One Year Later

Here I am, one year and one week to the day from my first day in Basic Training.  After my training in basic, free time has been scarce and will continue to be for quite a while longer while I continue training.  However, I found a little bit of time in my day today to post a brief update.  If you have been in any amount of contact with me in the last ten months, you already know that I am living in Monterey, California spending my days in class and my evenings working out or studying.  My weekends, however, give me a small glimpse of freedom and adventure, if my schedule allows it.  I have spent a great deal of time Geocaching around the local area, improving my scuba diving skills, and attending as many volunteer events as possible.  I am currently in the midst of my Advanced Open Water Scuba certification with a local dive shop and will be done with it before too long.  The nice thing about living here on the California coast is that the weather allows for diving all year round.  In fact, it has only realistically rained three times since I’ve been here.  I say realistic because thick mist doesn’t count as rain for me.

In September, my old, yet reliable, blue car was backed into by a large Dodge Ram and totaled out by my insurance company.  Fortunately, my beautiful motorcycle was delivered to me back in July and I have that as a means of transportation.  Unfortunately, she has been acting up and detests the new set of HID lights I have installed in her, often leaving the battery dead or me riding without headlights.  Twice the headlights have shut off on me while riding on the highway at night… oops.  I just need to order the new parts and find the time to install them.  Then all should be well… I hope.

Scuba diving around here has been pretty exciting, though I focus more on perfecting techniques than enjoying the underwater fauna while I am submerged.  I have found that the initial couple of minutes of a dive are the most nerve-racking, when my natural instincts say everything about the situation are unnatural and unsafe.  At first, I feel somewhat claustrophobic, every inch of my skin is suctioned to a neoprene wetsuit, except a small area on my face that is covered by a mask over my nose and eyes and the breathing apparatus over my mouth.  The weight of my scuba tank and the ocean surrounding me add to the feeling of entrapment.  Once I begin descending, the pressure increases and I must make adjustments to become comfortable.  I swallow to equalize the pressure in my ears and exhaust the air from my buoyancy control device (BCD), which is a vest that encases my torso and keeps my oxygen tank strapped to me, in order to sink slowly and safely.  Often, I am unable to equalize effectively the first time and my head is filled with pain from the pressure, so I resurface within a few seconds.  Once I regain my composure, I am able to try once again and I descend with ease and equalize my ears.  Typically I settle on the bottom, resting my knees in the soft sand of the shallow depths.  Once the dive group is all ready and accounted for, we begin our slow, tranquil adventure of the surrounding area.  Each dive is usually 20 to 30 minutes out then the same time to come back in to shore, depending on the remaining amount of air in each diver’s tank.  I usually work on practicing my buoyancy – making sure to not sink or float and continuously equalizing the pressure in my mask and ears.  I don’t mind that my dives consist of focusing on this, because I have fun doing something challenging and athletic, but I think it must be strange for others around me while we’re underwater.  When I dove in college, I had figured out my dive groove early enough in the pool that my outdoor dives were actually entertaining and I was able to pay attention to the natural beauty around me; I’ll get back to that soon enough while here.

I have picked up on my geocaching a lot here, introducing several of my friends to the hobby.  There are many small caches in the city areas here and many more hidden in all of the local woods around.  However, there happens to be a lot of poison oak in the local woods, too!  I have discovered that fact three times now, but I don’t mind.  I have also discovered that Icy Hot works well to relieve the accompanying itch of poison oak 🙂  You’re welcome, world!

It’s time for me to wrap this up and get back to the busy throes of life.  This coming Veteran’s day weekend, I am headed back home to enjoy four awesome days with my family.  I truly can’t wait!

Until Next Time,

H

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In the Army now.

As many of you know, I officially began my active duty service with the United States Army yesterday and am heading off to Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina today. I think I slept for nearly three full hours last night but my racing mind has kept me awake since 1:30 this morning. Today, I lead a group of five soldiers, three privates and one other specialist, through the travel process at PDX, a layover in Texas, and arrival in Columbia, SC. The first flight takes off at 0730 and we should be arriving on the east coast around 1730. Military time…. Yaaaay.
Today I am nervous. My mind races with curiosities of how many douchey privates will be in my platoon and how many drill sergeant I’ll be able to squeak by.
I’m eager to begin my new career and really just do my absolute best, but I’m most eager to receive my uniform. I know I will earn it and wear it proudly and I’m excited for all my friends and family to see it one day, too.
Please keep me in your prayers the next couple of months and look for my address to be posted on Facebook by my mom. Letters will be a very welcome change from the daily routine of training.
Thinking of all my loved ones,

