravines and hopping from boulder to boulder to get there).

But this was too much for one Touron in flip-flops (who obviously drove to the top).

She refused to go up the tiny rock pile.  She told her husband it was “too much”.  She might sprain an ankle or something.

Oh boy.   If she had been alive in 1803, I bet you Lewis and Clark would have just SNATCHED her up for their expedition, wouldn’t have they?


Whatever you do, don’t hurt Bambi
This happened when I was returning from a camping trip with a group of fellow students.  A girl from our group insisted on stopping by a “Trading Post” by the side of the road.

This place smelled “Shitty Touron Trap” all over.

Why?  Because:

a) there was a 10-foot fake Grizzly Bear out front (This was Eastern Ontario, there wasn’t a grizzly within 2500 miles.)

b)  any place that calls itself a “Trading Post” is, by default,  a Shitty Touron trap.

(Come on…do they actually TRADE at these Trading Posts?)

“I’ll buy the Indian teepee made in China, in exchange for these beaver pelts”

(I somehow doubt these places work on a barter system, but I digress here).

Anyway, our friend was visiting from the UK, she didn’t know any better, so we humored her and all went into the store.

The merchandise was the typical ceramic birchbark Touron crap.   Then I saw a string of wolf pelts hanging on the wall.

I commented to my friend that it’s a shame to kill wild animals like this, just to be sold as novelty items for the tourists.

Well, the store owner (a scowling 70-year-old Polyester Lady) didn’t like hearing me say this.

Oh, yeah?” she said.  “Well…these vicious animals attack and kill DEER…have you ever heard the sound a poor deer makes when it’s being mauled by wolves?…it’s HORRIBLE!

I stood flabbergasted, listening to this idiot logic.

I was so mad, I starter to sputter, getting ready to give a piece of my mind to Jane F*cking Goodall here:

Uhh….Oh my God…….theyr’e CARNIVORES…! ….This…this is what wolves DO…I can’t believe you’re saying this…you (sputter) ignorant…#$%&…what did you EXPECT they’d eat….You STUPID OLD B...”

Suddenly, my friend, seeing I was about to pop a gasket,  grabbed me, and said “Okay, Friar, calm down…lets go.

He had whisked me out of store, before I made a scene.   He was chuckling too…I think he regretted not letting me blow up.

That was almost 20 years ago.  The Trading Post is still there, but I don’t’ think I’ve been in there since.

If it’s any consolation, Grandam Wolf-Killer is probably gone by now.  (Eaten by wolves, perhaps?) 🙂


Not just making a carbon footprint, but doing it with Size 16 shoes.
I forgot to mention there’s another way to get up Mt. Washington.

You can also take the Cog Railway.    This is a steam train (circa 1890 technology) that still runs up the mountain, pulling up a few dozen tourists at a time.

What a freaking ABOMINATION.

Oh, come on, Friar.  What’s wrong with a train, you might ask?


Not if you enjoy your peaceful alpine moments being interrupted by a steam whistle every 20 minutes, from an infernal machine that belches clouds of black coal smoke into the clean moutain air.

Not only that, but the smoke spreads out for miles into the Mt. Washington Valley, and obscures half the view you had spent 4 hours hiking to look at.

All this,  just for the benefit of a few Tourons who are too stupid to hike, drive, or take the Touron Bus to the top of the mountain.

Al Gore must be weeping in his mansion, at this moment.


Hank Hill goes Canoe Camping

Algonquin Park in Eastern Ontario is one of the best canoe-camping areas in North America.

There are hundreds of miles of organized canoe routes and portages, and people come from the world all over to camp there.

When camping in the Interior, you pretty much have to carry in everything yourself.   Mostly, you pack essentials like food, clothing and the tent.

But sometimes, it’s fun to make the extra effort and bring along a “luxury” item.

Like a few extra cans of beer.   Maybe a hammock.  Or a folding lawn chair.

I’ve brought my share of stupid things into the park.  We all have.

The STUPIDEST thing I saw, though, were the two idiots with a full-sized BBQ in their canoe (including the propane tank).

The BBQ towered over their head while they paddled in sitting positions.   I suspect their center or gravity was several feet above the water.

As I paddled by, I commented “I guess you’re not going to be portaging the BBQ, eh?

Uhhh…you guessed right“, they answered.

Dudes.  You’re camping in the Interiour (i.e. the forest).    Where there’s dead brush and dry kindling ALL AROUND YOU.

