What’s That?

Spooky GlovesOn one morning that seems so long ago, I took the Girl outside for her morning ritual before we began our day. We were living in Sparks at the time with our beloved friend Jimmy and had settled into a daily routine.

On this particular morning, the Girl was making her sniffy-rounds to determine if any interlopers had trespassed the night before. For some reason, something on the fence caught her eye. I watched her as her “hackle” (she doesn’t have enough outer coat to really have “hackles”) rose, her tail rose, and her posture stiffened. There is a tiny ball of fur that fluffs near the base of her tail (Older Son says she “has a mouse in her tail!”) and that expanded to its maximum dimension.

“Woof!” she said, followed by “grrrr…”. She was alerting me to the fact that there was something unusual on top of the fence.

So, of course, I had to make a capture of both the “problem” and the story. I laughed and laughed that morning. I love my funny Girl.

Then, morning business done, we headed back indoors to collect a few things and go for a long walk. It was a good day.

Winding Up a Week

KiI decided to buy “credentials” for the Girl as a service animal and needed an image for her badge. Plus, Wednesday was National Dog Day (so named to coincide with the dog days of summer?) and I wanted to post her image in celebration thereof.

So, I asked her to pose for me and she obliged. The shot was executed with the Fujifilm X-T1 and Fuji’s excellent 35mm f/1.4 prime. She was in a good mood and so was I, so it was an easy shoot.

I think Daughter and I are driving to Lancaster this morning for a bit of shopping and to take care of a couple of errands. Then there will be football practice and scrimmage tonight, but I think I’ll stay at the house (perhaps with Younger Grandson) and either hang with him or finish a couple of tasks that remain on my list (for far too long).

My time here is good. It’s good to spend time with this part of my family. Yeah, I’m watching too much television. Yeah, I’m not writing enough, reading enough, or working on my craft enough. I think that is part of what this time is about and I will pick up those threads again when I depart and head west later this year.

There is no official certification for service dogs. There are several companies that provide (that is, sell) badges. The only reason I elected to buy a badge is for those people who do not know the law. If my dog provides a service that I need in order to live normally (and meets the criteria in the law), and she is trained to provide that service, and she is trained to behave in public, then she is a service animal. She does all these things.

The problem is that arrogant people have learned that they can take advantage of the law to take pets into public places. Fake service dogs are usually readily identifiable. They are poorly behaved because most handlers never really train their pets. They make it more difficult for folks who have genuine service animals because of the increased scrutiny that comes from bad experience (from fake service dogs).

Although the Girl is still in her “In Training” tags, she is ready for graduation. She does what I need her to do and behaves herself in public. She is not perfect but perfection is not required. We continue to work, which is good for both of us.

As we travel, I’ve collected a number of experiences. Most businesses don’t hassle us. I am sometimes asked if she is a service dog. I sometimes get a skeptical eye. One person asked me about her and then said “You don’t look like you need a service dog.” I was not prepared for that comment, but the answer is that “It’s not always apparent and that is not an appropriate comment or question.”

The best times are when we finish our business and someone says “I didn’t even know there was a dog!” That means she’s doing her job of blending in quietly and providing me with the service that I need. That’s actually happening quite a lot and I’m proud of the Girl for being so good.

Finally, to take one last tangent in this rumination, I’m really proud of my Little Girl. She is genuinely good, loving, and a great mom. She handles herself with aplomb and grace, but is not naive. I’m blessed to call her Daughter.

Flame On!

Flame On!

Sunsets are good. They are almost always good. But, some are better than others. Last night at Younger Grandson’s football practice, I was watching him work through drills and play practice. I noticed the sunbeams through a gap in the clouds and pointed them out to Daughter and Older Grandson.

I then withdrew the Leica from its pouch and made a few captures. One of my personal goals is to make one decent image every day. I have not been doing this in any disciplined manner. If I aspire to be a photographer (of any sort), then I must continue working on my craft. Part of that is the technical — doing the technical part correctly. Part of it is artistic — finding the composition, the light, and the subject that speaks to my Muse. Part of it is discipline — getting out every day to find something to capture, even if it’s something as commonplace as a sunset.

When I reviewed my captures this morning, this one made me think of the Fantastic Four’s Johnny — “Flame On!”

Backlit Iris, Alturas, California

Backlit Iris, Alturas, California

On my first loop from Carson City, I spent a night in Alturas, California. I believe I wrote a bit about that part of my journey some months ago. In any event, I noticed this iris was strongly backlit and it was striking against the darker background. So, I paused my play with the Girl and made the capture. It’s one of my favorite images from that trip and a great memory of the place.