SPC Wendt

A Short Guide to a Happy Life – By Anna Quindlen

While my grandfather and I were wandering about the town of Idaho City during my visit, we discovered that the tiny local library had a used book room in an outbuilding across the parking lot.  For a $5 donation, I acquired four books, the following was one of them.  I mostly decided to snag this book because it reminded me of something one of my college buddies, Jack Wong, said on Facebook the other week.  He brought up the fact that he doesn’t talk to many people from college anymore and isn’t sure if he’s living his life the way people are meant to.  I think he is in the same boat as all of us; we just need to realize we aren’t alone.  We are just too focused on ourselves and forget to check in with everyone once in a while.  I am definitely a huge culprit of this.  I spent most of college making many awesome friends, but didn’t keep most of them close.  I am very fortunate to still have a handful of close relationships, but I think it’s because those friends really did all the work.  These days, I find myself more thankful for the friendships I still have or have resumed, close-knit or not.  I’ve sent thankful texts, postcards, and letters to many people just to tell them how much I appreciate them.  If I find myself more lonely than usual, I feel it’s because I don’t follow these words of wisdom.

In this short book, many of my current values are stated in better words than I could string together.  For your benefit, I am just going to write it out word for word – it’s about as long as my blogs typically are anyway.  Phrases in bold are things that I find to be especially important.

*****

A Short Guide to a Happy Life, By Anna Quindlen – Random House Copyright, 2000.

“I’m not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel. It’s widely known in a small circle that I make a mean tomato sauce, and I know many inventive ways to hold a baby while nursing, although I haven’t had the opportunity to use any of them in years.  I have a good eye for a nice swatch and a surprising paint chip, and I have had a checkered, but occasionally successful, sideline in matchmaking.

But I’ve never earned a doctorate, or even a master’s degree.  I’m not an ethicist, or a philosopher, or an expert in any particular field.  Each time I give a commencement speech I feel like a bit of a fraud.  Yogi Berra’s advice seems as good as any: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!

I can’t talk about the economy, or the universe, or academe, as academicians like to call where they work when they’re feeling kind of grand.  I’m a novelist.  My work is human nature.  Real life is really all I know.

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work.  That’s what I have to say.  The second is only a part of the first.  Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote to Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator had decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Don’t ever forget the words on a postcard that my father sent me last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

That’s the only advice I can give.  After all, when you look at the faces of a class of graduating seniors, you realize that each student has only one thing that no one else has.  When you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.  Your particular life.  Your entire life.  Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer.  Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore.  It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.  But a resume is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”

Here is my resume.  It’s not what my professional bio says, proud as I am of all that:

I am a good mother to three good children.  I have tried to never let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent.  I no longer consider myself the center of the universe.  I show up.  I listen.  I try to laugh.

I am a good friend to my husband.  I have tried to make my marriage vows mean what they say.  I show up.  I listen.  I try to laugh.

I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me.  Without them I would have nothing of interest to say to anyone, because I would be a cardboard cutout.  But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch.  I show up.  I listen.  I try to laugh.

I would be rotten, or at best mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.  You cannot be really first-rate at your work if you work is all you are.

So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life.  A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house.  Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines.  Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Turn off your cell phone.  Turn off you regular phone, for that matter.  Keep still.  Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone.  Find people you love, and who love you.  And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.  Each time I look at my diploma, I remember that I am still a student, still learning every day how to be human.  Send an e-mail.  Write a letter.  Kiss your mom.  Hug your dad.

Get a life in which you are generous.  Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night.  And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.  Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around.  Take the money you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity.  Work in a soup kitchen.  Tutor a seventh-grader.

All of us want to do well.  But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.  

Live by the words of this poem by Gwendolyn Brooks:

“Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold
it will not come.

Again in this identical
disguise.”

Life is short.  Remember that, too.

I’ve always known this.  Or almost always.  I’ve been living with mortality for decades, since my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was forty and I was nineteen.  And this is what I learned from that experience: that knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us.

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes.  It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again.  It is so easy to exist instead of live.  Unless you know there is a clock ticking.  So many of us changed our lives when we heard a biological clock and decided to have kids.  But that sound is a murmur compared to the tolling of mortality.

