IMG_1686We’ve been up in Portland to give Daniel’s family a new set of aprons as well as a little help with his new house remodel. Stanna made the aprons in the Thai style with cloth she brought back this spring. The house is 125 years old and if you go back a year in the blog you’ll see what we did to the house last year before they moved in. The main floor is virtually finished and now the concentration is on the full basement and second floor.

IMG_1685We razed the entire second floor last year. Now a second bathroom is the priority not to mention using that upstairs for a third bedroom. As with all “fixer-uppers” it’s been a tour d’ force working full-time, managing a large family and doing a major renovation. A week’s worth of help goes a long way toward the project even when it’s one old man doing nuisance tasks.

IMG_1687In just that week the old victorian home went from two to four useable bedrooms. For those who think assembly of IKEA furniture is a breeze, just look at how many it took to put together Julia’s new bed.

Fun to help, see the grand girls and Traci’s twin six-year-olds.



Breaking the Fun Barrier

IMG_4643It’s been odd hanging out into winter, having to don all that winter clothing and extra layers.   Like the Christmas decorations stored since 2000,  it’s nice to bring that stuff out of the deepest parts of the closets.  Good thing all that gear still fits.

The grandgirls were with us until Jan 2nd so we’ve been so active, multiple days we scored past the “fun barrier.”  Just since Christmas we’ve ridden the Durango & Silverton Railroad’s Polar Express, gone sledding in Silverton and did 15 miles of dog sledding near Mancos.


Not many of the evening train photos turned out (due to twinkle lighting and fidgeting kids) but we can guarantee they all had a super time.  The Polar Express leaves at dusk and by IMG_4582
the time we’ve reached the North Pole in the dark (traveling at 4,000 miles an hour), read the Polar Express book  aloud, had hot chocolate and a cookie, the kids all dressed in their pajamas are pumped beyond the giggle-zone. At the Wye turn-around a high-wattage blow-up village with Santa and his cohorts wave to us as we peer thru fogged windows at the surreal snow-covered pop-up-scape.

Each train car has it’s two Chef hosts keeping the spirit elevated and they led us in Christmas songs all the way thru the time warp back to Durango. Oh, and Santa and his elf managed to squeeze down the aisles on the homeward leg giving out reindeer bells and good cheer to all.

IMG_4629None of Daniel’s family had seen Silverton in the snowy winter, so a sledding trip up there took an entire day and provided one more sonic break thru the fun barrier.  Thanks to the George Family reunion we had four sleds, as the unusually heavy snows had sold out Durango’s supply.  Recreation in Silverton has gotten much more polished since our days.  Ski hill has a short chair lift ($20 for an all day adult), an adjacent sledding venue and a skating rink, with all the requisite gear available to rent.


IMG_6514The coup d’ grace for the week’s activities was a half-day dog sled ride on the west side of the La Plata mountains.  We arranged for 3 sleds, each with teams of eight Alaskan Huskie sled dogs and their mushers.  The “Swiss Calendar Day” was picture-perfect as we whisked along at 6-8 miles an hour, stopping occasionally to let the dogs catch their breath.

Great fun and an interesting experience.  Learned that there are quite a number of sled dogs working in our area; probably 5 or more teams working the day we enjoyed.


Next up: Thailand.





End of Year Happenings

Locals are saying that the snows this winter, albeit late in arriving in the 3rd week of December, are more than they’ve had in at least 5 years. We’re late in leaving for our
“endless summer” sojourns so we’ve warily tried to embrace the white wonderland with a modicum of enthusiasm and longer pants.

Several feet of snow and sub-freezing temps are not foreign to Durango, but it’s been since 1991 (with the single exception of late 2000 when an Atlantic passage spared one of us the humility of long pants) that we’ve “enjoyed” winter in Durango. Surely shoveling snow is a skill like riding a bicycle, but shoveling in shorts is harder than riding in shorts.


Eager anticipation and optimistic planning forecast an outing with our grandgirls (arriving on the 20th of December) to cut our own xmas tree in the National Forest with the permit duly acquired.  The night the girls and their mother, Erica, arrived, Durango got the snows they would have preferred pre-Thanksgiving as a guarantee for a white Christmas.

Not only did we have to abandon any hope of venturing up a Forest Service road, but the fund-raising tree lot closed the night before as well — a consequence of too much snow, too cold weather and only too little (tiny) trees left.

