Friday, October 02, 2015

I Almost Forgot How To Do This...

Just a quickie here to bring all six of you up to speed since the Google/Facebook censorship fiasco in March.  A side note...the "new" OHNT site is still up and running and open to any HNTer who needs a place to post something.  There's some familiar faces over there.  So to speak.

Went to my eldest (oldest?) niece's wedding in Colorado in May.  Stopped off in Utah to see an old girlfriend from my sophomore year in high school whom I'd gotten back in touch with on Facebook.  We hadn't seen each other in 40 years.  Of course, my FB friends didn't disappoint, and somehow decided that the wedding I was attending was actually ours.  Ummm...nope.  That's her in the left picture, and my freshly wedded niece in the right one (for whom a couple of people thought was MY bride--really, doesn't anyone actually read FB posts anymore??).



Things were busy with our annual Symphony Under the Stars concert. We celebrated the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra, and it was a HUGE success! Lots of people telling us that this was, by far, the best summer concert we've done. Can't say that I disagree! A sad time though, as we mourned the loss of a good friend, and our principal percussionist. Cancer sucks, in case you weren't aware...



August brought together my fellow classmates for our 40-year reunion.  It was fantastic to spend time with some of these people, particularly the ones that have somehow stayed away from FB, or who weren't part of my friends list.  Lots of fun, but I didn't really take any pics.  iPhone was about to crap out (which has since been upgraded to iPhone 6S--only three days before Apple announced the newest upgrade....fml...).

Mom's 80th birthday was coming up on Oct. 1st, so my siblings and I asked her how she wanted to celebrate.  We're thinking a nice dinner, maybe have the grandkids along too and do something around town.  She says, "Let's go to Vegas!"  So we spent four days in Vegas!  Lots of fun!  (if you ever get the chance to see the Beatle's "LOVE" by Cirque du Soleil, I highly recommend that you go!)


In spite of not getting to see anyone on the Colorado trip, I did get to see one of my oldest bloggy friends just this week! Sam, from Sam's Stories, moved here to Montana almost two years ago, and only about three hours away.  Sadly, I have failed in that we haven't actually seen each other since my California trip about two and a half years ago (see #60, proof #1 over there in the sidebar, or go here).  Sam had a conference on this side of the state, so she took a detour and came to see me!  Of course, that meant she had to spend the night, meaning that I had to spend about two weeks to sandblast the bathroom, dust all the forest fire ash, and hide the dirty laundry.  It was all worth it though!  We're already planning our next sleepover!


Theoretically, now you're caught up. More or less. What's new with you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Beat Google! HNT

Yep, we're back in business!  If you want to skip the drivel and get right to the pics, go here.

When Blogger sent out the message that they were going to shut down blogs with "adult" content, the uproar was immediate.  Many of us would have had our blogs taken away from us.  Admittedly, Blogger/Google is a free service, and they can do whatever they damned well please.  But shooting themselves in the foot like this, and totally out of the blue, was just plain wrong.  It was big news on FB, and I jokingly commented that we should do one last HNT before they closed the OHNT site down.  Then we thought about it, and it seemed like a pretty good idea!  So we ran with it.  "Fuck Blogger!" HNT!

Then Blogger/Google reversed their decision, in no small part because of the public uproar.  By this time, I had already received a handful of submissions with promises of more.  So rather than pass it up, the focus became "We Beat Google!" HNT.  And my, how it's been successful!

If I had to characterize this particular HNT, it would be "surprise".  Surprise at the age range--from 21 up to early 60s!  Surprise at the newcomers who heard about it from other bloggers, or missed out on the action from a few years ago.  Surprise at how certain people stepped up their HNT game--at least a half dozen off the top of my head who are sharing far more than they ever have before!  Surprise at some of the old-timers who came back for this one.  All in all, a pretty good showing!

We've got over 3 dozen submissions tonight.  Will we do it again?  Who knows?  HNT was officially retired over a year ago.  I didn't think it would ever come back.  I suspect it will come back again at some point, but for some sort of very special occasion.  For now, let's just enjoy it's current return!

