Friday, July 31, 2009
I'm up early again, eager for a great hike. I'll be taking the Swiftcurrent Trail...about a 2 03 on the Difficulty Scale) along Swiftwater Lake, a falls, and finally to Bullhead Lake for lunch before hiking back. It's a beautiful trail...through forest meadows...and along the river. I come to the falls, and they are absolutely beautiful. The hike is going well for me...all those "practice hikes" at home, pushing myself to go an extra mile...two miles...they have prepared me for the real thing. I get to Bullhead Lake around 1:00PM, and gt out the "pocket rocket" (isobutane cooker), my titanium cup, water and some Korean Ramen noodles ("gourmet-style with sweet soy and hot chili oil). Sitting next to the lake, surrounded by wondrous mountains...it's hard to imagine a better lunch. I am soon joined by two dining "companions", Chippie and Dippie, the Prairie Dogs...they're friendly little guys, so I don't mind. But, soon, they're crawling into my pack...and...now they've latched on to a package of peanut butter crackers. Not shy, Chippie opens the package with ease, and soon he and Dippie are munching away. I know that you're not supposed to feed the animals, but what could I do?
After lunch, I head back down the trail to my camp. I have to say that, at this point, I'm pretty tired. This is almost a 10 mile hike and my longest "practice hike" was 6.
Soon, I'm rally tired and really thirsty. Nearing my camp, I cry out..."Cibola!...Cibola! tonight I will bathe in your fountains of icy Heineken and drink from your limpid pools of Margaritas!".
As I reach camp, I collapse...tired, but happy. Soon, I'm drinking down the first cold Magarita...then a great dinner of sliced pork in Singapore Black Pepper Sauce and Rice (thanks for the spice packages, Ed and Molly!).
Around 9:00PM, it starts to rain, so it's off to bed for me.
I'm up really early this morning, anxious to leave my beautiful campsite nestled in between the Casino Hotel and the Conoco station...I felt really at one with nature. I'm rolling alon Route 20 about two hundred miles from Glacier. No sign of mountains until I reach the town of Browning, then...Bam!...there they are.
I enter the Park with my 2009 Parks Pass (Thanks Roger and Gretchen!). Then on to the Many Glacier Campsite. I'm in luck because there are cmpsites available, and this is the most popular campground in the whole Park. I find a good site close to the "facilities" and a short walk from the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge...ice!!
I set up camp, belt down a few Margaritas and cook myself up one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches with a great bottle of French Cotes-du Rhone. Nestled between two tall peaks, sipping a great wine...it does not get btter than this. I'm in bed early because tomorrow, I plan to hike the Swiftcurrent Trail. About 5 miles in and 5 out...should be great fun.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I'm up early again, eager to hit the road becuse I figure that I'm going to have a 600-650 mile trip. I can't get all the way to Glacier today, but I want to be within "striking distance".
I head out of Jamestown on the old "Appendectomy Trail"...oh, they call it the "Old West Trail here but, for me, it'll always be the Appendectomy Trail. As I head out of Jamestown, I'm checking my vital signs and keeping alert for any mysterious "pain". Soon I'm rolling through Carrington where I stopped last year for "tests". Then, in an hour or so, I'm back in Minot where I had my appendectomy last year. You know, as far as I may travel from Minot, I will never forget it because there will always be a little piece of me that remains there.
At Minot, I'm heading west on Route 2 across the northern part of North Dakota into Montana. It's not a particularly exciting drive, but the roads are good and the speed limit is 70. Around mid-afternoon, I cross over into Montana and immediately hit a major road construction jam...ten miles of construction, and they're using a Pilot Car to get us through (shades of Alaska and The Yukon)!
I'm hungry so I start looking for a place to eat...no luck...this is rural Montana, and there are no "franchise-type" restaurants to be found. Around 2:30PM or so, I spy a McDonalds and stop in for two Bacon Cheeseburgers...they're actually good because I am famished.
Around 7:30PM (or so I think), I arrive in the town of Havre. I'm debating tent vs. hotel but, somewhere along the way, I've crossed into Mountain Time, so it's really 6:30...tenting it is. I check into the local campground right in downtown. It looks nice with plenty of shady secluded camping spots. Those spots are, unfortunately, for RV's only. Tent campers get a spot on the lawn between the Conoco Station and the Casino...a terrible spot with fumes, noise, light, etc.