The back-up plan was retrieving the artificial tree stored since December 2000 along with all the other holiday trappings that haven’t seen the light of winter since New Year’s 2001.  Everyone was relieved we didn’t have to travel any farther than a storage garage in order to secure the center point of the holiday festivities, although the real thing would have made for a super adventure.

IMG_4413But before we get on with the visitors from Portland, we need to give the farthest-travelled credit to the English Georges, all 8 of them who came for a family gathering with the Colorado Georges, all 9 of them, plus a handful of outlaws.  This makes for quite a collection in one home, even if seven of them are children.  We’ve hosted them twice, once before our Portland family arrived and then again for Christmas Eve. (photo only shows adults as the kids were sequestered next door at our niece’s condo for dinner)  Included below is a rare family photo of this reunion.  The youngest two lap-sitters, Oliver and Inari, are from Colorado and kept everyone entertained and busy.


IMG_4391Gatherings galore for the Georges included a surprise birthday party for my sister, Donna, where almost 30 folks shifted into surprise mode offsite, with home-made pizzas and sommelier-chosen fine wines.  The grandgirls made it to this event and even got to design a custom pizza for the oven.IMG_4387




Snow continued right thru Christmas Day leaving 26″ of fresh powder at Purgatory, our ski IMG_4371area 24 miles up the highway, and another 8″ in Durango.  Both our snowmen sit and still stand tall on the condo deck, surely surviving into the new year.

Only downside going into this holiday is that the 3 solar projects that just came online have panels buried in snow and are less-than-satisfactorily producing any photovoltaics.  Ours is more accessible and has been cleared twice so far.


Late May Early June

It seems like we haven’t been doing anything when we haven’t posted a blog. Normally there’s always time to sit down and write about what we’ve been doing and what we hope that you would be doing: having fun, exercising and getting outside.


Right now we’re in Portland working on Daniel’s new house, rather his new old house, which was built in 1888. But before we get into the remodel in Portland let’s just tell you that we had a busy week just before leaving for Portland. Week before last Stanna’s IMG_2318brother David and his wife Pam came down from Denver. The weather cleared enough for us to do a great 5-mile hike right in one of Durango’s mountain parks. As you can see “Durango records wettest May on record” so it wasn’t possible to get out much at all.

Besides catching up with news about their family, grand-babies and recent wedding adding a fourth spouse to their five grown children, David & Pam took home some of our purged loot. Best of all is  knowing the 60-pound dish-packed box of Beekley China will have a home at their cabin in Estes Park.

IMG_2339First on our agenda in Oregon, before tackling the house remodel, was catching up with Polecat.  Don & Janice just happened to roll their only home into a Portland state park the day before we arrived.  We all had to get out, even in the rain, so we hiked a popular Multnomah Falls Loop trail.  They had eyed a fresh fish market earlier and hoped the skies would clear long enough for a fresh salmon barbecue.




Daniel’s new house in SW Portland, located on a hillside overlooking the Willamette River, was built in 1888. His plan is a total remodel of the basement and two floors, that includes gutting of the kitchen and entire second floor. The short-term goal is to get moved in by August 30 and that would mean making the main floor totally livable with an entirely new kitchen.

IMG_2400We arrived in time to be involved with the demolition work in the upstairs: only took one hard day to take out every wall of the second floor. Gutting the kitchen was a little more involved and took about three days, because I had to remove appliances cabinets, plumbing and soffits. Daniel originally thought it would only require a 10 yard dumpster but I think the pile is now close to 20 yards.

IMG_2394Since his house is over 120 years old it had multiple layers of wallpaper, in some places as many as eight. We rented a steam wallpaper remover and it took a full seven-day rental to remove the wallpaper from the first floor walls that were over 10 feet high. Many places we could only get down two or three layers to an impermeable layer which Daniel is IMG_2369just going to sand and paint. Most of the interior construction is with lathe and plaster but the serious remodels show the various stages of sheet rock from the earliest types to the more modern.  The first-generation sheet-rock with the brown paper covering absorbed steam too easily and prevented us from taking off a layer of wallpaper directly attached to that oldest drywall.

IMG_2382IMG_2393 (1)This trip coincided with the end of school here in Portland so we got to see a number of functions for our granddaughters, the most interesting of which was at Sophie’s elementary school where she participated in a fifth grader “states float” parade and the final day “clap-out.”  Clap-out was pretty remarkable because all the younger elementary school students IMG_2450and parents of the fifth-graders lined the central school hallway as the fifth grade graduating students exited their classrooms and received a clap-out and high-five from all the gauntlet of well-wishers.