Maybe you have come to feel the way I have.  And you’ve come to feel that way for a very difficult or demanding reason.  One day you were walking around worrying about whether you had anything to wear to a party and reminding yourself to buy Kitty Litter or toilet paper.  And then you were lying on a doctor’s table, or the phone rang.  And your world suddenly divided, as my world did many years ago.  It divided into “before” and “after.”

“Before” for me was my freshman year of college, when I found myself able for the first time in my life to swear at meals and not be reprimanded, to go out at midnight and not have to tell anyone where I was going.  “After” was the beginning of what would have been my sophomore year, when I found myself out of school, making meat loaf and administering morphine in a development house in the suburbs.

It is amazing how much you can learn in one year.  Just like Paul, who was knocked off his mule into the dust on the way to Damascus, and discovered God, I had a rude awakening.  I’m not sure I learned anything much about mortality, or death, or pain, or even love, although in the years since, I have found that that one horrible year has given me a perspective on all those things I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“Before” and “after” for me was not just before my mother’s illness and after her death.  It was the dividing line between seeing the world in black and white, and in Technicolor.  The lights came on, for the darkest possible reason.

And I went back to school and I looked around at all the kids I knew who found it kind of a drag and who weren’t sure if they could really hack it and who thought life was a bummer.  And I knew that I had undergone a sea change.  Because I was never again going to be able to see life as anything except a great gift.

It’s ironic that we forget so often how wonderful life really is.  We have more time than ever before to remember it.  The men and women of generations past had to work long, long hours to support lots and lots of children in tiny, tiny houses.  The women worked in factories and sweatshops and then at home, too, with two bosses, the one who paid them, and the on they were married to, who didn’t.

There are new generations of immigrants now, who work just as hard, but those of us who are second and third and fourth generation are surrounded by nice cars, family rooms, patios, pools – the things our grandparents thought only rich people had.  Yet somehow, instead of rejoicing, we’ve found the glass half empty.  Our jobs take too much out of us and don’t pay enough.  We’re expected to pick the kids up at preschool and run the microwave at home.

C’mon, let’s be honest.  We have an embarrassment of riches.  Life is good.

I don’t mean in any cosmic way.  I never think of my life, or my world, in any big cosmic way.  I think of it in all its small component parts: the snowdrops, the daffodils; the feeling of one of my kids sitting close beside me on the couch; the way my husband looks when he reads with the lamp behind him; fettuccine alfredo; fudge; Gone With the Wind, Pride and Prejudice.  Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement.  It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen.  We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.

I learned to live many years ago.  Something really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had had a choice, I would have never been changed at all.  And what I learned from it is what, today, sometimes seems to be the hardest lesson of all.

I learned to love the journey, not the destination.  I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.

I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back, because I believed in it completely and utterly.  And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned, even though so many people may have thought I sounded like Pollyanna.  By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field.  Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear.  Read in the backyard with the sun on your face.  Learn to be happy.  And think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will life it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.  

Anyone can learn all of those things, out there in the world.  You just need to get a life, a real life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too.  School never ends.  The classroom is everywhere.  The exam comes at the very end.  No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.

I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island many years ago.  It was December, and I was doing a story about ow the homeless suffer in the winter months.  He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amid the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides.

But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way were were sitting now, even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.  And I asked him why.  Why didn’t he go to one of the shelters?  Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox?

And he stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady.  Look at the view.”

And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said.  I try to look at the view.  That’s all.  Words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be.  Look at the view.  When I do what he said, I am never disappointed.

*****

So that’s the entirety of the book.  Many of these things I think about daily.  I think about what I could do to better my experiences in the world and my relationships with my loved ones, with no promise that everything will turn out perfectly.  This last year has been a whirlwind of changes.  At one point I was deep in love with a man that, months later, told me he was dying of cancer, only to find out that he seems to be in fine health.  I learned that one of my Chi Omega sisters was going through a tough time with cancer herself and actually sick, not faking it like the guy.  I visited her and sent texts often, and when her life was cut short, I celebrated it on what would have been her 25th birthday with many of our Chi Omega sisters, her other close friends, and her family.  The least of my worries was when I was laid off from two separate jobs, which I’ve done fine without.

All in all, the biggest things I’ve learned this year are that God will always provide for me, even during my darkest days when I neglect to turn to him, and that I will always find strength in the people I love, as long as I love them, too.