Monday, March 02, 2015

March Madness

That title should get some hits for me...

Let's see if I can get you caught up somehow.  January was my 10th blogaversary.  I missed it at the time.  Which seems appropriate.  Still not ready to give up the ghost, but it's sure hard to come here on any sort of regular basis.  Unlike Hypersexual Girl, over at Love and Lust.  She's a monster!  She hasn't missed a single day in six and a half years!  Anyhoo, I started thinking about the past 10 years.  And the friends from those early days.  Whose kids are now young adults.  Whose families have undergone all sorts of change--births, deaths, marriages, divorces.  It's sort of like watching the Brady Bunch.  Congrats to all of you that I met back then who are reading this now.  We're still around!

Ooh...  HNT is coming back! Briefly.  Towards the end of February, Blogger/Google sent out the following email to some of its users:
Dear Blogger User,

We're writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.

Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this policy. Also, we ask that you make any necessary changes to your existing blog to comply as soon as possible, so that you won't experience any interruptions in service. You may also choose to create an archive of your content via Google Takeout (https://www.google.com/settings/takeout/custom/blogger).

For more information, please read here (https://support.google.com/blogger?p=policy_update).

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team
Needless to say, that news didn't go over very well, and so I decided to do a special "Fuck You Blogger" HNT on March 19 over at OHNT.  Our last shot before disappearing forever.  I got a lot of positive support, and immediately got about a half dozen pics for it!  Then the unexpected happened...  After a huge outcry and ridicule, they reversed their decision!  After talking with a couple of people, the consensus was to keep on schedule, and call it "We Beat Google!" HNT.  So it's on!  March 19th.  Send me your pics and they'll go up on the OHNT site.  Should be fun to see everyone!

What else...?  Montana Legislature is in session, and true to form, the state was the butt of national jokes when one of the Tea Party whack jobs introduced a bill to reform indecent exposure laws.  And his infamous comment about outlawing yoga pants.  Saner minds prevailed when the bill was immediately tabled in committee (unanimously), but it set the tone for the rest of the session.  Be sure to watch the national news, because there will be plenty of other opportunities to embarrass the state in the coming weeks!

My oldest niece is getting married in May.  In Colorado.  Not sure of the reasoning for that, but OsTour'16 now has a destination!  I'm sure that pics will follow...

Ummm, that's about it.  See you at HNT, and then here in a month or two, if lucky!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Highs and Lows of 2014 - The Highs

Things went pretty well in 2014.  Some life changes, a little bit of travel, lots of family time, lots of music!  Before you read this post though, check out the one below it.  It's my "Lows" list. Makes the "Highs" list much better!  (as always, click 'em to big 'em!)
"The 10 High Points of 2014"(from less high to highest of the high)
10. St. Patrick's Day - Last year saw the close of O'Toole's, the only really Irish bar in town (as opposed to the other one which was more pub-like, and which had also closed).  This presented a the conundrum of where to grab the first green beer of the morning.  To their credit, another well-know drinking establishment nearby offered a free green beer if you came in with an O'Toole's shirt/sweatshirt/hat.  Of course, all of us did, and life was good.  At some point in the morning, a heavy wet snow came down, but by that time, we didn't really care...

9. Ray's Day - My brother-in-law died unexpectedly in 2010.  As the golf pro at the country club, he was well known regionally for his work with junior golf efforts.  As a fundraiser, the club had the first "Ray Day" tournament, which the entire family played in.  Just a fun time to get together and raise a little money for his scholarship program.  His oldest daughter (my niece) teed it up at the par-4 4th hole, hit the snot of the ball, and got her first hole-in-one!  We're fairly certain Ray had something to do with that...

8. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - I had to thank all of my friends for NOT including my in the Ice Bucket Challenge!  I did, however, get to take the video of Moose completing hers while on our epic road trip to Fairbanks (see #2).  I may or may not have mucked up the first take, forcing her to walk out into the glacier lake for a second attempt...

