Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day Dreaming Again

Long Stretch of Desert Highway

Just sitting here thinking today. I have an appointment at the VA later in the day and some time on my hands, so I’m spending the time sitting here Day Dreaming. There are no particular thoughts or worries, which is a good thing. When my mind is wrestling with my perceived problems, I feel it. I always think of the times when I won’t have anything muddling up "being me." This is one of those times.
Nothing to do. Nothing that I think I gotta do or be doing that I’m not. Ate breakfast, so I’m not even hungry. Had coffee, the rich full-bodied coffee taste of an Americano. Yep, back to savoring a cup in the morning again as my body gets used to the blood pressure medications.
I see the cardiologist this afternoon after they do an EKG. My heart rate has been steady, paced by the little platinum device implanted in my chest, when I'm either relaxing or exercising, since they shocked me with those paddles on December 29th, “CLEAR!”
Anyway, a few of the thoughts that are going through my head right now are about my upcoming road trip to New Mexico. If you remember, my motorcycle is in winter storage in Albuquerque at PJ’s Triumph. I’ll go down and get that and have a few stops along the way.
Seems that the Grandkids are off school for Spring Break from March 10th through March 18th. The two older ones will go with me. Just the three of us. On the way down, we’ll be passing through the Platte River Valley in Nebraska. The Sandhill Crane migration will be in full swing. We’re looking forward to seeing oceans of cranes in the corn stubble along the highways and byways.
There will be a stop off in Santa Fe at the Jackalope shop where I plan on buying some large colorful pottery flower pots to highlight our new front deck this summer. I can see the row of colorful pots with coleus and petunias decorating the edge of the deck instead of a wooden railing.
Colorful Flower Pots

After Santa Fe, Albuquerque, some good New Mexican cuisine at the El Pinto, and/or a place that also serves hamburgers. Maybe a meet up with a friend for a quick visit, then it’s off to Roswell. Check out This Map

Roswell, New Mexico is where the great adventure, and the highlight of the trip, begins for the kids. Did you know there are aliens there? At least there is the International UFO Museum and we’re going for a visit. I’m sure a souvenir shop or two will enter into the bargain.
A scene from the Alien Autopsy exhibit at the International UFO Museum, Roswell, NM

There is talk that depending on time and energy, we’ll take the Cog Railway, or even drive, to the top of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. And maybe go see the visitors center at the VLA, the National Radio Astronomy Center West of Socorro, NM, where a large array of radio telescopes are configured in a 20 mile wide desert basin. Maybe a quick stop off in Truth Or Consequences to visit friends that I never got to see this winter. But no matter, Roswell and the aliens will be a scheduled stop.

Radio Transmission towers at the VLA

From Roswell, the trip will continue in an easterly direction across the Texas Panhandle, through the heart of Oklahoma, into Arkansas and North into Missouri on the way home. This will give the young travelers five ‘new’ states to add to their already lengthy list of places they have had the good fortune to travel to at their young 13 and 11 respective ages.
These kids are lucky to have been able to swim in the Altantic and Pacific Oceans and two of the Great Lakes, as well as seen 27 other states and Washington DC, all by the road less traveled in the style of their Grandpappy.

I need no Bucket List if I get to take my Grandchildren along with me when I'm on the road.
It’s a little less than two weeks before we head out. I’m getting pretty excited. In fact, now that’s all that is on my mind. So much for this day of nothing to think about, and with a snow storm predicted during the next couple of days, my thoughts of the Southwest sunshine will be amplified to the max!
That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. What’s new in yours?
Much Peace to All

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Perfect Road

Shadow Shot Sunday 2
February 26, 2012

Every week, a large group of people from all over the world get together and post Shadow Shots. Used to be called Shadow Shot Sunday and was coming from a great blogger named tracy in Australia. Since I haven't been around Shadow Shot Sunday in over three months, something has changed.

I see many of the same folks are still doing Shadow Shots on Sunday, but they have a new blog address and new hosts. You can see the Shadow Shots for this week and find out how to participate at Shadow Shot Sunday 2 Go ahead, take a look. It's fun!

In the meantime, here is my submission for Sunday, February 26, 2012. (We sometimes post on Saturday here in the USA because it's already Sunday in Australia.)

