On the route of the Hiawatha

Sherrie and I had a fun adventure this week. We traveled with our friends the Webres (and Marie’s sister Julie) to the Idaho panhandle to ride the Hiawatha bike trail (Ride the Hiawatha). The Hiawatha is an old train route which goes over trestles and through tunnels. The bike ride is about 15 miles long and all downhill, and it’s over well-maintained gravel roads, so it’s easy and fun.

Here we are at the trailhead; the smiles never left our faces.

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And here’s the rest of the crowd:

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Immediately on beginning the trail, you enter a 1.5 mile long tunnel which is not lit and in which “rain” falls from the ceiling (there were no monsters, just a few puddles):

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The tunnel was cool (45-50 degrees), even chilly, as we began our ride.

The ride has 10 tunnels and seven trestles; here’s one of the trestles:

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The road over the trestles is wide and quite stable; I’m sure it would have been more interesting in the old days when it was rickety wood. It was fun to look over the edge, if a bit scary:

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The scenery is gorgeous, but we were a little disappointed that smoke from fires all over Oregon, British Columbia, Washington and Idaho made the air smoky and diminished visibility, as you can tell from this photo (no blue skies to be seen):

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We stopped at one point to walk away from the trail a bit and see a stream coming off the mountain; the smiles on these faces say it all:

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After the ride is over, you could in principle ride back up (1000 foot climb over 15 miles wouldn’t be that bad), but we decided to take the shuttle back. The shuttle drops you off such that you have to ride back through the long tunnel at the beginning again. I absolutely LOVED it, as it was hot by then and the cool, refreshing air in the tunnel was great.

We never figured out why the trail is called the “Hiawatha,” but we learned a lot about train track development in the late 1800s, and we had a fun time together.

The next day, we went to the Coeur D’Alene (CDA) area for a little hiking and shopping. We first went to the Mineral Ridge trail (Mineral Ridge Trail). It’s a bit of climb to the top of the hill, but you get great views of Lake CDA from the top:

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Next, we went to Tubb’s hill (Tubb’s Hill Trail), right in/near downtown CDA. It’s a hub of activity for people to enjoy the lake. Lots and lots of folks swim on it’s beaches, and ride boats and jet skis near the shores:

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Sherrie and Julie and I scared up a whitetail deer on the north side of the trail. He was still in velvet and was 5-6 points on each side and beautiful. I didn’t get a picture because he bounded away rather quickly. I didn’t know whitetail live in central/northern Idaho …

Sherrie and I spent a little time one evening in the town of Wallace, ID, which is really the town that time forgot:

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Seriously, it’s like going back in time 50+ years. We ate at a BBQ place in the town center. Right near there is a manhole cover declaring Wallace ID as the “Center of the Universe.” Apparently, Wallace had a spat with the EPA over the safety of the water, etc. and the EPA (apparently) famously said, “If a thing cannot be disproven, it is thereby proven.” For a little light humor, see Wallace Idaho is the center of the universe.

Sherrie and I had the obligatory picture taken with the manhole cover:

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Fortunately, traffic is light enough that you can pose for such a photo in the center of town without fear of being run over.

One of the things that impressed us in Wallace is the number of petunia “balls” seen all over town:

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Many of them had automatic watering systems, but some didn’t, so Wallace must employ people (or they volunteer) to water and help make their town beautiful.

Are we there yet?

We can basically say that “Stage 1” of our home renovation project has finished this week. That’s a little white lie, as we need three more tiles in the bathroom off the kitchen (which the floor people haven’t brought and installed yet). But, we finished putting back all the baseboards early this week. What a major job the baseboards are! There are two more baseboards to install in the bathroom after the tiles are installed. We want a new light in the kitchen over the table, and the fixture location will have to be moved. We still need rugs, and a few other things, including a new piece of granite to cover the one cabinet. Oh, and there is a lot of stuff in the basement that needs to be restored to its natural place in the house. So maybe we aren’t quite there yet. But there was a big sigh of relief at the Webb household earlier this week as we finished the baseboards, and now we can focus on “normal” house maintenance. For the most part.

Yesterday Sherrie went to Salt Lake and Provo to be with Esther and Silas most of the day while Matt and Becky and Jared and Rachel had day dates. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I helped Nathan move home. He’s getting ready to go back to school at USU this Fall. At least, he thinks he is; he needs final admissions confirmation which hopefully will come very soon.

We had a fun outing last week. We took our whole family to the Living Planet aquarium in Salt Lake. We had a birthday celebration for Rachel (Megan) and Becky, and had fun showing the grandkids all the cool things at the aquarium. Besides fish and sea life, they also have animal life from various places. Some of our kids were quite excited to see the binturong (aka “bearcat”). I liked the aviary. They also have a shark tank with a tunnel that goes underneath, which was cool. My favorites were the aquariums with tropical fish; I want to set one up at home one day.

Here’s a photo of Sherrie in the “bubble” at the aquarium:

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Sherrie had a piano recital a couple of weeks ago where she played a duet with her teacher and a quartet (two pianos, eight hands) with the teacher and a couple of other students. It was great fun. She is an awesome piano player, and I love hearing her fill our home with the great music she plays. I started playing piano again; our new piano has inspired me to practice again.

And, you probably knew it had to come some day, and I’ve resisted for a long time, but I am now learning a jazz guitar piece. I’m learning an arrangement of Autumn Leaves. Wish me luck, and hope that I don’t go over to the dark side for good.