AngelicaA few weeks ago, Jimmy and I elected to drive to Java Jungle in downtown Reno. Arttown was still going on and we had not been out and about much. Jimmy was working a lot and so was I. So, our social time had been limited to passings-by now and again. It was time and it was good to be out.

It was too warm for coffee, so I elected to have an iced tea, black of course. I got there a bit before Jimmy and had the Girl sitting next to me on the bench, watching the world go by. I noticed three squids (motorcycle riders who are/think-they-are racers) BS’ing at another table. They were telling war stories of various kinds.

Jimmy showed up, got his coffee, and sat down. We were chatting and people-watching when a beautiful young woman walked along the sidewalk outside the Java Jungle seating area.

“Get your camera ready…” Jimmy said, “I saw her up the street a bit ago.

“She’s gorgeous… and I only have the normal lens on my camera.”

The squids called out to her — not the catcall I expected, but asked her “Do you want a ride?” She gave them this stunning big smile and her demeanor was of the naive.

“I have no pants,” she said, and I immediately recognized that she was not a native English speaker.

“What’s that accent?” I asked Jimmy.


“It sounds like Ukrainian or Belorussian to me.”

The squids continued to talk her up and she clearly wanted a ride. There was a spare helmet and jacket and they found her some gloves, but no pants. So, she tucked her skirt under her butt when she climbed aboard.

“I hope he doesn’t scare her,” I looked at Jimmy.

“He probably will…” was Jimmy’s dry reply.

“She seems a bit naive to me,” I looked at Jimmy.

“She’s not,” he replied, “It’s part of the European woman package. They have a deep sense of who they are and they present themselves well.”

I watched her ride off with the motorcyclist. He appeared to be taking it easy on her — he made an easy turn onto the street and didn’t goose the bike on the takeoff. They were gone a few minutes and then returned. Jimmy was shooting away, having a zoom on his camera. I just watched. Her friend/handler arrived and they sat down. Then she came over to our table.

“You shoot a lot of pictures,” she said.

“It’s street photography,” I chimed in.

“What is ‘street photography?'” she asked. So we explained about the fun of wandering about looking for interesting things, people, and actions.

“Where are you from? Belarus?”

“Lithuania,” she smiled. Jimmy grinned and introduced me as ‘Dr. Dave,’ as he always does.

“Did he scare you,” I asked.

“A little,” she smiled, “but not too bad.”

Sometime during the conversation, one of us mentioned how beautiful she was. “All the girls are pretty in Lithuania,” she responded.

I have no idea whether that is true or not. But, Angelica has much more than just good looks. She has poise, intelligence, and carries herself with confidence and a kind of innocence. It was a pleasure to meet her and the capture is one of my favorites.

Jimmy asked for her email address to send her some of the captures. I looked over to her friend/handler and said “I bet this happens quite a lot.” He looked back at me, shrugged, and grinned.

I enjoy these chance encounters. When I remember to get an informal portrait, they are even better. I MUST learn to ask for the shot when I have these conversations with people I meet. I don’t know what it is about me that prevents me from asking. But I have to get over that.

Pennsylvania and Football

Football Players“Football season is our busiest time of the year,” Daughter said. She was being honest. It’s been a very busy week. But, I’m ahead of myself.

I finally buckled down and drove out the remaining miles to Daughter’s home. I spent a lot of time on the turnpikes (which I deplore) and another night in a motel. I did pause to pick up geocaches in states where I had not found any so as to collect the “souvenirs” for those states. The pauses gave me an opportunity to see some of the country that I had not seen. But the focus was on “getting there.”

Daughter has a wonderful house. They are in the process of filling it in as time and money allow. The grandsons are wonderful, as I expected. I’m deeply enjoying spending time with them. I’ve watched more TV than I have in years, but it’s fun to simply be with my family.

Daughter is amazing. A deep calm strength emanates from her. There is confidence there and well as competence. The boys are attentive and respectful. I expected that, given their Father. It is good to not have to be the one in charge for a change. I am not the leader here, just a beloved family member. It is good.

I’ve been going to football practice with Daughter and Younger Grandson (YG). Daughter and I sit on the sidelines and observe while YG works. He’s got a great attitude and is not afraid to mix it up a bit. He’s learned a lot, I can tell. I shot a bit of video of his workouts and will share that material with Daughter. She can do whatever she wants with it.

