Monday, July 24, 2006

Bocce & Becky—Two Great Reasons for a Party

On Saturday, Scooby and I attended two parties. The first was a wedding shower, a very nice event which reminded me that wedding showers are most fun if you are the person receiving the gifts, (and even then, it's not like there's dancing or anything.) The second party that we went to was a combination Bocce Ball/ Going Away party, and it was quite enjoyable. Mo(ther Ban)jo's friend Becky is moving to the northwest to be closer to her family. Minneapolis was supposed to be a brief hiccup for her, but instead became an alphabet-length burp, and now, at last, she has garage-saled her excess belongings and is hitting the road. We are sad to see her go, but have great hopes for her future happiness. There were even imported (from Michigan) fireworks (albeit small ones) to send her on her way.
Mojo and Kormy bracket Becky in a poignant leave-taking tableau.

Mojo as a BBQing Babe.

Whatever is Ms. Waldorf thinking? Write your caption in the comments section below.

Mojo's super snazzy Bocce court in play.

Imported Michigan sparklers create a nifty chiaroscuro effect.

We salute Becky by detonating a teeny tiny volcano.

Friday, July 21, 2006

How My Garden Does Grow

This spring we buried a soaker hose under the vegetable garden, and it seems to have been quite a success. In fact, the tomato plants are a little monstrous at this point—even adjusting for the raised beds, they have to be over 5' tall. We have already enjoyed chard, cherry tomatoes, and small zucchini, and the pattypan squash (a volunteer plant from last year) is starting to produce. Jalapeno and banana peppers are just waiting to be picked. A lone eggplant is peeking shyly from under its leafy canopy. Rainbow chard waves from the shadiest section of the garden. Three types of basil, two varieties of thyme, chives, garlic chives, rosemary, lavender, and mint all wait to add their two cents. Ahhh. A bountiful garden is a blessing, indeed.

Tomato plant-tastic! I am 5'10" and included for scale.

Delicious heirloom cherry tomatoes. Wish I could remember what they're called!

Future zucchini a la Georgia O'Keefe.

How could something so cute be a member of the nightshade family? (Yeah, I know, so are my lovely tomatoes, and the peppers, too!)

What IS this stuff? It's such a pretty weed...

Balloon flowers are the best blue.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Trip Photographs IV- End of the Road

After spending several days in Jackson, we left for Winnipeg on the morning of July 5th, retracing our journey through Grand Teton National Park and heading north through Yellowstone, leaving by the northeast gate rather than the eastern gate that we had passed through on our way in. Not far from the park exit we were delayed by a herd of bison who gleefully blocked the road for twenty minutes before ambling off towards greener pastures and strange clouds. The northeastern route took us out of Yellowstone and along the Beartooth Highway, which twists and turns, doubling back on itself over and over along the border of Wyoming and Montana as it slaloms its way through the Absaroka and Beartooth ranges.Official sources cite an altitude of 10, 947' above sea level at the highest point on Beartooth Pass, confirmed by our handheld GPS, which Scooby enabled as we began our ascent. It was a little freaky to watch the numbers climbing ever higher as Chico trundled up the unsettlingly narrow and worn asphalt road. Much to the chagrin of my quease-factor, I began to picture Chico as a roller coaster car reaching for the apex of its journey. Once we got above the tree line, the landscape was beautiful and starkly non-Minnesotan: lovely meadows with tiny wildflowers curving away unsettlingly at the edges as if viewed in a convex mirror. The highway itself is just under 70 miles long, but took us somewhere around three hours to complete, thanks to the cautious speeds engendered by narrow roads and sheer drop-offs only feet from the roadway. Once east of Red Lodge, MT, the road flattened considerably, mountains diminishing to buttes and plateaus, then badlands, and then fields as we counted the miles eastward and into the night. We were able to make it to Bismark, ND by the end of our driving day, watching the terrain subside into the placid monotony of the midwest. Thursday morning we drove north along the Red River Valley, through Grand Forks, ND and to the Canadian border, where we crossed without incident into Manitoba, land of slow speed limits and startlingly chartreuse Canola fields. After a slightly confusing detour through Winnipeg, we arrived at Birds Hill Park late in the afternoon, giving us just enough time to pitch our tent in the quiet campground before heading to the festival site to catch the first main stage concert of the long weekend which is the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Minutes after we passed through the festival gates we ran into one of my Mom's best friends in the world, Mog, and her husband, Miles, which was a wonderful surprise.