And even if you didn’t want to make a campfire, there is such a thing as a Coleman Stove.

WTF do you need to bring a PROPANE BARBECUE for?

Because they’re TOURONS…that’s why!!!.

More Things Old People Like

July 8, 2008

Big Cars
Have you ever driven a Buick or a Lincoln Continental?   The slightest touch on the gas pedal will have the car zooming at 75 mph without you even realizing it.   These cars are a dream for cruising down freeways at high speed.

Well, seniors just LOVE these cars.  (Mainly, because they’re the only ones that can afford them!)  But unfortunately, Grampa Jebediah or Old Aunt Gladys never drive these cars the way they’re supposed to be driven.

Instead, they proceed at a turtle’s pace.   No wonder we call these cars “Boats”.

What a freaking waste of engine power.

I have a suggestion to the car manufacturers:  Get rid of the V6 200-Horsepower engine, and replace it with a tiny putt-putt motor instead.

You’ll save a bundle on production costs, and your customers will never notice the difference.

All-you-can-eat Buffets
The Old Ladies especially get into this.

First, they’ll hover over all the different trays and admire the presentation and arrangement of the steaming food.

Next, they’ll debate over what to eat.   After about 10 minutes they’ll finally start to painfully pick and chose every food morsel as if it was Christ’s Last Supper.

What next?   Dear me, that pasta noodle looks good.   I think I will try an olive next….Hmm…shall I have a meat ball?

These old biddies always seem to place themselves in front of the hungriest customer in the restaurant (namely….ME!).

I swear it’s deliberate.

When I can finally get around these culinary ding-dongs,  it takes me about 5 seconds to slap the food on my plate and return to my seat.

By the time I’m done eating and going back for seconds, the Food-Gawkers could still be trying to fill up their first plate.

Short Hair
When women get to a certain age, they often get the classic O.B. haircut (O.B. being short for Old Bat)

You know the style.  The hair is so short it’s almost a Marine brush-cut.    For a slight trace of femininity, the top of the scalp might reluctantly be allowed to have a few curls.

For God’s sakes, WHY would anyone want to deliberately look this way?

My theory is that once a woman gets old enough, they achieve BAT status and no longer have to worry about dolling themselves up to look good.  They’re too old to date and/or their husband is too old to be unfaithful and leave them.

So instead of messing with curls and bangs every day, they opt for the hairstyle that takes zero maintenance.

The Old-Bat cut is especially popular with the larger women.

Nothing like a closely-cropped scalp to make the head appear smaller and make the body look even more huge than it already is.

It’s only a matter of time before they start to shave themselves bald (and won’t the grand-kids just love THAT?)

My mother once pointed out the “Polyester Ladies” to me as a kid.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Once women reach that certain body mass, they’ll opt for the loose, comfortable clothing that fits all sizes.  And Polyester, being that wonderful petroleum-based fabric,  comes in all kinds of bright pastel colors.

It’s the perfect accessory to wear with the O.B. cut.

Wearing them is mandatory.   Especially when driving.

You can see men start to do this in their 50’s.  Once their aggressive driving days are behind them, they’ll start sporting a leather cap with a visor.

That’s the “Apprentice Hat” which they’re required to wear for several years while they gradually reduce their driving speed.

Once they’re the slowest driver on the street (and they’ve physically shrunken to the point where you only see their knuckles grabbing the steering wheel), they become a full-fledged Gray Head driver.   At that point, they’re allowed to wear a full Fedora.

Someone too old to drive has attained Senior Gray Head status.    They’re relegated to the back seat and as a sign of respect they no longer have to wear the hat.

They just coach the more junior Grey-Heads up front who are still driving.

Stories about Sickness and Death
When seniors approach their twilight years, they’re increasingly aware of their own mortality and hence feel the need to share their fears with you.   Which basically involves endless misery stories about unfortunate people you don’t know and will never meet.

“I was taking to Mrs. McGillicuddy down the street…her cousin’s mailman had leprosy of the bowel. It was an horrible surgery, he was in the hospital for 16 weeks, and now he’s in a wheelchair and can only go to the bathroom  while standing on his head and playing the accordion…

….but his daughter takes care of him.  But then she got Jungle-Rot fever of the brain, and it ate our her eyes.   So now she walks around the house with a seeing eye-dog, with empty sockets where her eyes used to be, trying to care of her poor father.     But then the dog had to be put down because it strangled on the colostomy bag hose.     It’s very sad, actually…”

(Okay!  Okay!….I GET it!….Life sucks and we’re all going to DIE!….can I please go kill myself now?)