Saturday was the YG’s first scrimmage this year. OG, Daughter, and I sat on the sidelines (along with the Girl in her training vest). It was hot and humid, but not awful. I think I finally got some Sun on my right leg, which is usually shaded by the 4Runner when I’m driving. I have a farmer-tan on my left side and it’s time to balance it out a bit.

The scrimmage was round-robin style. With the exception of one team, it was fun to watch. The lead coach of one team was a total butt. He was screaming at his kids and had a generally bad attitude. I’m thinking he’s a candidate for the antagonist of one of the Karate Kid movies. These are ten-year old boys, for goodness’ sake, not professional players. There’s a lot of learning for them to do and it can be done in a far better way.

Enough of that…

Friday we drove up to Gettysburg to visit the national park. I put the Girl in her training vest and she was perfect! She went right to work, stayed close to me, was very attentive, and did exactly what she was supposed to do. We visited “The Cyclorama,” which is a huge oil painting of Pickett’s Charge and is accompanied by a soundtrack. There were several cannonades, which the attendant warned me about. Although the Girl didn’t like the loud noises, she only trembled a bit and realized this was not thunder.

They made us take the elevator to avoid the escalator. I didn’t remember, but the Girl knows escalators and has no problem with them. I have video of my lead trainer working her on the escalators at the airport last Christmas and the Girl did great. But, she knows elevators too and was fine with it, even as herky-jerky as it was. They put us in the handicapped seats so the Girl could place next to me. I put her in a down-stay and she was fine. The cannon blasts and rifle reports disturbed her a bit, but not badly.

We drove part of the CD-guided automobile tour. The entire place has a sense of the holy about it. I want to go back and spend more time there. They have a number of short hikes to various places that would be good to see. It is also possible to hire a guide to go along to tell the story. I want to spend time there with my cameras, but that will mean getting up early to get the good light.

Pennsylvania reminds me a lot of Missouri. There’s lots of vegetation, the air is warm and humid, and wildlife is abundant. I stepped out the back door with the Girl Sunday morning for her morning outing and watched a wild turkey at the treeline between lots. That was a sight I haven’t seen in a long time.

I’m very happy I decided to come here. It’s good to be with family, I haven’t seen Daughter and her family in two years (since Wife died), and it is good to see new lands.

The Crystal Mine


On that same trip toward Verdi Peak (which we never made), we stopped at the Crystal Mine to play around looking for “points.” The mine was active in World War II, when it supplied crystal for radiocommunications. It’s still possible to find whole crystals, but it’s more difficult now than it used to be because everyone wants to find them.

The Girl had a blast hunting around, although I think her feet were a bit sore from the sharp quartz. There was quartz (and many other minerals) everywhere! I wish I had a mineralogy field book along because I still enjoy mineral identification. It’s been too many years since my geology laboratory.

I found a point fragment that was quite pretty. I also found quite a bit of galena and some fairly thin sheets of quartz that I liked.

One of the best parts was playing around with the camera. I contrast of white quartz, blue sky, and puffy white clouds caught my eye. So, I caught the image.

Play Misty for Me

Austin, NevadaMany years ago there was a Clint Eastwood movie, Play Misty for Me. It was one of the psychodramas of the time and quite spooky. The title for my article was a free association based on my acquaintance, which I’ll tell you about.

Thursday evening came and my friend Jimmy arrived home from his first job. He looked into my room and remarked “I see boxes by the door, but it doesn’t look like you’re ready to leave.” I shrugged and said “Well, maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday… I have some work to do on this project that will take me a few hours.”

It was really hot that afternoon — the 4Runner’s dash thermometer read 102F. The Girl and I had been running errands, wrapping up a small project, procuring necessary items for my next trip, and trying to stay cool. I had been working on my report to address comments from the prime before I headed out. It was too hot to sleep yet anyway. But, I got settled down about 2300 and slept pretty well.

Friday morning came and while drinking my morning coffee, I decided I could get away if I really wanted to. So the Girl and I made our walk, I worked out, fed us, and got started on the last few things. It took me about a half-hour to pack them, so I showered and began loading the rig. I took my time with the rig because I faced a huge Tetris problem. In the end, I got my things in there plus the few things I wanted to stow in my unit.

We were out of the house by about 1100 and headed for Carson to take care of some last errands and stow those things I was leaving behind. On the way out of town we stopped at Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up a couple last things, said goodbye to my neighbor (who works there), and then headed east on U.S. 50.