IMG_3464Our final project at the house was ringing-out and planing the remodel’s wiring. Lots to be upgraded and since they’re going to finish out the basement as well, a number of new circuits need to be added. Two weeks in Portland sure went fast.


Erica’s Kitchen Phase II

IMG_9872We’ve just finished the kitchen we started last December in Portland.  Thanks to IKEA and an empty finished wall, the install went from 640 pounds on a shipping pallet to a complementary pantry and storage addition in less than 4 days. Not having any plumbing or electrical also made things easy.

IMG_9873There are probably many reasons IKEA has been so successful world-wide, however besides easy instructions, simple tools required, and snap together pieces, they even bring the cartons inside when they deliver: a bonus when there are stairs involved and heavy bundles.


The great thing about visiting the store in person is the kitchen design personnel can point out flaws in your thinking and planning even when you’ve done several before: like remembering to add a filler between a cabinet door and the wall. I wasn’t sure why we’d received an expensive side panel until I realized the IKEA lady anticipated an exposed portion of the pantry that I hadn’t seen when laying out the drawings.

IMG_9884Only item missing in the finished setup is a countertop, which will be added later.  Erica now has more storage than she ever imagined with dedicated drawers for things like baking, snacks and canned goods. Here’s last December’s half of the kitchen for the full picture:IMG_9858Oh, and we had a good time seeing the grand-girls and their parents as well.

Everything said here probably sounds like a product placement, but rest assured there was no quid pro quo from IKEA, just fun to have a quick and successful project.

Left Coast of Florida

GulfWe quickly slid from the throngs of East Coast Florida Spring Breakers to the Left Coast where the crowds and waves on the Gulf coast were down to almost nothing by comparison.  The promise of beach time was the allure and winning proposal but as you can see the water, while warmer than the local air temperature, just wasn’t warm enough to get fully immersed in.  However, Stanna found one of the few remaining 50’s beach resorts nestled between the high-rise versions that overwhelm the current St. Petersburg beach-scape.  This place was perfect in our eyes with all single story one-bedroom units double barrel shot-guned between the highway, the water and those boxy 10 story condo buildings.  Light and bright, with contemporary furnishing, fixtures and appliances, only the checkered tile in the showers belied the true age of these earlier get-a-way resorts.  The biggest hit with Julia was the HEATED pool which she only exited once the cooling 6 o’clock shadows of the neighboring behemoth chilled the air.gulfsunset

Since an AirBoat ride in the Everglades didn’t strike a note of interest for our 10 year-old charge, we settled on a canoe paddle down the Hillsborough River just northeast of Tampa. Turtles This was a reality version of one of those Disney rides where you had to paddle your own locomotion and the wild animals were closer, more naturally animated and live.  The Canoe Escape Canoe Escape: Canoeing the Hillsborough River near Tampa, Florida offers 2, 4 and 6-hour self guided adventures providing various water craft and return shuttles JuliaPaddlingfor a very modest price considering it’s in Florida.  We opted for the 4-hour (there is a intermediate State Park with water, picnic tables and restrooms every 2 hours), so we got to finish our week in Florida with a real adventure.  First thing that you’ll see is turtles everywhere (in the sun) and then the variety of bird life is wonderful (with a crowded regions of 100’s of Turkey Vultures), and of course what would a Florida water source be without gators, lots of alligators.  And not all of them were sunning on the sunny banks.

HillsRiverSeveral very large ones, just down stream of our meandering progress, submerged themselves just like Disney would have, as we trepidaiously paddled forward right over their last known position.  HalfGatorJulia paddled the first 4.5 miles and after our lunch break took the middle canoe spot and became the photographer and got several good granddaddy alligator shot which I hope to include.  You’ll have to settle for “half a gator” until we can get those sent from Oregon.  We’d recommend this short adventure for anyone because it’s amazing to see such wildlife so close to a metropolitan area.  This was a wonderful finale to our week long Florida adventures.

Fun Barrier

PotterVilleWe bought our adventure this last week right along with hundreds of thousands of other Spring Break revelers in Florida. Julia, our 10+ year-old granddaughter, got to pick a personal week with the grandparents anywhere in the lower 48 for her 10th Birthday present.  To no one’s surprise, of all the American cultural highlights and recreational opportunities in the continental United States, she picked Potter-ville, also known as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando.  Fortunately we had the presence-of-mind to curtail the amusement park experience to two days, and she took maximum advantage of the operating hours, affording us 14 1/2 hours the first day. Since we didn’t manage to break the “fun barrier” on the inaugural visit, we did a touch-n-go at the motel that night, and were in the line with the first 5,000 people the next morning.