7. Big Soul Band - It's a little sad that we only get together to perform only a couple of times a year, at the most.  But we make the best of it when we do!!  Our late-summer gig at the lake was all sorts of fun, bringing up memories of when the old band used to play out there fairly regularly.  What we had not experienced in the past, however, were the MASSIVE number of bugs that attacked us all night under the lights.  Not sure what sort of hatch was going on, but all of us swallowed our fair share of them that night.  And squished ten times as many in the pages of our music.  Drinking beers only added to the problem, for as many as a dozen would end up floating on top in between gulps!  Ah, good times...

6. State AA Basketball Championship Game - The high school I graduated from has won only two state basketball championships since it opened in 1973 (it's much more of a football school).  The first happened in 1983, and the cocky, hot-shot star of the team later became my brother-in-law.  The second time happened this past March, with the BIL as assistant coach, and his son (my nephew) as the not-near-as-cocky-but-better-shooting guard.  He fouled out (five fouls called against him in the span of less than 3 minutes???), but was instrumental in getting them to the point of winning.  It would be nice the next championship didn't take over thirty years again...

5. Griz/Cat Game - Ever since Gucci moved back to Montana, the idea of going to the Griz/Cat game together popped up.  It was even her idea!  But tickets to that game are impossible to get, but I managed to buy a couple!  Front row, south end zone, right at the end of the hash marks!  But her son got sick, then on the morning of the game her irrigation pipe froze and burst.  Needless to say, she didn't join me, but the Griz won in a HUGE way!  While we didn't have a bet like we did in the HNT days, I'm hoping that I can hold that over her for the coming year...

4. Making Donations - This is sort of related to #1 below, but I've found that I've had the chance to help out others in a financial way that I've really never had before.  I've always donated some money to Ashly for her Toys For Tots fundraiser, and did so again this year, but I also was able to help out some other friends out there.  Having a little extra cash is certainly a new and fun thing to experience...
3. Symphony Under the Stars - The 11th annual Symphony Under the Stars concert was, without a doubt, the best one yet.  It was a celebration of the Symphony's 60th year, Helena's 150th birthday, and also the 60th birthday of Disneyland!  We contacted Disney and were able to come up with a program of Disney music that would span all generations.  All written by hand by Mickey himself!  As a result, we had an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 people attend.  Possibly more!  It was a huge
success, though we could have used far more porta-potties.  As the producer, I know I couldn't have survived everything during the two days on-site without the capable work of my assistant, Libby.  She was so efficient that we actually sat down together about 6 hours before the concert, trying to figure out what major piece of the puzzle we had missed!  And the good news--she's coming back next year!
2. OsTour '14 - This year's OsTour wasn't so much a normal OsTour as it was a great road trip with my best friend.  The short back story--Moose needed to move family furniture and heirlooms, and a car, from South Dakota to Fairbanks.  She asked if I wanted to join her, and how could I say no??  I knew she wanted to meet up with Rachel on the way up, and my only request was to meet up with Kaneki in Calgary.  After that, it was all long days of driving a 14' U-haul towing a car, soaking in a brand of beauty that I didn't realize existed in the landscape,  and actually coming out of it all without killing each other!  I'd love to make the drive again, sans U-Haul, and take a lot more pictures...
 
1. New Symphony Gig! -
It's not often that some version of the OsTour doesn't make #1, but my new job with the Symphony runs laps around everything else.  The position of Director of Patron Services was almost handed to me, based on my decades of involvement with the organization.  It is one of only three full-time positions, yet it still allows me to continue with the other positions I was already doing.  In other words, I'm making money now!  For the first time since the early 90s, I'm not scraping by paycheck to paycheck.  I'm not getting rich, but I'm finally in a position where I don't have to worry about stretching my dollars.  It may seem materialistic, but it's also done wonders with my attitude and outlook on life.  And the stress is pretty much gone, and that's a really good thing...
And thus ends this year's list. My "Highs" for 2014.

Ha!  I checked what I wrote last year to end this, and other than the year, it applies again, word for word!  Happy New Year!
[Many of you are probably already at parties as I'm posting this. I'm staying home and watching "The Walking Dead" all night. I hope that everyone is having a safe but fun NYE! Looking forward to a great 2014!!]