As always, thank you for reading,

-H

Home Sweet Home

I have been home for just over a week now but haven’t posted about my last day of riding yet because I’ve been busy trying to wrap things up, settle back down, and just get myself back together.

That last day of riding was a breeze. My mom had warned me that it might rain, but I was prepared for the worst, just to get home.

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A funny sign in Idaho city.

I left Idaho city right around 10:30, which was about an hour from the time zone change, so I gained an hour before right away.  It was, for the most part, a nice day.  It was cloudy, but dry and not too much wind, even through the flat lands.   The closer I got to Oregon, the more giddy I got, and – don’t laugh – I actually cried when I saw the “Welcome to Oregon” sign.  Oddly, the time change sign didn’t appear for quite a few miles after the Oregon sign.  Time zones are weird, I tell you.

In Eastern Oregon, there were some mountains just West of Baker City that had a good covering of snow on the tips – this is good news for people in Portland because Mount Hood is significantly higher and must be getting dumped on.  If only I could get one snowboarding run in before shipping out… bad idea, I’d probably break another bone doing that, and then where would I be?

I stopped in Baker city for gas and actually forgot that there are gas pump attendants at gas stations here, something I thought I would never forget.  Too bad they don’t help much with motorcycles, anyway!

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Big ol’ thunderhead in the distance. Fortunately it turned out to be on the Washington side.

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I pulled over at a viewpoint near Arlington, Oregon for a minute to take a picture of the Columbia and the clouds I was riding toward.

Continuing on, I stopped for gas a couple more times, making sure to text my mom at each stop letting her know I hadn’t encountered rain yet.  I intentionally gassed up when I got to the Dalles because I wanted to just push through Hood River without the temptation or excuse to stop, and get home.  From the Dalles Portland is just over 100 miles, so I knew I’d be fine.

Then the rain hit, but only between the Dalles and Hood River.  And I wouldn’t even call it rain, more like sprinkles, or 6 inch rain, as my mom’s brother-in-law, Keith, has apparently dubbed it.

Though I was eager to get home as soon as possible, I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick picture of Multnomah Falls.  Had I been super motivated, I would have taken highway 30 and enjoyed a nice scenic back road view, but I’ve done that and didn’t want to spend an extra hour doing so again.

One of the most majestic aspects of the Columbia River Gorge is the amount of scattered waterfalls throughout the topography.  Some you can see from Interstate 84, but not most.  I still want to see the Oneota Gorge that lies somewhere near Multnomah falls and is said to be visible only by walking through a knee-deep stream.  Multnomah Falls itself is the highest waterfall in Oregon, and arguably the second highest waterfall in the country, depending on the time of year when comparing the competitors.  Regardless of where it ranks, it is awesome to see in person.  My favorite hiking trails reside very close to the falls.

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When coming from the East, passing Multnomah Falls is when you know you’re practically home.

As I got closer to Portland, the threat of rain was beginning to look imminent.  Right about the time I crossed into Portland from Troutdale, I began to notice sprinkles on my visor.  By the time I was through the city and coming out of the Vista Tunnel, it was coming down hard.  Of course, typical Oregonian drivers, traffic slowed down while I managed to get soaked in the course of only a couple of miles.  I told you, God has a great sense of humor!

Needless to say, I got home in one soggy piece, happy as could be.  The mileage on my bike read 8,996.8 miles from the moment I left home in the first place.  Despite thinking about it and having many people suggest it since, I neglected to ride around the block a few times just to get it up to 9k.  It’s 9k anyway you look at it, to me.

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My total trip mileage was 8,996.8 miles; we’ll call it an even 9k.

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After riding through a quick downpour, a rainbow was visible when looking back toward Portland.

I unpacked all my soggy gear and headed to my parents for dinner.  It was so good to see my roommate and my parents.  To be able to hug them and just be in my space was a great relief.

The next day, I started back into training with the Army and at the gym myself.  Everyday I do some sort of workout which typically includes yoga and weightlifting, or running too much and an insanity workout for PT.

At the recruiting station, I brought all the recruiters their Big Sky Brewery special edition Battle of Mogadishu beer labels, which are not for sale and never will be.  These are the labels for beers that are only sent oversees to active duty, deployed troops.  However, the owner of Big Sky was kind enough to send these home with me and I managed to keep them all in one piece!