Sandal and Socks
The quintessential old-man stereotype:  expensive leather sandals with black knee-length socks.

I’m trying to figure out where this came from.   When did people EVER dress this way?  Even back in the 1930’s …was this style EVER fashionable and cool?

I’m guessing…NOT.

In fact, I suspect that is was NEVER cool to wear sandals and socks together.

NEVER in the history of the whole planet.

It must be a phenomenon seniors invented.   Because they could.

Small Dogs
The smaller. the better.    And make they’re hyper and nippy, and hate everyone except the owner.

Bonus points, if it’s a wussy dog that needs to sweater to go outside.

The Mandatory Pilgrimage to Alaska
Okay, imagine every RV in the Lower 48, from Alabama to Wyoming, traveling up north.

Now imagine all these RV’s funneled together onto the only paved road within 500 miles.

Welcome to Alaska in July.

This Grey Invasion takes over the whole state.   The average tourist age is about 72, because it’s mainly the elderly who who can afford the time off to travel up there.

The only 20-year-olds you’ll see are the ones working 15 hours a day in the restaurants and tourist traps, to serve the RV-crowd the Blue-Plate specials and Senior Discount Coffee.

If you want to visit Alaska un-crowded, my advice is to head up there in mid-August.   By then, the nights will have started getting a bit chilly, and the Vast Grey Exodus reverses itself, as everyone starts heading south again.

Gigantic Sun-Glasses.
You know, the really big ones.  That wrap almost all the way around the head, and cover half the face.

For Chrissakes.   Why don’t you just get a welder’s mask, at this point?

At a certain age, it’s like a dormant switch gets turned on:

“I’m old…Gee, it’s time I started liking the Bag-Pipes”.

This caterwauling sound tends to make all Seniors nostalgic and misty-eyed.   Even the ones who never fought in a war, or who have no trace of Scottish blood, whatsoever.

If I ever start liking bag-pipes, you’ll know it’s time to put me down.

Seriously.  Have you EVER seen anyone under 75 lawn-bowl?

Again, I think the age-related switch gets suddenly turned on, and people suddenly feel the urge to take up the game.

Same thing applies to square dancing…

If there’s one thing seniors don’t mess around with, it’s Number Two.

I used to stock shelves in a drug store.    Believe me, this product was a big hit with the over-65 crowd.

(Anyway, I know my Grandma loved it).

Travels with the Bear: Denali National Park

June 21, 2008

If you’re ever in the town of Talkeetna, Alaska, for a few hundred bucks a pilot will take you on a scenic flight around Denali.  

It’s well-worth the cost.  You’ll soar over endless icefields,  and circle around towering spires of ice and rock that seem to pierce the very fabric of the sky…



They’ll even land you on a glacier, where you can get out and walk around in your shorts and T-Shirt.

Sure, it’s touristy, but so what?  Unless you’re a serious moutaineer, when else would you ever get to do something like this?  

This had to be one of the most beautiful days of my life. 

 The Bear tends to agree.

Five Flats in Eighteen Days

May 29, 2008

This is what happens when you take a Honda Civic along the Dempster Highway.  

 Flat #1 (Near the Yukon-NWT border)    

At least it’s pouring rain.


Flat #2.  Just south of Fort McPherson

I had to cross the river by ferryboat three times that day.   Once, to cross.  The second time, to back-track to the nearest garage to fix my flat. The third time, to cross yet again,  to return where I started from. 

The third time on the boat, the ferry operator, a typically stoic native, just looked at me and cracked up and started laughing. 


Flat #3 (Near Engineer Creek)  

Second flat in one day (see Flat #2).  



Flat #4 (Approaching Dawson City)

Almost on pavement again, but that one sharp stone had to find my tire. 

Of course it did.


Flat #5 (Bonus Round:  Paxson, Alaska)

I had just finished 120 miles of white-knuckle driving on sharp gravel along the Denali Highway, and thankfully reached pavement again. 

Only to have the front tire go flat…in the freaking parking lot.

For @#$& sakes.    

Next time, I use a truck!  


Watercolor #8. Flight over Wrangell St. Elias

April 26, 2008

This was from a photo I took out of an airplane, on a scenic flight I took over Alaska a few years back…