Cat 1

Our tour leader, Chris, quite the accomplished bike racer in his day, said this was a category one maybe two, pro series rated climb. This year or last, I forget now, he said it was included in the Tour de France. Knock one off my bucket list

WI Travelogue – Part II

October, is that you at the door? I ask because it’s sixty-one and sunny today (9/29). So Black Dog and I ventured into the low mountains to enjoy an invigorating hike together

It’s only us this weekend because HW is at a conference in Phoenix, where, she reports, it’s still over 90° at 10:00 PM. Poor thing. I texted her this picture and you could almost hear her heels click three times, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like…” Anyway, Black Dog is usually out front like that, sniffing for any morsel of food or what have you that may have fallen from another hiker’s pack. Dogs generally, but Labrador breeds especially, it seems to me are fixated on food opportunities 24/7. HW won’t even let him off leash anymore on the beach in Seward during summer for fear he’ll be combing campgrounds for discarded chicken bones, or running uninvited into people’s RVs looking for an open bag of chips. This actually happened to me one time, and by the time I caught up with him he was inside a Winnebago, his nose so far into a family-size bag of Lays you couldn’t see his ears. Fortunately, in this case, the campers found it amusing. Doesn’t always go that way though, and when it doesn’t, well, I always have at the ready a battery of sappy apologies and excuses for his misbehavior, even if some of them aren’t true – “Sorry, he’s not our dog, we’re watching him for a friend who rescued him from a puppy mill.” Often enough this gets the waterworks going and I’m off the hook.

Admit it, you could hardly wait for Wisconsin Travelogue Part II!

That’s my our mom in full harvest mode. A big shout out to Cuff Farms, where, shortly after our arrival there, we were conveyed by the quaintest of all tractor rides to the killing fields (which we might easily have walked to from checkin, but you know what they say, when in Hortonville….). Once in the field, we disembarked the trailer with empty wood crates in hand and were instantly scurried away by a perky young lady to our row, handed a flag which we were instructed to stab in the ground at the end of our row (to mark our victory?), cautioned to not pick strawberries outside our row, and then we dropped to our knees and crawled our way along the straw-strewn field pickin’ and pitchin’ as we went.

You had to move slowly and look carefully so as not to miss the best ones

Back at home in Appleton we hulled and rinsed over the kitchen sink til our hands and fingers seemed irreversibly red.

Were they sweet you ask? Take a look

The entire week we were there it was hot, so while some in the family were at work we helped ourselves to poolside activities at the new home of our niece and nephew-in-law (you two rock!), some of which involved day drinking and play with pneumatic dolphins (complete with expert instruction from yours truly, even if it went unheeded)

It wasn’t all fun games over there though, we had the challenging responsibility of letting the two dogs out and keeping them happy. Brinkley (aka Brinkley Bear) would spend hours (seriously) pawing at shadows in the kiddie pool while ol’ Gus, after he got over his standoffishness with us, eventually chilled on the cool grass

And so it continued throughout the week, we’d awake mid-morning to enjoy coffee with Mom and Dad, catch up with the goings-on in their lives and ours, step outside into the rising heat of the day to feel the moist (Kelly!) lawn between our toes, stroll among the “twindos” marveling at the gardenry neatly maintained in every direction, and then back into the house for a late breakfast and a coffee refill to ponder the plan for the rest of the day. Regardless of how that played out, it was poolside where we all eventually gathered. Once to witness a demo by our grand (great?) nephew of his newest invention, which, if nothing else was, well, loud. I told him if he ever gets around to connecting the four-stroke beast to the drivetrain to give me a call, I wouldn’t mind takin’ that bad boy for a spin

Brother Steve dropped by one day with two of his delightful daughters, both of whom, like their dad, are pretty dang good at cornhole (aka “Bags” in Wisconsin), making me suspicious of their claim they’ve never played before. Sadly, I’ve no photos of them to share, although you can find a dandy here.