RocketI managed to accompany her on all the class 5 rides and Stanna did her turn on the class 3 versions that only evoked cries of glee rather than those higher class rides where excitement verges on terror. For a guy that hasn’t been near a roller coaster in 50 years, I was amazed I didn’t coat my seat companions with something intestinal, and you evidently have two or three choices to “void” your system.  There has to be something deeply tribal about wanting to wait in interminable lines for 110 seconds of “joy”.

Orlando – where you pay to park, pay to play and pay to pee (not really), but you line up to park, line up to play and DO line up to pee.  I guess it’s no secret that these theme parks can get “sold out” as was the case at Disney World (when they reached capacity of 100,000) the same day.  If it weren’t for the cold front here (high today of 62), I figure the Universal twins would be at capacity as well.  crowdIt’s standing room only in Harry Potter World and the only way we beat the 120- minute wait time was to start our queue at 9:30 PM and only wait 75 minutes.

Lines at the 8am day-two start flag were in the single digits for about 45 minutes.  Probably ’cause it was 48 degrees and windy, but by the time we made it half-way round Islands of Adventure the 9:30 am lines were over 120 minutes and Hogsmeade was virtually grid-locked.

followingJulia never slowed a beat during the ordeal, I mean experience.  And we really lucked out as she chatted-up another 10 year-old girl and her 15 year-old brother escort on the second trip on the Dragon Challenge front row class 5+ ride, and the newly bonded best bud’s trekked and traipsed round the two adjacent parks for the next 12 hours.  We simply shadowed the triumvirate, paying for sustenance and nutrition as necessary.

It is worth revealing several important facts about the two Universal Parks:  First, purchase an “Express Pass” for the first day, totally ignoring the usurus charges for the privilege of cutting to the front of the lines. 90- to 120-minute waits can be cut down to 10 to 15 minutes.  Second, there actually are several adult-enjoyable rides, the best known as the Forbidden Journey in the Hogswort Castle (Harry Potter Land) and the Spiderman ride is also quite remarkable, as it has similar mechanical, sensory and visual effects that put realism in your gut.

lastcarAs you can see we were virtually the last car left in the mega-car-park after 14.5 hours and 12 miles walking the first day.  A good time was had by all.



Can’t say enough about how much fun we had taking our grandgirls out on their first backpacking trip.  Since pictures are worth a thousand words checkout the Gallery tab in the header or click here for 22,000 words in photos.

We thought for several reasons it would be best to take the girls backpacking up in the Northwest, closer to their home.  For one, we wanted to outfit them in Portland where we could have numerous choices and their bodies for fitting, also to show them (and ourselves) backcountry that was close to their home, and lastly we could outfit them with ultra light gear for the same price as flying them down to Durango.

In an effort to make it fun for them and us, we opted to set them up with ultra-light gear that we’ve been enjoying.  Choosing an 18-ounce 30-degree sleeping bag, 9-ounce pad and 18-ounce backpack enabled us to get their base weight down to 5 1/2 pounds.  (Base weight is all gear on your back, excluding consumables like food and water).  Happy to furnish spec’s on our choices if you’re interested.  Portland’s outlet stores and discount outdoor gear suppliers made it easy to find clothing to layer up with, at extremely reasonable prices.  They carried all their camping gear (excluding a 3-person tent), clothing, rain coat, water, dish and spork, plus one meal each.  Oh, and plenty of snacks for each day.  The girls hardly knew they had anything on their backs and rarely took off the packs at rest stops.

We only took a 3-person Warmlite tent and my single-person ultra-lite tent, plus three days’ food, extra snacks and cooking gear, over and above our ultra-lite gear, so it was an easy trip for all of us.

We lucked out on the “dart-throw choice” of both our itineraries. We chose the Olympic Peninsula Quinault River for the first adventure, hiking up 6.5 miles to O’Neill Camp.  We made it easy by starting in the afternoon and only having to hike 2.5 miles uphill the first day.  Next day was 4 miles to O’Neill and from there we hiked out 6.5 miles back to the trail head to re-supply.  The mosquitoes were the only detriment to that hike, as at least one of the girls got over 60 bites on her forehead alone.  We were constantly in awe of the height and girth of those tall trees in the Olympic National Park. They’re often well over 100′ high with branches that don’t start for 40 or 50 feet.  Real hard to hang your food away from the bears on branches that high.  If you haven’t ever hiked among those giants you’re missing a great wonder.