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The Battle of Mogadishu beer labels given to me by the owner of Big Sky Brewery for my recruiters. I framed the labels before giving them away.

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All the Sergeants at the recruiting station with their Battle of Mogadishu beer labels. (From Left: SGT Borror, SFC Curtis, SGT Baker, SGT Bobian, and SGT Gandia)

Expect to get a couple more updates before I take off in 19 days to basic training.  After that, I won’t be on here for at least three months.  If you’re interested in getting my address to send me letters during basic, please send me your email and address to wendthr@gmail.com and I will add it to a list of people my mom will contact when she gets my address.

Thanks again for reading and God Bless,

Heather

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

Tuesday was a day full of potential but with no set plans.  Grandpa and I knew we wanted to take some of his guns out and shoot them, but other than that, everything was in the wind, so we made the most of it.

Once again, I woke up to a gourmet breakfast.  Scrambled eggs with cheese and onions, eggs, toast and orange juice.  Tomorrow grandpa says he’ll make me blueberry pancakes and bacon… I need to go on road trips more often if I want to be treated like a princess constantly!

After breakfast I wrote all of my postcards, addressed them, and stamped them.  Then we talked about the government throwing their big temper tantrum and solving nothing yet making it worse for us all, then we decided to get busy for the day.  We went to the garage and made a few more bullet necklaces, some of my friends and family had expressed an interest in getting one, so we made a few in only twenty minutes or so.  The part that took the longest was me writing personal notes in each and rolling it up before putting the lead projectile on the end, other than that, they were very easy.

Before long, we headed into town to send off my cards and a card grandpa was sending as well.  We ran into a local USFS gal who was just tying up loose ends at the post office before going home from work indefinitely thanks to the shut down.

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My last batch of postcards. I wanted to try to get everyone, so there are a ton!

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The bracelet I got at the trading post on Monday. Decided to add a picture.

Once finished at the post office, I suggested going to a used book store we passed.  Turns out it was just an extension of the local library and books weren’t priced, they were just whatever price we decided to donate.  I picked up four small books and we paid $5.  One is very short on how to best enjoy life, I’ll post a blog about it in a few days.  Another is on left-handed people of history.  And I can’t think of what the other two books were right now.  After the library we swung by grandpa’s girlfriend, Sandy’s house.  It is a beautiful house that doesn’t look old on the outside, but the inside has the characteristics of an old house, though it doesn’t seem old or worn out.  I think my favorite part of the whole place were the wooden beams in the living room and upstairs.  She has a huge kitchen with amazing appliances, too, but the beams and wooden accents gave it a rustic feeling.

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Hops on Sandy’s porch overlooking the small town of Idaho City. I’ve never thought of them being ornamental before!

My favorite room in general was more like a landing once you reached the top of the stairs.  Sandy owns an antique shop in town and likely came across most of her pieces for this space at her shop.  The space is Coca-Cola-themed and has everything from cups, to a phone, to lamps, and even a table and chairs with the Coca-Cola logo on them.  Some things were as new at 2007 as far as I could tell, and other seemed to be from the early 1900’s.  It was awesome to see all that memorabilia in there; I kept thinking how the guys from the American Pickers TV show would love this place.

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Sandy’s Coca-Cola room.

By the time we were done in town, the little bit of sprinkling rain from the morning had ceased and we were ready to go back to Grandpa’s house to get out the guns for some shooting practice.

We packed several handguns, ample ammunition, and the muzzle-loader for grandpa to practice with.

We drove about three miles out of town to shoot in a wooded area commonly used for such a purpose.

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The ammunition for the many handguns we brought along.

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Sandy’s beautiful Bursa. I really liked this little lady, and she is classy looking, too.

We made sure to use up all of the ammunition we brought, sparing no gun from use.  While my grandpa was getting some stuff together for a couple of the guns, I wandered off with our mostly empty bucket for spent shells.  I found a few that were left by other shooters and we collected the shells from the rounds we were using – this way grandpa could use them again for other rounds later.  While I was wandering, a creepy fat spider quickly crawling along the dirt caught my eye.  It took me a couple seconds to realize that it wasn’t a spider at all, but a teeny tiny toad.  I saw frogs this small in North Carolina, but they were all tree frogs.  This little bumpy dude seemed way too small for a toad, but he was cute anyway.  This entire time, I had the earmuffs on that hunters and shooters use to amplify sound, but loud noises are immediately cancelled out to protect the ear buds.  With these ear muffs on, I could hear the tiny toad croaking.  Every once in a while, he got irritated with me, stiffened up, croaked, and rolled over.  It was hilarious.  I think he was just camera shy.