The Highs and Lows of 2014 - The Lows

Obviously, this place isn't the mecca that it once used to be.  That's OK.  If you're here to read this, then welcome back!  But I'm doing this more for myself than anyone else (and isn't that really what blogging should have been all about all along?). This is my 10th time I've done this, and I love going back each year to see how things have changed, and how much they've actually stayed the same.  As I found out last year, it was pretty difficult to come up with ten "lows" for the year.  And the demise of blogging, retirement of HNT, and embarrassment that is current social media didn't even make the list!  Some of these might seem fairly petty or inconsequential.  So be it.  And as you'll find in past years, there's a couple of these that might find themselves on the "highs" list too!

These are what make my "lows" list (the "highs" list can be seen above...):

"The 10 Low Points of 2014"
(from least low to lowest of the low)
10. The neighbors - I've mentioned in the past that my apartment complex has become a white trash ghetto over the years.  So much so that I don't even care much anymore.  Last year they came in at #3, up from #7.  Little boys peeing in the dryers, half-eaten food dropped wherever it seemed convenient, garbage and cigarette butts as far as the eye could see...  New to the list this year (which still didn't bump it up past #10)--the soiled diapers in a trash bag that sat in the parking lot until buried under the snow, and the news story from early January that Helena police received a report that someone left a dead duck in an unlocked vehicle on the 600 block of South California.  Yep, that's where I live, and that's the downstairs neighbors.  Damned kids...

9. Mrs. Stoneberg died - My 2nd grade teacher died in late March at the age of 98, and frankly, I thought she had already died. I thought she was 98 when she was my teacher FIFTY YEARS AGO! She truly was one of my favorite teachers.

8. The Captain & Tenille - The news that they were going to be divorcing hit me harder than it ever should have.    Apparently "Love Will Keep Us Together" didn't work in this case.

7. Death of a classmate - It shouldn't be unexpected.  As we get older, our classmates are going to start dying off.  That was really brought home by the death of a very popular classmate in February.  Well-liked, successful, and quite active in the community.  Died unexpectedly in his sleep.  For no apparent reason.  The thoughts of mortality have stuck around ever since.

6. Politics - On all levels, from local to national, politics has become totally repulsive to me.  Civility, rules, common sense, etc. have all been tossed out the window.  I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers didn't envision the current state of affairs ever happening.  Montana's bi-annual legislature convenes next week, and I'm certain that they'll be making national headlines fairly quickly (actually, they already have...)

5. Obama took away my free insulin - One of the advantages of being uninsured is that pharmaceutical companies, needing documentation to get their huge tax breaks, will often give medications away for free (or massively discounted) to those who can't afford health insurance.  For over four years, I was getting my insulin for free, which was far better than paying the $200/month it would have cost me.  Then Obama told me I had to have health insurance or else, so I got it.  And I felt good, because my plan was totally subsidized.  Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical company dropped me like a hot potato.  The good news--there's an independent pharmacy in town that has some sort of contract that gets me my insulin for a few pennies on the dollar.  Not free, but certainly affordable. 

4. My body - My advice to the youth of America--be good to your knees.  Sadly, no one ever suggested that to me.  I'm not to the point of needing assistance or anything, but a simple walk down the street kills me.  My right knee is shot, but both should probably be replaced.  Old age, weight, and a touch of arthritis have all conspired against them.  Then there's my eyes.  I can't do any close work without reading glasses.  Yeah, it's old age, but the diabetes is a concern as well.  Still, I have better vision than the rest of my family, and don't think I make note of that any time that I can!