Almost there …

It seems like it is always my turn to write the family letter when I have had a pretty non-eventful week. I just spent another week home alone working on painting baseboards and putting my house back together. Actually, more of the former and a little of the latter. I have a strange sense of happiness that many rooms are mostly empty – all the knick knacks, etc. and anything that could be moved relatively easily are still in the basement. I kind of like empty rooms that you can sweep and dust without any fuss. What I especially love is that my nightstand isn’t covered with all the charging cords for all of my electronics. That is a problem yet to be solved, but I am determined to find a different solution for all of that mess and to keep my nightstand free. I think I have a plan that includes a hole in the back of a dresser and a drawer dedicated to charging stuff. Just waiting on Amazon :).

Michael spent the week in DC – his home away from home. It was probably a relief to get away from our house mess, but work is stressful as well so he seemed to be happy to be home even though we spent our Saturday painting doors. We did get out a couple of times to go to the hardware store for supplies, however. There are still a few doors and a few baseboards to be painted, and we need to buy a few pieces to replace broken or now obsolete baseboards and door trim, then we can start attaching it all to the walls. We decided that we have done most of the work again, so we might as well save the money and finish it ourselves. We just need to borrow a nail gun sometime in the next few days.

I expect it will still be a long time before we are all done – we need to figure out what we want in the way of rugs, get a new light for the kitchen, reorganize all the kitchen cupboards since a lot of things are now different, nail, caulk and touch up all the baseboards, finish painting and hanging the doors, then put everything back away. Give us a year and we should be done!

Thank goodness for tennis and pickle ball which pretty much get me out of the project mode for a few hours most days. I also made myself get out to my yard and have made a pretty good dent in the crazy amount of weeds I have allowed into my flower beds this summer so far. Sadly I have made a grizzly discovery – I am INFESTED with a plague of grasshoppers! Zoom in on the photo below and see what I mean – and you need to remember that when I walked up, about half of them hopped away.

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My friend, whose son mows our lawn, told me that he actually stopped mowing the other day to start a video of the grasshoppers jumping out of his way as he mowed because it was so impressive. That is impressive in a very bad way. I am not sure what to do – but I have large plants that are being eaten to the ground and it is horrible.

The other fun thing I have been doing is working on some duets for the piano this summer. My piano teacher makes summer optional for her students, and if you opt in it is all duets. I am playing one that is part of a four person, two piano version of the “Stars and Stripes Forever,”which is pretty fun, and one with my teacher that is called “Malaguena”. Both are pretty familiar tunes, and it has been fun to work on them – I have gotten together with the person I share a piano with a couple of times, and tonight we are going to try it for the first time with all four of us. We still have a couple of weeks to get them polished up so hopefully we can be ready. I think playing duets is really fun.

Oh, and I went kayaking with some friends down the Bear River the other day. It was more like floating on inner tubes down a canal than maneuvering through dangerous rapids, but it was super fun and relaxing. I only got sunburned on the front of one ankle somehow. We saw lots of neat birds and just had a nice, relaxing time.

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Wait, and last Saturday I got to go to SLC to my cute niece Cristina’s wedding and dinner.

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Sadly Michael had too much to get done before his trip to go with me, but I was able to ride down with Kevin and Laura and it was so much fun to see a lot of my family that day! Thanks for a lovely dinner and reunion, Cathy and Bret!

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I am really glad to have Michael home even if it is only for a week before he has to go back again. He is pretty tired and hopefully we will be able to both accomplish a lot of projects and find time for some fun stuff as well before he heads back for at least a short trip next time.

The fun continues …

I have been remiss in not writing like I should. Sherrie reminded me last week with a gentle prod, “Are you EVER going to write another family letter?” I responded that I would, and it’s taken me a week to get there.

Our house project continues to … well, continue. Within the last two weeks, we (well, almost exclusively Sherrie) did all the wall repair (including painting) for the baseboards. This week, we painted quite a few doors. The back door was replaced on Friday (yay!), and the cabinets came yesterday (double yay!). In theory, the floor installers will come Wednesday this week and it will take them three days to get it installed. In preparation for that, we have decided to take out the kitchen floor ourselves (to hopefully save some money). We think we can do it without an inordinate amount of trouble, as we’ve had to take out several tiles for the cabinets and the back door. So tomorrow, off with the tiles and down to the subfloor! We are both tiring of the project, physically and emotionally. The end is closer in sight, so that gives us courage.

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We like the new cabinets, and we have a lot of space. I don’t think we really lost any storage space. It’s different though, and so we still have a few things to figure out (e.g., how to organize the spices). So far we like it a lot. We like the end near the dining room (right end in the photo) because it feels more spacious. The cabinet with visible shelves on the end will have a glass door, and we need a piece of granite to top the open cabinet.

For my birthday, Sherrie gave me an EcoQube mini-aquarium: EcoQube.I’ve been having fun getting it set up. I bought some live plants to put in it, and some “cherry red shrimp” that are like 1/2 inch long. I’m thinking about getting one or two small fish to put in it as well.

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Sherrie made a lemon meringue pie for Father’s Day today. Look on in utmost jealousy!

IMG_2937.jpgOn this Father’s Day, I’m thinking a lot about my own father, what it means to be a father, my children as fathers, and how much popular media of late has made dads out to be bumbling fools who either don’t care or are out of touch. I am grateful for my dad and all the things I learned from him, and for his love. I hope that I’ve been able to help my children know they mean everything to me and I love them will all my heart. I hope we can each thank the men (and dads) in our lives for their love, kindness, example, and service.