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Tiny toad!!

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Glock 9mm, one of my favorites.

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Glock .45, my other favorite.

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Grandpa in his NRA shirt that says “Group Therapy” on the back. Notice the empty shell flying next to his right shoulder. Yep, I’m an artistic photographer.

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Small single-action .22

Apparently, I'm a pretty good shot.  I can't wait until I learn more in the Army and get even better.

Apparently, I’m a pretty good shot. I can’t wait until I learn more in the Army and get even better.

Armed and dangerous.

Armed and dangerous. I love the sound-enhancing ear muffs that cancel out all noise when a shot is fired.

After all the shooting practice and short lessons and facts my grandpa told me throughout the day, I know where I will be heading, should there ever be a zombie apocalypse. OR should the government remain in a stagnant state and I need to flee to a remote area of the country.  I’ll have access to all the ammunition and weapons needed, that’s for sure!

And this is how I'll mow down hoards of zombies one day.

And this is how I’ll mow down hoards of zombies one day.

Now, it’s time for me to head home.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to have such a great adventure on my motorcycle again, but I’m very glad I took the opportunity.  I know that many little things in my life have been changed and a few big things as well.

Also, I wanted you dedicated readers out there to know a quick funny story.  I’ll tell it short and simple like I told my mom because I was stunned by it.  Remember the amazing bartender, Andy, from Washington, D.C.?  Well, I had looked for him on Facebook without success, I figured he opted not to have one after getting back from being in Cameroon for over two years.  I was wrong, I just had his last name wrong, thankfully and he found me a couple of days ago.  Facebook is cool in that it tells you who your common friends are, I’ve made a few awesome friend connection discoveries this way before, and Andy was no different; we have one friend in common, Breanna Johnson.  Bre was one of my two little sisters in Chi Omega at Oregon State and I’ve kept in touch with her on and off since – she is a traveler at heart, much like me.  Randomly enough, Andy and Bre are cousins, though they haven’t seen each other in a very long time since his part of the family relocated to the east coast before he was a teenage, but he makes it out west occasionally.  Last week was one of those times.  Unfortunately their grandfather passed away and he flew out to Oregon for the funeral and got reacquainted with Bre there.  Small world? I think so.  Bre and I are having coffee on Friday to catch up, I can’t wait.  

It’s amazing how everything happens for a reason, though we often don’t know why until those reasons come to pass.  I am very thankful for all of the great moments of serendipity on this grand adventure.

-H

Backwoods Living

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was the first full day of adventures with my grandfather here in Idaho.  I woke up bright and early in hopes of going hunting and possibly shooting a doe or an elk, as it would be the last day of the hunting season for either in this area.

When I first came downstairs, I noticed a giant flock of wild turkeys running in the front yard.  For the last couple of years, I had listened to my grandfather telling me that he sometimes shot turkeys from his front porch, and he definitely wasn’t kidding.

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Turkeys in the front yard.

Before long, my grandfather whipped up an enormous breakfast consisting of turkey bacon (store bought, not front yard shot), eggs, and toast.  For not being a breakfast guy, he sure makes one heck of a morning meal.  It was still sprinkling rain outside, but we were determined to at least go look for things to shoot.  Since I have never been hunting before, this is as close as I’d get.  My undergraduate degree was in animal sciences, so I am well versed in the growth and harvest of animals for human consumption and am not at all sensitive about the subject; I apologize in advance if I offend any vegetarians out there, but it’s just the way things have to be if you want to try to live off the land and feed your body the nourishment it requires.

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Grandpa telling me stories. I think storytelling runs in the family, but I’m sure his visual aids (like sitting on the floor) are better than mine often are.  Also, can you believe this guy is almost 70?  I think there is fountain of youth out here 😛

We wandered around the local forest area for almost two hours, I think, but without any luck.  The only animal I saw was a tiny (well, normal-sized) chipmunk and some birds.  We came back to the house to warm up a bit before moving on to other things.

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The literary collection of a mountain man, that’s for sure. These are Grandpa’s coffee table books along with a pair of binoculars.

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Searching the back roads for game, without success.

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Fog between the many rolling hills over Idaho City.