By night we prowled the hoods of Appleton, one night under the escort of sister Gail who showed us where the Pelicans play on the Fox River

Overall, a grand time (I hope) was had by all. We certainly enjoyed it. The week flew by – you leave thinking you didn’t spend enough time with the people you love, family. And to think our touch-base with them began here just a week earlier, inside a bar on Milwaukee’s east side, my ol’ stompin’ grounds while a grad student at UW-M. If these walls could speak, oy vey, the stories they may tell

Thursday we leave for Europe with two other couples, to France and Spain and places between. WiFi permitting, I’ll share some photos. Be well.

WI Travelogue – Part 1

It was 98º outside the day we left Milwaukee to return home to The Great Land. We’d looked forward to our visit, to see family of course, but also to experience some summer. But 98º? It was like stepping into a blast furnace to relieve a chill.

Needing to pass a couple hours before heading to the airport, we (Sister Gail, HW and I) drove to Milwaukee’s Third Ward to seek relief inside the Uber Tap Room, where upscale beers and gourmet cheese plates are served. Amid the hipsters and up-and-comers at the bar I felt a bit out of my element. Things sure have changed since the days I used to carouse here while in grad school at the U of W. Back then is was Pabst, pool, and darts. Cheese plates? The only thing we topped with cheese was beef, which few of us could afford being we’d spent all our money on beer and other treatments.

A big Wisconsin thank you to sister Gail for schlepping us to Milwaukee, in the luxury of her new wheels no less, which at night when you open the car door casts an affluent emblem of excellence on the ground

You’ve made it Girl! You can buy an aftermarket kit for this at Amazon, $112. Such a deal. Remove all identifying features from your Ford or Chevy and install it. Impress your date. S/he will never know you’re a poser.

Earlier in the week, before tripping north to visit family, I treated Happy Wife to two nights in Milwaukee at the Kinn Guesthouse in Bayview. A big shoutout to this place. It was the first glamtel I’ve ever stayed at. As with the Third Ward, Bayview has changed some in 30+ years. Not the safest area of town back then as I recall, but during our visit it felt quaint and friendly, with pocket parks, bike lanes, and boutiques filled with vintage knick-knackery that women purchase to place here and there in the home where it is meant to be simply, enjoyed.

Favorite likes in our room at the Kinn – the high ceiling and cream city brick walls. And free wine in the communal kitchen!

The next morning we walked, and walked (and walked) all the way down Kinnickinnic avenue to the lakefront (~7 miles). We were just strolling along the sidewalk, the heat of the day coming on full bore, when all of a sudden we hear the bum bum bum of rap music get louder and louder until…wait, what’s this

If you think you’ve come up with a novel activity that’s never before been done while drinking beer, fuggedaboutit. Trust me, somebody in Milwaukee has already done it.

Finally we reached the lakefront, strolled along a path enjoying a mercifully cool breeze coming off the lake, then trudged up the bluff and slogged a few more blocks to my favorite east side watering hole, Hooligans. The streets were cordoned off for a street fair, complete with (of course) beer tents, but also food and a bandstand with a surprisingly good local band bangin’ out some good jams, just outside a Whole Foods market. I’m tellin’ ya, all the gentrification made me feel a tad melancholic, my old haunts were nearly unrecognizable.

A notable exception was Ma Fischer’s, good to see it’s still open. Back in the day it was the only place a pickled night crawler could get a satisfying plateful of grease at 2 am

Eventually the heat of the day was too much for us doughy Alaskans, so we Uber’d back to the glamtel.

Two refreshingly cool showers later, we Uber’d to dinner at the Sandford restaurant. Very good food and service, and a notably unpretentious atmosphere. Recommend.

The next day Sister Gail arrived to pick us up and we were off to Appleton! Stay tuned for Part 2.

