"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snapshots from Africa, Page One

This is the first time I've been able to log into my blog since I arrived in Africa a few days ago, which I would specify if I knew what today was.

I am at a private animal reserve 2-1/2 hours north of Johannesburg in what is called "bushveld,"  trees and grasslands.  The lodge is Mabula Game Lodge.  We go on three hour safaris each morning at 5 am and each evening at 4:30, guided by a Zulu named Francis.

So, I'll be posting some photos here for now because I don't know how long this internet connection will work or when the megabytes I paid for will expire.  When I return to Alaska, I'll tell you more about my adventures (like being trapped in a stairwell in the Joh-burg hotel.   So fat today--and it's just 10 AM--I've had three adventures, not including the blue dung beetles.

White Rhino

Male Impala




The most dangerous of the Big Five, the Cape Buffalo

A medium size porcupine quill, about 8 inches long.


The elusive lioness


Red Hartebeest in the shade.

Add captionBaby Impala, maybe 2 weeks old, very unusual for this time of year.

Male and female lions


Today's sunrise

Babboon on lodge grounds

Lioness watching nearby Impala

Hippo and baby

Lioness in trail

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting on Down that Trail, with your help

Why did I choose late January and February to leave Alaska and travel in South Africa?

I am going to miss my Seahawks play in the Super Bowl, the Fur Rendezvous Championship sprint dog races, and most of all, my favorite dog musher run the Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race for the first time!   I would not have let my precious dog sled go live with her if she weren't my favorite.

The next great female dog musher!


I've done a couple small things to help support Ashley in her dog mushing career.   Below is a letter circulating around Moose Pass and elsewhere, written by a neighbor.

Gullible verifies and approves the following message:

Dear Friends Near and Far:

I would like to share a story with you about a fourteen year old teenager from Moose Pass named Ashley Guernsey. Ashley is the oldest of four children of Russell and Melissa Guernsey.

Since Ashley was six years old, she has wanted to be a dog musher. The movie "Season of the Sled Dog" was a favorite of hers when she was little. By age nine, Ashley had her own two sled dogs named Abigail and Spot. She devoted her time to training her dogs.

Dan Seavey, who ran in the first Iditarod in 1973 and who is patriarch of the Seavey mushing dynasty, introduced her to mushing by letting her run some of his dogs. At the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, he let her handle dogs and ride with the him. Dan also helped shape Ashley's love of mushing by letting her help with the Seward Mayor's Cup Race for several years. Ashley's mentor, Victor Creek musher Rick Tarpey, is one her favorite mushers. Tarpey is on a long list of  Ashley's favorite mushers, including the distinguished elder Seavey, Mitch Seavey, Rachel Scodorris, and Dee Dee Jonrowe.

Living in Moose Pass as a teenager is no easy task.  Seward Middle and High Schools are over a one hour bus ride away...twice a day!

Ashley must juggle her commute, her honor level studies, and athletics with training time. Ashley will run dogs anywhere from five to 100 miles per week. I asked Ashley what she hopes to be when she grows up. Her reply was she isn't sure what she will become once she grows up, but she knows that she will run the Iditarod.

Next month on February 22nd, Ashley will run her first Junior Iditarod, a 150 mile endurance race including a 10 hour layover. The Junior mushers are responsible for all aspect of this event, including dog care, food preparation, and outdoor skills. [WITH NO ASSISTANCE!]  You can read more about the Jr. Iditarod at http://jriditarod.biz/

Now, those who know me, know that I am not a big fan of dog mushing. My dog sport of choice is dog agility. But, that being said, I am a big fan of children setting goals and striving to achieve those goals. Ashley Guernsey is a fourteen year old girl who has set a goal and plans to achieve a dream.

I was thinking about her the other day. I know the Moose Pass Sportsmen's Club gave her a substantial donation. I also know how much dog sports cost and there are more cost to be incurred. Ashley has earned money making and selling crafts. But, I know she needs more help. I want to make donation but I wondered, "Would I look cheap if put $5, $10, or $20 in a card?" I also know we are all being "squeezed" from so many directions.

I just thought if folks knew about Ashley they would surely help. I am helping to spread the story about Ashley, her goals, and dreams. I asked her parents if I may tell everyone about Ashley and my idea. They are just overwhelmed, already, by the generosity of people. I think we can overwhelm them even more!

Please join in this fundraising event:

For Ashley Guernsey
(That's right...no baking involved)

Here's how it works. You think about what you would bake and how much it would cost. Now, ask yourself how much you would spend at that same bake sale if you attended. Well, rather than do all that work, just put that donation toward the goal of getting Ashley down the trail!  A little bit goes a long way when we all pull together like a team! (a sled dog team to be exact)

It's the No-Bake BAKE SALE for Ashley Guernsey!

Thank you for reading my letter and do please consider helping Ashley get down the trail.

No-Bake Bake sale Donations and letters of good wishes for Ashley Guernsey can be sent to:

Ashley Guernsey
41658 Seward Highway
Moose Pass, Alaska  99631

Erin K. 
Moose Pass, Alaska

So, there you are.   Even if you can't afford a donation of a few bucks, send her a "Happy Trails" note of encouragement.