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A woodpecker’s nest out in the woods. My niece calls them “woodpackers,” haha.

After warming up a bit, the sun decided to come out and I thought I’d go outside and attempt to rinse off my bike.  Poor Annie was covered in gunk, but it was fortunately easy to wash off.  I took a few before and after pictures.

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Sand, silt, and mud dried on the back and underside of my Kawasaki.

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The front wheel and muffler pipes of the Kawi before washing her. The bottom black pan for catching oil had at least 1/2 an inch of dirt and sand (see picture after next).

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She doesn’t look so bad from a distance, but it was sad to see her this bad.

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All the crud stuck in the bottom fairing before I got to washing it out.

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Clean after a quick rinse!!

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Fortunately, the silt, sand, and mud was very easy to rinse out.

After cleaning my bike, Grandpa wanted to show me some of the toys in his garage.  The main toy was a big tool to facilitate the homemaking of ammunition.  He has all the supplies and just reuses the casings constantly.  The tool in the following picture removes the primer from old casing, inserts a new primer into the casing, reshapes the casing to make sure it isn’t warped, prepares the casing for the lead projectile, the person then adds the appropriately measured gunpowder, and the tool securely installs the projectile into the top of the casing.  The entire process can take less than a minute if you have already weighed out the gunpowder.

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Grandpa showing me how to make ammunition by hand.

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A finished 9mm bullet that grandpa made right then and there.

After seeing how the bullets were made, I had the idea of creating a necklace using a casing and projectile.  Of course I didn’t add gunpowder and left the primer out to have a hold for the necklace chord.  The necklace turned out to be very cool and it took us less than ten minutes to figure it all out.  I have a picture of it at the end of this post.

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Grandpa in his ‘coon hat and camouflage ensemble in front of his gorgeous house.

After getting crafty, we decided it was time for a late lunch.  We went down to a little restaurant in Idaho City called Donna’s placed and gorged ourselves on chili hamburgers and chili dogs.  I picked up a few Idaho postcards and we ordered two heavenly milkshakes to take outside.  Since the sun was finally out, it was nice to get to soak in it for a bit.

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I’m definitely going back on my diet when I get home on Wednesday.  

Our next stop was to the Idaho City Trading Post across the street.  My grandpa says he buys quite a few great things at this shop and figured I’d enjoy it.  I did.  The store had many handmade crafts such as earrings, necklaces, hats, scarves, bracelets, woodcarvings, and more.  I attempted to talk the shop owner into selling her beautiful earrings and necklaces on Etsy, like I do my dog collars; she said she’d look into it.  I left there only buying a cute pair of silver owl earrings and a cool leather bracelet with a metal hibiscus flower pendant tied onto it.

Shortly after, we headed to the post office to pick up some more stamps, then it was back home for the evening.  Well, almost.  On our way back, grandpa thought it would be cool to take me up to the town’s pioneer cemetery.  Supposedly, 3,000 people are buried there, though only about 300 graves are marked.  Creepy!

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Umphrey P. Sept. 1889 to Feb. 1892. Young kid just after the gold rush days.

It was amazing how old some of the graves were, yet they were in decent condition.  After wandering around the cemetery for a bit, we decided to call it a day.  Back at the house, grandpa was trying to figure out his muzzle-loader after having shot it this morning with one misfire and one successful shot.  Apparently, these guns can be loaded and stored that way, but if they sit too long, the shot doesn’t work.  It certainly is a laborious task to load one of these bad boys, a whole lot different than just throwing in a bullet or snapping in a magazine.  I would explain the process, but I’m sure I would give you incorrect information.  Just think about guns around the time of the civil war and how they had to reload and shoot them.  That’s how this bad boy works.

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I think at this point, he was actually reloading the muzzle-loader rather than cleaning it, though it all looks the same, I think.

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My 9mm necklace (along with the two of the three other necklaces I’ve acquired during this trip and my Aries necklace).

I’m off to bed for the night, but I’ll add today’s adventures tomorrow with another round of photos.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading home.  I’m sure I’ll hit rain, but I’m positive it’s worth the effort.  I’m very excited to have dinner with my parent’s and to get to see all the fuzzy animals again.  I miss my kitty that lives with them and I’m sure their golden retriever puppy has tripled in size since he was twelve weeks old when I left and is now around eighteen weeks old.