Having not been to the Folk Fest since 1983 (Mog and Miles were there that time, too!), it was interesting to compare the size, commotion, and music to the eyes-of-a-nine-year-old memories I had stored away. Things seemed pretty similar, though I was much MORE interested in listening to the music this time, and somewhat less interested in going on the horseback trips at the in-park stables... I certainly didn't remember so many cars, though some of the vans looked familiar. (In 1983 we were the proud owners of a 60's era VW bus named Boeing.) You can just see the boats on top of Chico at the top left hand side of the picture.
We had a great time at the festival, hanging with old and new friends, listening to great music, dancing, even managing to run into my workmate Amy (third from the left) on the eve of her six week long paddling trip from the north shore of Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay. (Think safe-traveling thoughts for Amy and the three women with her—that's one hell of a trip! ) Many of the musicians were amazing, notably English folk hero Richard Thompson (pictured), and the gorgeously distinct voices of Neko Case, Ruthie Foster, and Oh Suzanna. Scooby especially appreciated the lewd and amusing crankiness of Atlanta, GA born Vic Chesnutt. Monday found us ready to head home. Other than a few minutes getting our car searched by the border patrol, (even with ABSOLUTELY nothing to worry about, it's still freaky to have uniformed strangers poking through your stuff. Dirty undies, anyone?) the trip was quick and uneventful. The dogs and kitty were glad to have us home, and all was well, with the exception of a couple of plants in my flower beds that had expired from lack of water during the extremely hot and dry spell that hovered over Minneapolis while we were gone. Sigh. I guess I'll have to make a trip to the nursery:-)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trip Photographs III- the Snake River (WY)

Sorry about that—I didn't mean to leave y'all hanging. We arrived home after our week and a half of travelling on Sunday afternoon, and now, on Tuesday evening, I feel a little blogging energy returning. In my last post I mentioned that everyone in Jackson has nicknames, and that I would explain the origin of "Little Kahuna Bunny." Here goes: I have done some whitewater kayaking, but not in the "big" water that one finds out west. Having seen the Snake River first hand, I decided that I didn't want to paddle it on my own, so we rented a two person inflatable kayak (called a Duckie), and along with Red Leader and her hubby, also in a Duckie, and the Pope of Chili Town, in his own one-person inflatable, set out to paddle the section of the Snake between West Table campground and the Sheep Gulch boat launch. Things went okay until we were over half way through the run, at which time S. and I capsized at the top of one of the largest rapids, called "Big Kahuna," and not only swam through that rapid, but also, not being able to make it across the "eddy wall" into the eddy (we almost made it, but then got sucked back into the current: not fun!) ended up swimming through a formidable rapid called "Lunch Counter." After that we were able to make it to land, albeit on opposite sides of the river. Thank God for life jackets and helmets.
I have heard it said that water has the power to transform, and certainly for me, in this circumstance, I can assure you that it's true. Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter turned me from a kayaker into a shuttle bunny, (the term given to someone who does not paddle the river, but instead acts as support for the kayakers—dropping them off at the put-in, often taking pictures of them as they make their way down the river, and then picking them up at the take-off spot.) I think that I'll be much happier as a bunny. Little Kahuna Bunny, to be specific. Yeah, that works.

Big Kahuna is at the top of the picture, Lunch Counter at the bottom.

The Pope of Chili Town intentionally swimming through Lunch Counter in a moment of insanity.

Scooby/Murph paddling Lunch Counter the day after we swam. Apparently the river didn't work its transformative magic on him.

The P. of C.T. hams it up.

Scooby/Murph surfing a wave beside the Station Creek campground while the Bulkster and P. of C.T. look on.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Trip Photographs II- Wyoming

Devil's Tower. It's much harder to make a replica out of criss-cut fries. That's all I have to say.
Our trip has been mostly westward, and the sunsets seem to get ever more beautiful.
Chico contemplates the Continental Divide. (Yellowstone National Park)
Chico at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park.

Trip Photographs I- South Dakota

We managed to hit a few kitsch landmarks on the South Dakota leg of our journey. Chico especially liked the Corn Palace in Mitchell.
The badlands are incredible. Photos taken from a cheapy digital camera can't begin to do them justice. (especially when a certain car happens to be hogging the view. Chico is such a picture whore.)
One of our many "hold camera out in front of us" portraits.

Winnipeg by way of Jackson Hole, Wyoming

This spring some friends invited us to meet them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming over the 4th of July weekend for some whitewater kayaking on the Snake River. We thought that sounded like a swell idea, and started making plans for our trip. A short while later, I won two passes to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which runs from July 6-9th, and our weekend became a week and a half with a hell of a hypotenuse.

While I don'’t intend to post a trip journal per se, I did want to pass along some of the amazing things that we have seen so far, and will see as our trip continues. As I type these words, we have just pulled into Jackson, Wyoming, after two days of fairly intense driving. It'’s just after 7:00 pm, and the sun is shining golden and hazy over the valley. The town is quaint, touristy, and bears a marked resemblance to Banff, Canmore, and every other destination mountain town I have ever visited.

Fast forward three days. It's now Monday, July 3rd, and we have been staying at the Station Creek campground with Red Leader, Murph (my hubby), P. Ratt, The Pope of Chili Town, the Bulkster, and one as-yet to-be-nicknamed camper, who is the new husband of the Red Leader. (Understand that, previous post on nicknames aside, I have had nothing to do with these apellations. I have fallen into a nicknaming group, and there is no escape. My official tag is now Little Kahuna Bunny, and that's that.) I will post the story of the nickname in a seperate post. Suffice it to say, there was kayaking carnage involved, and that it took place at a rapid on the Snake River called Big Kahuna.