I head across the street to "Uncle Joe's Steakhouse" for cocktails and dinner. Their wines by the glass list is decent, and I have a glass (several, actually) of a good Malbec from Argentina. My favorite "travel meal" is on the menu tonight, so I'm having the large cut of Prime Rib...excellent. Bartenders and waitresses are friendly, so O have a nice conversation as well.
After dinner, have a fw beers at my "camp site" before bed. It's a terrible night's sleep...loud noises, exhaust/gas fumes, bright lights...you name it. I sleep restlessly...fitfully until morning.
Still no upload capability...I'll repost with photos ASAP.
I'm up early, eager to hit the road. Dick and Diane, however, recommend leaving after 8:00AM in order to miss the rush hour traffic through Minneapolis. So...I have a nice little breakfast and more time to visit before getting on the road around 8:30AM.
A short stretch out of Wisconsin, through the Twin Cities and across Minnesota. This is a familiar route, both from last year's trip as well as last month's trip to North Dakota.
I get to the Jamestown campground around 4:30PM and set up camp before indulging in a cocktail before dinner. The tent camper next to me is Bobbie, and he has taken his Harley through the Glacier area just the week before...he's a terrific guy and very helpful sharing road conditions, terrain, good places to hike/camp.
For dinner, I throw a flank steak left over from the Picnic in a little "Dale's" marinade for an hour, grill it and cook up some Indomie brand Indonesian-style noodles. I've done a lot of research on different noodle brands for this trip, and Indomie is one of the best. They're not the salty, bland stuff you ate in college. These are served like pasta and they have six seasoning packets including sweet/thick soy sauce, hot chili oil, fried onions and garlic. They're perfect with the steak. All in all, a good meal.
After dinner, I share a fw beers around the campfire with my new buddy, Bobbie, before heading to bed around 11:00PM...big drive tomorrow.
I may not have photos uploaded for this or the next three entries or so...very slow upload speeds. But I'll repost with photos as soon as I can.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Today was one of those days to savor...a perfect "gem". We're all up early, and Dick/Diane prepare a fabulous breakfast...thin "French-style omelets with Manchego cheese, locally-smoked salmon and fresh asparagus...it's as good as breakfast can get. Then, still full, we head out on our bikes to travel Eau Claire's extensive bike trails. Seven miles or so in all, punctuated by a few well-timed "beer stops".
Dick and Diane are very fortunate people because they live in a place where the "quality of life" rating is off the map. Eau Claire is one of the nicest towns that have ever visited...a beautiful location, ample recreation, a "college atmosphere", great restaurants, fun bars...it is easily on my list of the Top 10 Places to Live...Top 5, actually. It's a very close "small-town" atmosphere....as we bicycle around, we're running into all of these people that are friends of Dick and Diane who, as is very clear, are loved , respected and admired in their community.
Our biking complete, we head back to Dick and Diane's for a few more beers, relaxing in the yard and enjoying the weather and the company. Their friend (and mine) Jerry, stops by with his wife, daughter and granddaughter...more beers!
Around 6:00PM, Dick and Diane head out to dinner with some other friends, and I have the opportunity to explore a little of Eau Claire on my own. I head down to Water Street...a little "cluster" of nice bars and restaurants. I have a great little thin-crust pizza, a Caesar Salad, and several glasses of wine at the Mona Lisa restaurant....excellent Then, a little bar-hopping. Wisconsin has more "bars per capita" than any other state, and Eau Claire is no exception. Every bar has absolutely GREAT beer on tap...Stella, Leinenkugel's...all my favorites. But tonight, I'm enjoying an old favorite that is making a comeback...every bar ha Schlitz on tap. When I was a boy, Schlitz was one of the Country's best beers, but it fell on hard times until recently, when a new owner committed to restore it to it's prior place of honor. It's a good beer...and...it's only a buck and a half a glass.
After several pins, I'm ready to head back to Dick and Diane's for bed. Along the way, it occurs to me that, perhaps, I should have made do with several less pints of Schlitz because I soon find myself lost during the mile or so walk back. But...some expert coaching by Dick via cellphoe, and I'm back home for a great night's sleep.
Picnic 2009 is "in the can", so to speak. And what a great Picnic it was. For those of you who made it...you know how good it was. For those of you who didn't make it...you missed a great one.