Thanks, Gullible 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hang On, Sloopy, Sloopy, Hang On

What do long lost relatives and Velcro have in common?   I’ll tell you a little story.

I grew up in Alaska during the late 1940s and 1950s.   There were advantages and disadvantages to that.  For one thing, modern conveniences were few.   This was a land where folks trying to make a living were concerned only with the necessities.

And another was that you never got to know your relatives in the States, or what we called “Outside.”  I was more fortunate in that I has two sets of uncles/aunts living close to me for a while.

A few years ago long-lost cousins came to Alaska on a fishing trip.   Bud brought with him something his daughter had started making and marketing.  They are self-adhesive Velcro strips that stick to devices and make them easier to hold onto, something I really needed because I occasionally drop one of those expensive devices.


At first I was reluctant to put those on my brand new aircraft aluminum iPad, but there Bud was holding it out to me.   So, when he was out of sight, I put the soft self-adhesive loop side on the back of my iPad and stuck the hook finger grip side onto that.  Then I sat down to see if they helped.

I was hooked, pun intended.   I now have them on my Kindle and my new Surface Pro laptop.   I don’t know what I’d do (besides drop it) if I didn’t have one on my Kindle Fire.   So much more comfortable for reading in bed.

Bud’s daughter Chris makes them for all kinds of things, like phones, tablets, remotes, flashlights, small tools, clipboards, etc , and is waiting on the final touches for her patent.

I show them to my friends, and they order them.

A note from Chris says Microsoft is endorsing her products and they’re being “taken for a test drive” by 60 MS sales engineers.

I pass out her cards to everyone who asks about them—and some who don’t.   I highly recommend these Lazy Hands grips.  You'll note I have them on one side rather than both sides.   Works for me with the new touch screen toys.   But, it's more comfortable to hold a device if they are on both sides.

So come on.   Support a starving relative.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Ruth

Moose Pass, a little town snuggled hard up against the mountains along the Seward Highway, is one of those towns just small enough--and big enough-- to throw a hell of a goodbye party when losing one of  its own.   Sunday night we said goodbye to Ruth with a pot luck dinner, lots of hugs, and many good wishes.

She wasn't going to get off that easily, though.  After dinner, a large purple hat (oh, yeah, just Ruth's style) was placed on her head.   It had to be extra-large, because kid after kid and adult after adult marched forward to tape a tag to the hat, each one marking many of the various volunteer activities for which Ruth had volunteered.

Ruth, fortified by a couple ummmm... libations encased in flavored gelatin, shall we say...managed to get through the whole display without too many tears, unlike the rest of us.

Story after story accompanied the black "activity tags," many of them hilarious memories of her pet care-taking for dozens of Moose Passers, of her crawling under houses to make sure pipes didn't freeze in 30 below zero weather, and of a horse daring her to clean out its barn.  Then there were the requisite bear stories and one about Ruth "porcupine sitting."  Literally sitting on a porky.

The line most-quoted when we heard Ruth was leaving us was, "But how are we going to go on vacation????"

She was a local volunteer EMT, a firearms instructor (I was one of her students), the gym lady (she opened the school gym on certain nights so locals could play basketball), a Girl Scout assistant, and on and on.   Her supervisor at the Forest Service, where she worked as a fisheries biologist, praised her work ethic and noted that she performed her duties so well that everyone wanted her to do more.

Some local dogs sent their favorite toys--a stick, a chew toy, and (from a husky) a Zip-Lok bag full of hair.

A hug from Mike.  The sign on her leg says I love Corgis.   I think there's an untold story in that.

She will be missed.   She has accepted a permanent,  full-time job with the Forest Service in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where she made a recent trip to find housing.  Apparently Klamath Falls didn't want to chance losing her because her return flight home was canceled day after day.   She had to drive north to get a flight back to Alaska

Today, on Facebook, Shawn wrote: " Go away! Just go! WE DON'T LOVE YOU ANYMORE!"

And Ruth wrote back:  I know you don't mean that Shawn!

To which Shawn replied:  I saw that on Old Yeller, it's supposed to make it easier. 

Yeah, well nothing is going to make it easier, except she promised to return.   We're going to hold her to that.

And Ruth?   You never got a chance to take care of Pablo Parrot.   He's waiting for you.... 

Pablo with broccoli beak.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prepping for Africa, What to Expect, History

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

Photo from Trip Advisor, statue of Dr. David Livingstone at Victoria Falls, by Oaktree185, Oct 2013

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prepping for Africa, What to Expect, Chobe River

Q:   Can I swim in the Chobe River?

A:   Oh, certainly.   For a while anyway.

Come on in.   The water's lovely.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Prepping for Africa: What to Expect, Animals

Q:  Your travel literature says binoculars are a must for viewing animals in the wild.   Does that mean we won't see any close up?

A:   Not at all.


Photo from Trip Advisor reviewers photos.

Not my photo, but it would be just as blurry if it were.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Prepping for Africa: What to Expect, Entertainment

Q:  I see there's a lot of free time on the itinerary.  Is there any authentic, traditional native entertainment?

A:   Oh, yes.   Often right on your balcony.

All together now, one, two, and a three....

Photo from Trip Advisor, Chobe Safari Lodge, by alessia f, Dec 2013