It was a much cooler afternoon than Thursday. I could have worked and been fine at Jimmy’s. Oh well… I had no idea. Regardless, it was good to be moving again. We stopped in Fallon for a few minutes to get out of the car and drink some water. I picked up a couple of geocaches along the way as well.

One of our stops was near Sand Mountain, to find a geocache. I thought about driving out there, but could tell it was already crowded with weekenders and decided that I didn’t want to interact. So, after the Girl chased a few lizards and I logged the geocache, we headed on.

I stopped at the Austin, Nevada cemetery to find another geocache, hoping it would be large enough to accommodate a couple of travel bugs I’d been hauling around. But, the hide was a small container so no joy.

I also was tiring and didn’t think I’d be able to make Eureka or Ely. In looking at lodging in Austin, the Cozy Mountain Motel got a lot of good reviews. But, when I drove by, the No Vacancy sign was already illuminated. So, I looked again and found the Pony Canyon Motel. The price was a little higher than I expected and I was surprised when I learned there was no air conditioning. But that wasn’t really bad as the evening cooled quickly.

The Girl and I settled in and were sitting outside enjoying the late afternoon air and light — watching the world go by. I noticed the beautiful light and retrieved my Fuji X-T1, making the capture above.

A young woman pulled in beside my rig and started rushing her things, including two cats, into her room adjacent to mine. The Girl took too much interest in the crated felines and drew a correction. “Sorry about that,” I said.

“No worries… they are so much work to take care of, not like a dog.”

“Well, dogs just require a different kind of work.”

“I gotta hurry, the restaurant closes at eight…” and off she flew. When she returned, I was boiling water to add to my freeze-dried supper, lasagna with meat sauce. I’m experimenting with backpacking meals. All that is required is the foil packet, boiling water, and a spoon. A long-handled spoon really helps. (I’ll write about that more in another article.) She walked past with her boxed pizza. “I see you made it.”

“Yep, health food,” she responded. The Girl’s nose went up as she walked by. “Must be pepperoni,” I said, “The Girl loves pepperoni.”

“I’ll save her some, then.”

“Don’t do me any favors, she’ll gas me.” We both laughed.

After I ate and cleaned up, I sat on the bench outside my room with my guitar, playing softly. A new goal of mine is to do those things that are important to me daily — reading, writing, music, photography. I’m working on getting some of my skill back on the instrument. So, I want to play a few minutes everyday. She came out of her room to get a few more of her things and smiled as she passed.

When she returned, she sat down in a nearby chair. I played for a few minutes and then she began to talk. She is learning the ukulele. She had no artistic encouragement when she was young and a friend had encouraged her to play. She took up the ukulele as something relatively easy to play and quite portable.

“Are you practicing regularly?”

“No. I often intend to, but I don’t. I binge, playing hours on one day and then nothing for a week.”

“You should commit to 15-minutes per day,” I suggested. “Don’t be regimented about it, like ‘I have to practice today,’ but make it something you do because you want to, because you get something from it. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session. But you’ll build muscle memory much faster if you practice regularly, even if it’s just a few minutes.”

I used to teach music in another life. My encouragement to my students was always to practice a little. Make it a focused session and keep it short. The goal is to be regular and focused. That’s the fastest way to learn and it’s a lot more fun.

“I’m Misty,” she held out her hand.

“I’m Dave,” and I took it.

Mid-visit there was a crash as the screen on her window fell out, hauling a small tan and white cat along with it. I called to Ki to stay in the room and we went over to grab the cat (she did) and I grabbed the screen. After a bit of futzing around, she got the window closed and I had the screen (mostly) back in place. After a few minutes getting her cat settled back down, she returned.

“I’m headed for Dallas to work on my Ph.D.” That led to a talk about graduate school, background, and a lot of stories about things. After an hour or two just chatting, I could tell she was tiring as she began yawning and had that look about her.

“I have to go to bed. I’m tired.”

I nodded, understanding.

“Perhaps I’ll see you in the morning. I want to see how you cook.”

I really enjoy these encounters. I enjoy interacting with people and hearing their stories. I meet interesting people along the way and am thankful for that.

Indeed, she was up and about before I cooked breakfast the next morning — a Saturday morning. She watched me prepare my eggs and oatmeal and was surprised that I had all the fixings. I was amused at her surprise. Why wouldn’t I have the things I like with me?