-H

Dodging Tumbleweeds

Yesterday, I had intended to leave Salt Lake City at 9am, but, per usual, took my time taking off and left just before 10am.  Leaving the valley was as beautiful as it was coming in.  I had never realized how large the whole of Salt Lake City was until I had gone sixty miles north on interstate 15 and still wasn’t out of it.  The sun was trying to come through, but I had checked the forecast several times in the morning and knew it wouldn’t last for me the further north I went.

For the most part, I didn’t get in trouble with weather as I thought I would.  I had some sprinkles of rain, but not enough to chill me.  The most intense weather we the high gusts of wind between the Idaho border and Mountain Home, Idaho.  Gusts would blow me clear across my lane, even if I was bracing for them.  It was raining a bit, but I was more concerned about the tumbleweeds that kept popping out of the ditch and racing across the interstate.  Deer are much easier to predict than these things; at least with deer you can somewhat read their scatter brained fight or flight decisions.  With tumbleweeds, you can’t read the wind, not in the middle of a flat interstate, anyway.  I only hit a very tiny weed, and I was behind a car when it his a decent-sized weed, though it shattered into a million pieces and didn’t bother me; other than that, the ride went without incident.

The way that interstate 84 is set up running through the middle of many mountains and hills, it seems like it funnels win a little too well.  I guess Idaho and Oregon have learned to take advantage of this because both states have put up hundreds of wind turbines to generate power in the last ten years or more.

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Looking back toward Idaho City to see the fog creeping up the valley.

When I took my exit for Idaho City, just before Boise, I got gas and called my grandpa.  Where he lives there is very little chance any cell phone provider will have decent service.  From interstate 84 I was about 39 miles from his house.  Taking Idaho highway 21 North was beautiful, even in the light rain.  The roads are well maintained, the curves are wide, and the scenic view was amazing.  The first part of the road is even with the water of a river running along side of it.  The water is on the lower side of the damn and there is a sufficient barrier between the road and river, so it’s not dangerous, but definitely something to look at.  As I got deeper into the mountains, fog and clouds were hanging around, making everything look so majestic.  All of it really took my breath away.

I got into Idaho City then followed my grandpa’s instructions to take a dirt road a couple miles to his house; I didn’t follow the instructions very well because I couldn’t find his place and had to ride around in the mud for a while.  My new tires are awesome for rain, but a little iffy in the mud and sand.  Fortunately, I’ve got the balance thing down – Annie (my bike) and I are on our own wavelength these days, and we had no incidents.

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All mucked up after about 5 miles in the sandy mud. The front is even worse.

My grandpa lives in an awesome cabin-type home.  I’d say it’s the closest thing anyone lives in these days to a real log cabin, but with all the great amenities and luxuries of a modern home.  I’ll take a picture of it for the next post.

After settling in, we headed back into town for some dinner.  My grandpa’s favorite dinner spot is called Diamond Lil’s.  They served a delicious open-faced prime rib with mashed potatoes, corn, and a spicy horseradish that I loved.  It was a home-cooked meal without all the clean up.  The restaurant, as my grandpa said, is like a museum.  All over, different denominations of various currencies are either hanging from the rafters, framed, or taped to the walls.  I found a rack of old beer cans, funny old war posters, and historical maps.  Holly, the woman running the place, gave us a grand tour and told us that the building was built in the 1800’s and the few brick walls in the place contained brick that was created not far away.  Idaho City was birthed during the age of the Gold Rush and at one point had the largest population in the northwest, even bigger than Portland.  Of course, that was only 7,000 people in 1864 (thank you Wikipedia), but that was huge back then, and certainly bigger than the current population of 500 or so.  I like the town.  The old buildings have character and exude history.  Grandpa and Holly said that many of the bricks in the building and rocks in the area still have gold in them.

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Can you spot the little snow ball?

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Canned beer, in real cans.

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View of the Diamond Lil’s Bar.

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Let’s have another war because it’ll be cheaper than the first…

imageAfter dinner, we grabbed some ice cream and beer from the small store on the corner and headed home.  We called it a night pretty early.

Today, we may go try to hunt some deer or elk because it is the last day of the season.  Yesterday I saw a nice doe from the side of the road, but we were occupied with going to dinner.  Maybe I’ll bring some luck today.  It is pouring buckets outside, which will make it fun to try to stay dry, but it’s supposed to clear up tomorrow and Wednesday.

We will make the best of the day 🙂

H