The Natural Order of Things

A curious fella

HW rescued him from our deck where he’d fallen after crashing, apparently face first, into the window glass. This was at our Nest in Seward, specifically, Lowell Point, a known hangout popular with migratory hummingbirds (“hummers”) in Spring. I’m no expert, but supposedly the males are more colorful. Although identifying the winky on a humming bird to confirm gender is, as you might imagine, challenging. HW makes her own nectar to fill the feeder that hangs above the deck. It’s nothing more than sugar water, aka simple syrup, a common ingredient in cocktails. I postulated that perhaps a bit of gin may have made it into this batch, leading our bitsy hummer to Fly Under the Influence? More likely the window glass had just been cleaned. Poor guy, high on a sugar rush he probably mistook our living room for open air.

Limp and motionless on the deck I figured him for dead, but sure enough HW succored him back to health. In the cradle of her hands his tiny wings eventually began buzzing a hundred times a second. She took him back outside and put him on the feeder, where he was able to hold on. Back inside we both watched, fingers crossed. It wasn’t long before another hummer showed up and perched on the feeder, not to feed, evidently, but if you’ll permit me to anthropomorphize, to show concern for what HW believed was her mate. After a half minute or so both hummers suddenly lifted off their perches, swooped down below the window, and were gone. Was he going to make it after all!? Did we perturb the natural order of things, violate the ethos that says we, qua humans, may observe nature but ought never to interfere with it? As I finished my martini I wondered, watched one hummer after another drain the nectar from the feeder, eventually gaining confidence that HW had done the right thing. So what if we altered the state of the universe. Have you never killed a mosquito? Besides, who will ever know?

The next day we hiked with Black Dog to Tonsina Point, a favorite of ours, an oft-photographed destination I’ve shared with you too many times I’m afraid (e.g. here, here, and here). And yet, would you have a look at this not-too-frequent sighting along the trail

A clearly vital specimen of Western Skunk Cabbage, aka Swamp Lantern, aka Lysichiton americanus. The thing I find most interesting about this plant is how sparse it is. We spot two, maybe three specimens along the entire two to three mile trail, where you’d expect many more given the ideal conditions supporting its growth. Supposedly, after hibernating, bears eat the roots for its laxative properties. Makes sense. I can imagine myself after sleeping five months straight wanting to take a good dump first thing after getting up.

We’re tripping back down to the Nest this weekend with friends. Weather is predicted to be fair! Alas, I will face a Honey-Do list that includes the installation of a new countertop/sink and replacement of a water valve on one of our (three) tankless — I call ’em thank-less — water heaters.

Catch up with you later…

Tales from the North Country

Happy Wife was challenged by a black bear Thursday, a sow with a cub nearby. Out came the bear spray. Away went the bear. It occured in a park where we’ve walked dogs for years and years. A park where we’ve seen black bears before (never a grizzly), but even so a rare occurrence. She was enjoying an ordinary walk with Black Dog, who cowered behind her when she sprayed the bear.

The Black Dog at the park a few weeks earlier sampling the water from a spring melt

Black Dog’s a fine beast but when it comes to bears he’s no Airedale. In my experience (and Other’s) Airedales don’t brook bears, and they don’t bring ’em back.

School is out. Grades are in. Some students are dismayed, others proud, some relieved.

We are traveling to Wisconsin the end of June to attend an outdoor pool party. Imagine — water, outside, warm enough to wade in.

Busy Bees

This is where I lecture, twice a week, seventy-five minutes each. Some of my students here, just beginning to shuffle in for another rousing lecture by yours truly

Listen to me, my students. It sounds possessive, I know, but I do feel a responsibility toward them, all forty seven, even though it’s rare to see them all attend lecture. Usually only 25-30 show up, unless there’s a quiz or exam scheduled. Spring break next week, so no class. I asked a few of them if they were headed to Mexico or Florida for the week, someplace warm where water exists in the liquid phase. “No Professor Nibbe,” they said, “we plan to study genetics.” (Uh-huh). Right answer, though!

I’ve never been so busy as I have since the start of the semester. Let me tell you, spring break isn’t only for students. I’m looking forward to a week off from preparing lecture slides, quizzes, exams (makeups), grading, office hours, updates to Blackboard, etc. etc.. But overall I’m enjoying the experience. It’s rewarding teaching a course I myself have never taken.