3. Michelle - If you're a long-time reader here, you might remember that Michelle is the name of my main trombone.  The soul band I'm in had an outdoor gig in June.  After a sound check, we had about 20 minutes to kill before starting, so I left her on her stand to grab a bite to eat.  A breeze had picked up, so I headed back to the stage, but the inevitable had already happened.  Michelle fell over, and her bell put a healthy dent in her slide, rendering her unplayable.  Fortunately, I had a second horn with me, so the gig went fine, but I had to send Michelle away for most of the summer to get fixed and to have a general overhaul.  Something that she hadn't had in all the years I've had her.  She came back almost like new, but it's gut-wrenching to have your livelihood in someone else's hands!  Yeah, it's really that big of a deal!
2. Shumpy - Back in the earliest days of HNT, we got to meet Shumpy.  Shumpy lived in Dallas and seemed to know everyone.  He even had his own domain in the days that the rest of us just let Blogger do the work.  He was a Parrothead, a Star Wars geek, appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show, hosted legendary Halloween parties, and was basically everybody's best friend.  When I had my 50th bday party in Dallas, Shumpy hosted the Friday night festivities, which went well into Saturday...  After some time, he got married, and became a father, which became the most important thing in his life.  It was around Labor Day when I was on my Alaska road trip that I read that he was back in the hospital with serious organ failure.  And before I even made it back home, he was dead.  A huge shock, and even more of a loss for anyone who knew him.  He's the fourth HNTer to have died over the years (that I know of...).  As I've mentioned before...no one told me that people I met on the internet and came to care about would be dying on me.  Damn you all for making me care!

1. Sick and hurting friends - I have diabetes.  I consider myself fortunate in that I'm managing it pretty well.  I don't have anything like food allergies, mental diseases, or physical ailments that hinder a relatively care-free life.  I do count my blessings to those ends.  On the other hand, there's a lot of you who are suffering, and there's nothing I can do about it.  One of my musicians in the symphony will be having surgery on the last day of this year which may prevent her from ever performing again.  One of my favorite friends has been fighting lyme disease for the better part of the past year.  It has nearly incapacitated her.  Another one went in for a check-up, and came out weeks later with most of her colon removed due to cancer.  She's still fighting the fight, and there's no guarantees.  Yet another had a similar experience with breast cancer.  She recently underwent surgery to correct the botched reconstruction of her boobs.  And yet another found out that her diagnosis of bipolar disorder over years was most likely incorrect.  Toss in the newly-divorced ones, those with the death(s) of close loved ones, those who have been fighting chronic problem throughout their life...and you have a melting pot of darkness that I feel helpless about.  Contrary to popular belief, I'm the type who wants everyone to be safe and well, and it pains me that I can't do anything to really help.
So, that's the downer list for 2014.  Mostly not so bad. Fortunately, there were lots of good things that happened too! You can check those out in the "Highs" post above this one. Go. Now!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I miss HNT

I miss HNT.  There, I said it.  I'll say it again.  I miss HNT.

I can't say that I miss the community.  I mean, I do, but the FB community keeps me on my toes too.  What I miss is the anonymity of blogging.  It was a place where people would disclose fantasies, emotions, and let's face it...their half-nekkid selves.  Unfortunately, FB is not a platform where one can really do that.  Any of it.  FB has, in spite of its privacy options and posting options, always been far more public than blogging ever was.  Far more family involvement and far more people willing to toss in their two cents to something they don't agree with (which seems contradictory to the way they did it on Blogger).  There's far less ability to speak one's mind or about real concerns in life.  Too many people to worry about offending somehow.  Too many people to keep track of.

None of us are writing anything remotely interesting anymore.  We're posting pics of the cat.  Or dinner.  Or some stupid survey result.  None of that crap happened while blogging.  When blogging, we had stories to tell.  Grand stories.  With FB, we have sort of have small talk.  With Twitter, we blurt out the first thing that comes to mind (at least that's what I imagine, since I'll never join Twitter!).  We don't have any basis to really make new friends with on FB.  Any new friends that we make anymore are generally someone we already know somehow--old classmates, friends of friends, even (gasp!) co-workers.  With blogging, we could quietly stalk someone's post and determine if there was something there that piqued our interest.  If so, we'd continue going back, possibly building some sort of rapport, and often times get that one-on-one interaction going.  That's missing in FB.  How many of us have gone to a random commenter and "friended" them?  Not many, I'd bet.  For as cumbersome as blogging was, I think it was a much more in-depth social platform than what we've got now.

I miss HNT.