As I cleaned up and began my packing process, she loaded her vehicle. She knocked on my door and I asked her in. I gave her one of my cards. “Email me. I’d like to hear how your progress on your Ph.D. goes. When I’m in Dallas, I’ll drop by for a visit and we can have coffee or a beer.” She smiled, nodded, and looked at me for a moment.

I gave her a big hug, as I could see that was what she wanted.

Then she was off to Denver to see a friend, then to Dallas to get started on her work. “God Bless and be safe,” I said as I watched her go.

Once again, a living, breathing being moved into and out of my circle. She brought her energy and liveliness into my life for a few moments and then was gone. Will she email me? Will I see her again for that coffee or beer? I have no idea. I’m not even sure that it matters. It is what it is and I’m happy with that.

Then, as she drove away, my free-associating mind came up with “Play Misty for Me” and I knew I had a title for my story.

Verdi Peak

The Sentinel

A couple of weeks ago, a bright Saturday morning, Jimmy suggested we go for an adventure. I have another image that I’ll write about later, but the intent was to drive west to Verdi, show me around that interesting little town, and then drive up the trail to the Verdi Peak overwatch tower.

So, off we went. Verdi is an interesting little town and Jimmy knows the history of the area well. He’s an excellent tour guide and I love listening to him recount the tales of the various institutions and watering holes. Verdi used to be the place to come and party. But, with the crackdown on drinking and driving, that function of the town is long passed.

We turned up one of the forest roads and turned and twisted a bit, climbing up in the the pine woods. We stopped for a hunt at the Crystal Mine and hunted for points for a good long while, which was great fun. Then we headed back out the trail.

We worked out way up the slope toward Verdi Peak. There was a pull out along the ridge and we stopped there for a few pictures. Verdi was in the view and Reno could be seen in the distance. The Girl enjoyed hunting squirrels.

I made the capture of “The Sentinel” — a remnant of a fire that occurred here some years ago. Then we clambered back into the 4Runner and started off again. At a fork in the road, Jimmy thought we should go west, but the in-dash GPS showed the only trail heading east. So, east we went, although I warned “I don’t trust the maps on these trails. Sometimes they are not complete.”

Brush scraped both sides of the 4Runner as we headed down a slope. The farther we went, the worse the trail became. There were plenty of rolly-rocks (as I call them). The trail became very steep. It was not the steepest trail, nor the rolliest that I’ve been on, but it was certainly much longer than any bad stretch I previously experienced.

It was bad enough that Jimmy got out to scout ahead. As we negotiated a set of tight switchbacks, I looked at the side of the mountain and thought “If I slide out, this will be bad. There will not be any stopping until we reach the bottom of the hill. I don’t expect to survive that.”

There was no turning back. The trail was so bad and so steep that a Y-turn was not possible. Moreover, the trail was so steep that I might not have been able to climb back out. There was no way to go but forward… and down.

Eventually Jimmy decided the trail was acceptable once again and that a scout was no longer needed. He clambered back into the 4Runner and we continued to ease our way down the trail. Eventually the slope was less steep and there were fewer rocks. A dirt bike came up to us, so I made room for him to pass. That meant that there was access to this trail from the east side. I really didn’t want to go back.

We saw a trail break off to the left (north) of us. It was posted. Jimmy said “That’s where we need to be,” so that’s where we headed.

As we pulled out to the paved road, a homeowner was working on a bike with his son. I made eye contact and said “We got lost and this was the only way out we could find.”

“No worries!” he called back. Jimmy got out to chat (that gregarious Jimmy) and so I stepped out. The 4Runner was badly marked with Nevada pinstripes. Although I really don’t want to mess up my vehicle, I also know that I bought it to use and that it will get marks.

Jimmy rejoined me. “I’m usually the one doing the scaring. That was pretty scary.” I laughed.

“What was I to do? There was no way to go but forward… What would those who gave up do?”

“They’d call for transport to come get their vehicle.”


“Yes, really.”

“I’m not much of one to give up.” I said. So we headed over the the fuel depot to refuel the 4Runner and head home. Jimmy bought iced tea and that was really good.

We stopped at the RV rental place where Jimmy works part time and started buffing out the pinstripes. They were bad enough that we had to go back Sunday morning to finish.

I deeply enjoy driving the trails. However, my rig doesn’t really have the tires for a trail of that kind. Still, it was a very good day, even if we made the wrong turn and had the challenge of working down the hard side of the mountain. Maybe there will be another time to get to Verdi Peak. I might take a chainsaw along, though, and trim some of that brush…