Happy Wife as well is busy as ever. She regularly sees twelve patients or more a day. Some can be complicated. Most days she’s lucky to get a lunch break, like if there’s a no-show, but just as often she’s fortunate to find ten minutes between appointments to snatch a bite.

Being busy-bees we still find time for ourselves, dinner out and a drink or two at our favorite watering holes. A new pot store went in near one of our favorite downtown haunts. It’s now legal in Alaska. We stopped in recently to have a look around. Happy Wife appearing a bit furtive

There was a wide variety of product attractively displayed beneath spotless glass countertops, like you’d see in a jewelry store. The names of some varieties were pretty amusing – Dark Star, Kimbo Kush, Pineapple Haze. In the end we passed on the pot, but HW did find a wearable she liked, as do I

We’re off to France later this year along with several friends. After that, a week in Barcelona, or possibly to Austria to visit a friend, haven’t decided yet. More on that as the year unfolds. For now, March is here, and our local weather forecaster, Jackie Purcell, said she expects a 40% of Spring this year! Pretty good as Alaska goes. Wish us luck.

Dog Down

Our dog was shot. When, we don’t know, but the x-ray showed a BB lodged in his side.

I commented to HW recently during a walk with the dog in the low mountains how easy it’s been having a young dog again. In terms of no daily aches and pains, medications, vet bills, etc. Not that I wouldn’t trade a month of weekends for another day with Lucy, Rufus, Harry, or any of the other beasts that have enriched our lives over the past three decades. I would. Just sayin’ it’s been nice to be in the company of youth again.

“In fact,” I said, “in the two years we’ve had Chester I haven’t seen him barf, have you?”

Fast forward a few days to yesterday, Thursday. I come home and he’s his usual alacritous self, bounding down the stairs, tail wagging. Like always, I shake a couple treats from the bag into my hand and toss ’em outside in the backyard. They barely hit the frozen ground before he finds ’em and gobbles ’em up. All is good. I let him back inside and go upstairs to my office to work. He follows, as usual, and lays down on the rug. He can stay there for hours while I work. If he’s lucky, I’ll knock off early and we’ll go to the park together for a walk. But yesterday, he gets up and starts nudging my arm, which is weird, he never does that. I ignore him, he lays down next to me briefly then gets up and goes downstairs, where I hear him barf. I go to investigate and find a two-pound pile of undigested kibble on the rug. Special. I clean it up, let him outside in case there’s more, then let him back in and console him. I notice black flecks of plastic in the barf, and then recall that when I got home earlier there were two pieces of colored felt on the stairs, like the fuzz wrapped around a tennis ball. Okay, he ate a toy ball, but he has never done that. He has lots of toys which he might destroy and eat, but no, he has never done that before.

Turns out it was left on the floor by the pet-sitter. Probably had an odor of food or something he couldn’t resist. He wretches a few more times until nothing more comes out. I figure by now he’s dehydrated, possibly hungry. I offer him a treat. He doesn’t want it.

HE HAS NEVER NOT WANTED A TREAT.

That’s it.

I call Happy Wife, we meet at the vet. By now he’s lethargic and not himself. But not in any obvious discomfort. As we wait for the doctor to see him he does drink some water, and even takes a couple small treats from HW. Good sign. The doctor examines him and recommends an x-ray, just to see if there’s an obvious blockage in his gut. No evidence of that on the radiograph, but there was this bright white, perfectly circular spot outside his right rib cage. We look at the Doc, “What’s that?”

“This dog’s been shot.”

WTF?!

“Looks to be a BB gun,” she says.

She goes on to say it might eventually work its way to his skin, to the point where you could feel it, or it might stay in there forever. We’re guessing he was shot before we adopted him, at the Palmer shelter north of Anchorage. I’m guessing it was some heartless kid out plinking with his new Daisy pump action.

Anyhoo, ol’ Chester was given fluids and an anti-nausea drug and we took him home. He’s all better now, drinking, eating, pooping, sleeping…copy/paste, copy/paste.