Taking it a step further (farther?--what's the rule?), I miss the various states of nekkidness.  I miss the teasing.  I miss boobies and butts and hoo-haws.  I miss the artistry that many of you presented.  I miss the willingness and decisions to post something that you never thought you'd do in a thousand years.  I miss the anticipation for Thursdays. 

I had a chat with someone just in the past day or two about missing HNT.  Could it be revived?  Brought back?  We both agreed probably not.  Primarily for the reason it was retired in the first place--blogging is dead.  And blogging is where HNT belongs.  Certainly not FB.  Instagram, possibly, but HNT was always more than just a picture, and IG doesn't lend itself to writing stories very well.  Snapchat would be worse, and sort of limited.  Plus that 10-sec. rule puts a damper on things (yeah, there's ways around that, but still...)

But the main reason it couldn't be revived is that I just don't see it catching on.  HNT started 9 1/2 years ago, which is an eternity in social media.  Things have changed drastically in that time.  We have changed drastically in that time.  I look at many of those who were regulars, and for the most part, they've put the notion of half-nekkidness behind them.  Cheeky Minx is still posting her brand of nekkidness 3-4 times/month.  Secretive Writer has sort of returned.  And there's a small handful of others that post from time to time, but for the most part, anyone who participated has pretty much left it behind.  Would they do it again?  I have a hard time imagining that many of them would.  And that's too bad. 

I miss HNT.  I hope that most of you reading this miss it too. 

FYI--If any of you want to share some nekkidness with me for the Holiday Season, my email hasn't changed!  :-)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Like Riding a Bike!

Apparently, getting back onto my blog is like riding a bike. You never really forget, do you?

Sooo... Three big things to report about since my birthday. Probably the easiest way to do this is chronologically.

In the midst of a whirlwind weekend in mid-June, I found myself considering applying for a new job. The short story--I interviewed and was offered a position with the Symphony as Director of Patron Services. Three main areas of responsibility--managing the box office, coordinating our volunteer corps, and running the actual symphony office. In other words, I'm the top person on the administrative side of the Symphony. With the exception of financial decisions or actions. Thank God. I find that I'm busier than I've ever been. Primarily trying to figure out what the hell my predecessors did/didn't do. It's a long process that will be a learning exercise for most of this season. Hopefully, it'll get to the point where things become sort of automatic from year to year. The best thing I can offer this position is a sense of continuity and commitment. And getting a paycheck over double what I was making before isn't a bad thing either.  :-)

I officially started this new position on the first of July. Just three weeks before the big summer concert. Oy. One of the main things that was discussed with the new position is that they wanted me to continue on as Operations Manager, and as Project Manager of the summer concert. And I get to throw in the fact that I play my horn once in awhile! So I get paid for four different positions. Not a bad gig.

Back to the summer concert. Without question, this year's was the largest we've ever had. Estimates between 18-20,000 people came out to hear the music of Disney. Truly a family event. But we've become a victim of our own success. There were at least 2,000 people who came late (in our case, if you don't put a blanket down 24 hours early, you're not going to get a good place to watch the concert from!). In their case, they ended up to the side of the stage, behind the speakers. So they basically had no sound. And weren't shy about bitching about it. Unfortunately, there's no fix for it either. Ah, well. They'll learn to get there earlier! For the third year, I had my lovely kickass assistant helping me, and she came through with flying colors.  As usual.  I wish I could clone her.  The girl is going to go far in life.

These are some pics from the event. Taken from a bunch of different people.  Be sure to click 'em to big 'em!




The last big thing to talk about is my trip to Alaska! Back in February, Moose (remember her?!?) asked if I wanted to road trip with her to Fairbanks. The back story...her dad died this winter, and she needed to move furniture and heirlooms back to Alaska. Since I didn't get to make the trip up when she first moved up there, I jumped at the opportunity! In a 14' U-Haul towing a car! A general comment before I go into details--the Canadian Rockies is (are?) some of the most beautiful country ever invented! I always thought NW Montana was beautiful, but it pales in comparison. Even, I dare say, the mountains of Glacier Park. If you ever have a chance to drive from Calgary to Jasper, take it!!!