As always, my highly-skilled team of chefs (Mark, Bill and Roland) performed admirably under tough conditions. And, this year, my friend, Brian Ribando, really came through as well. My good friend, Maureen, was there at every turn. And, Angi and her friend, Sue, busted their butts on Saturday as well as Sunday to leave me with a clean house by Sunday afternoon.
Monday and Tuesday were just crazy as I worked to get everything ready to leave on my trip out West on Wednesday. I packed Tuesday night, and it was soon clear that I did not learn as much as I thought from my trip last year. This year, I'm only going for 50 days, and it seems like I'm taking twice as much as last year. I have to "shoehorn in" the last few items, and the Escape is as packed as it can possibly b.
Wednesday morning, I head out at 8:00AM bound for Eau Claire, Wisconsin to spend a day or two with my good friends, Dick and Diane. Weather is good...traffic light as I head across Michigan, into Chicago, north through Illinois, then northwest through Wisconsin. I get to Dick and Diane's around 4:30PM, and they have a cold bottle of Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss beer waiting for me...something to wash away 600 miles of road dust.
They have been invite to a dinner party, and I am invited as well. We head out around 6:00PM and drive twelve miles or so to a neighboring community and the home of our hosts, Tiit and Ann Raid. Tiit is a retired artist who taught at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His wife has prepared a fabulous dinner of grilled leg of lamb, cous cous, grilled squash, and plenty of other great dishes. We're joined by Mike Christopherson (another retired artist from UWEC)and his wife, Deb...and John and Betty Qualheim (Graphic Designer). In addition to the great food, we're putting away a lot of great wine as well. Conversation is easy and fun...lots of great old stories of car thefts and other of life's mishaps. At the end of dinner, Tiit invites me up to his Studio to take a look at some of his artwork...it is absolutely remarkable. There's a series of small paintings of different holes from a local golf course...stunning in their intricacy and detail. Another series are variations on different reflections from a lake next door...again, stunning. I did not see a single work that I would not be excited indeed, thrilled, to have in my home. After dinner, it's back home for bed...big day tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It's 11:00PM, and I'm almost through for the day/night.
My back feels like I went twelve rounds with Tommie Hearns facing backwards. My legs have been cramping up since 6:00PM...but...it's been a productive day. I got started around 6:00AM and immediately whipped up a batch of Nouvelle Chocolate Sauce...it's an easy recipe, and I usually start with that. As the day goes on, I make (in no particular order)Spring Roll Sauce, Szechuan Peanut Sauce,Sesame Sauce,Yakitori Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Vietnamese Pork/Beef Rub, Ginger Ice Cream, Lemongrass Gelato,Saffron Coconut Ice Cream and two Cheesecakes (Reese's PB Cup and Durian). Oh...then there's the twenty quarts EACH of Viet Pho (beef) Broth and Japanese Chicken Stock for Noodles.
I've only got a few things left...strain, cool and store the Broth/Stock...make a batch of Caramel Sauce and put together two quarts of Absinthe and Truffle Ice Cream (it's going to be really good).
Last weekend was problematic...lots of people had plans for the weekend. Still...I did get some very hard-working volunteers. Maureen did Yeoman's service helping to roll about 200 dumplings. Mark Birnhart stopped by for a few hours and rolled dumplings along with the rest of us. Later, Ron and Brenda, along with Brian Ribando, stopped in for more dumpling rolling.
Angi came by late after work and she, Moe and I had grilled steak and some vegetable frittatas for dinner. On Sunday, Angi volunteered for the "worst-case" job...cleaning my back "cupboards from hell"...two plus hours of really nasty work.
Food-wise, we got everything done that was planned for the weekend. Cleaning-wise, we were not so fortunate. I've still got to find the time and the volunteers to get the house in "Picnic shape" before Saturday.
One note on the "Durian" Cheesecake. What looks like a hedgehog and smells like rotting compost? It's the Durian fruit, called by some the "king of fruits". As you can see in the photos, you've got to cut/pry the hull apart to get at the "sacks" of custard-like fruit. I was lucky today, as my Durian was not nearly as malodorous as expected...only an occasional "whiff" of something truly evil.
Once the cooking is done for today/tonight, I will be spending an hour or so in my Jacuzzi tub...Heineken in hand. Then, off to bed...to rise tomorrow at 6:00AM and start all over again. I can hardly wait!
Oh, and for you trivia buffs...it is illegal in every southeast Asia country to carry Durian fruit on any public transportation.