After Moose picked up her load, and her dad's car, she drove to Helena to pick me up in the last week of August. Once we got on the road, we headed to Kalispell and had lunch with Rachel (remember her, too?). Yeah, I know these people haven't blogged in forever. This might help you remember though.


We drove as far as Banff, AB that first day to spend two nights. It's too pretty of a place to just leave the next morning. The next morning we rented a car and drove in to Calgary (my only request of this whole trip) to meet up with Jan (formerly known by a variety of names--Firefly, Kaneki, Phynix Bell).  She was part of the crop of HNTers that really got things off the ground.  We've been FB friends for years, so I insisted that we meet.  Our timing was perfect, because two days later she was moving west into British Columbia!  But first, we drove around the Olympic Park (site of the '88 Winter Olympics).  It was wonderful to meet her and her almost 3 y.o. son.  And she introduced Moose to poutine (who knew that they offered poutine at McDonald's?).  Anyhoo...she became #63 over there in my "Sat With Me In the Back Row" list!



After we got back to Banff, we took a quick nap, followed by a gondola ride to the mountain just south of Banff. It had been rainy all day, but it looked like the clouds were below the level of the summit. This is the only place where I used my point and shoot camera, which turned out well, since it appears to have a scratched lens when zooming. This is what we saw from up there...



The next day, we headed north.  This day was intended to be the touristy, check-out-all-the-beauty day.  And boy, there was plenty of it!  Danielle, our waitress from the night before, suggested that we go to Moraine Lake, which is just south of Lake Louise.  She said it was much more impressive, and she wasn't kidding!  It was here where I took what is probably the finest photograph of my life.  Click it for its full glory!


And what it looked like just a minute or two later...

 

It was here that Moose completed her Ice Bucket Challenge.  No ice, but crystal clear glacier water.  She might have had to do it twice, since her cinematographer didn't get it the first time.  Oops...  We then headed to Lake Louise, which is internationally known for its hotel, its lake, and the glacial mountains.



Perhaps the most amazing thing about virtually every lake and river in this area is the color of the water.  The most stunning turquoise you've ever seen.  Even more so than Caribbean waters.  And every single body of water had the same color.


As we continued north, we stopped at the Columbia Icefield, between Banff and Jasper National Parks.  We stopped at the new skywalk (opened this spring), and got that really uncomfortable feeling of standing on plexiglass over nothing.  With hundreds of feet to fall when that glass breaks.  And the whole thing bounced out at the point.  But it was pretty, and I could probably be talked into doing it again!


From this point on, I can't really describe all the beauty.  There got to be so much of it, that it almost got boring.  There's lots that neither of us took pictures of, but were blown away by.  The best I can do is just post a bunch of pics to show it all, with some added thoughts.  Autumn was definitely in season, in spite of being almost 4 weeks early.  The mountains near the southeastern border of Alaska are a totally different breed of monster than the B.C. Rockies.  The original Signpost Forest was far cooler than you might imagine.  Some of the Alaskan Highway is still nothing more than a chip-sealed road, since the geology doesn't allow for much more.  Moose's poutine.  Moose's dinner at Buckshot Bettie's - hamburger, relish, mayo, onion, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, bacon, ham, and cheese on a homemade bun.  The laser-straight line that marks the international border between AK and Canada--embiggen the picture with the obelisk, and look how straight it is, even at the horizon!




Once we got to Fairbanks, we had about 10 hours before having to head to the airport (for that lovely 1:30 AM flight to Seattle...).  Didn't give us a great deal of time to do much, other than unload most of the U-Haul, check out the Alaska Pipeline, and hit the Hoo Doo Brewing Co. for one last beer.  All in all, a wonderfully successful trip!  We came out the other side still talking, still breathing, and really tired.  Guys...it was over 2600 miles from Helena!  Plus she had to do another 600+ to get from South Dakota to Helena before that!


There's so much more to be said, but this gives you the general idea.  A great time with a great friend, and great memories.  The only damper on the whole trip was learning about the death of Shumpy.  A man loved by one and all, OsShirt handler (two different versions!), fantastic party host, and all around good guy.  R.I.P., Shumpy!





So what have YOU guys been doing all summer?