Yours truly on his first open wheeled contraption

Back some time ago, maybe after cave wall drawings and the typewriter, there came a device at the beginning of the computer era called the word processor. I had one of these manufactured by a company called Brother. I think they make sewing machines too. It looked like a typewriter and had the added high tech, at the time, convenience of a space for a floppy disc to save the projects you were working on.
After some time, I had accumulated many of these floppy discs, and like the reel to reel tape recorders and movie cameras of that era and the time before it, I had a box full of unreadable files because of the simple fact that the apparatus used to create them had gone the way of the dinosaur.
Lo and behold, I did get to read and subsequently print out the contents of some of these floppy thingies. And to my surprise, I came across some of my earliest writings.
The piece I’m going to reveal to you today is from a time when I was trying to pitch articles to motorcycle magazines. I was published once. That story was posted on Round Circle in January of 2011. This one was written sometime in 1993.
I called this story The Perfect Road, as it was a travel piece about a journey through the Southwestern Colorado high desert. This trip on these series of roadways is still one of the most beautiful rides I know of. 
By the way, I pitched this story to a magazine way back then. I did receive a letter from the publisher. They loved the story, and told me to add photos to it complete with pictures of motorcycles. I did take some great landscape and scenery shots, but no motorcycles. This one never got published in a magazine, but I’ll publish it here today on my blog.
Here is the travelogue article, The Perfect Road

Since moving to Western Colorado from the Northern reaches of Minnesota in the Spring of 1993, I have come to appreciate many things about the Southwest. The obvious difference in weather, for one, allows me to ride my motorcycle longer than the Midwestern clime. And the change in scenery makes the adventuresome spirit come alive within me. There seems to be more to pay attention to when there are mountains, vast open spaces, buttes, mesas and long lonely roads than there is in some other parts of the country.
It was on one of these exploring-new-territory adventures that I happened upon “The Perfect Road”. It is located in extreme Western Colorado. In fact, sometimes you wander into Utah while exploring off here and there along the way. 
It’s one of those roads where you can get it all. Climbs, curves, canyons, valleys, river bluffs, even dirt and gravel if you want it. It starts from the central grand valley at Grand Junction. Here is where the Gunnison and Colorado rivers meet. It runs South along numerous river canyons, upland plateaus and some of the nicest Wisconsinlike  farm country I’ve ever seen anywhere besides Wisconsin.
The main thrust of this 250 mile or so loop is Colorado State Highway 141. An easy cruisin’ two lane by-way custom made for a motorcycle. Long sweeping curves, easy grades, beautiful scenery, virtually no traffic and just enough places to pull over to grab a cool drink or soak up the distinction of this awesome country.
This is the kind of road you think of when you read books about faraway adventure or when you daydream to another place because your having a bad day.
My ride started in Grand Junction, Colorado. Only 35 miles away from the Utah border on Interstate 70. You can find 141 off the business loop at the East end of the area in Clifton. Colorado 141 is designated as a scenic byway entitled The Unaweep Tabegauche, ( pronounced: ta’b-a-wash). The Ute Indians, the original native inhabitants of this area , referred to it as such. Roughly translated, it means river with two ends in a sunny place. This is one of those times when the scenic designation does not do justice to the magnificent and varied textures of this incredible landscape.
Serenely residential for the first mile or two, the road quickly dives into the Grand Valley at the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains. There, it crosses US Highway 50 with a short jog to the South. Then, within a mile, you start a slow gradual climb through rocky terrain with easily negotiated curves leading to a good 1000 foot or so rise in elevation. This plateau is dotted with ranches and an occasional country home.

The fork of West Creek, or East Creek depending on whether you are East or West of the Unaweep divide, will run along with you the 48 miles to Gateway.
In Gateway, you get your first civilized chance to stop at the Gateway Store. It’s a small don’t blink or you’ll miss it roadside gas station, store and cafe. The owner likes to talk with travelers and seems to have plenty of time between customers. This highway has yet to be discovered by throngs of Summertime tourists and travelers. 
Just beyond Gateway is access to the Uncompaghre National Forest and the Uncompaghre plateau. This is another of those Ute Indian words and it means “red”. It fits the color of the terrain in these parts.

Mostly hikers and campers use the trails and enter from the Northeast of the plateau off of US Highway 50 near Delta or Montrose, Colorado. We’ll keep this access to miles of forest roads a secret for now if you don’t mind. After a tour through part of the National Forest, we’re back on Colorado 141.
If you start in the morning, you’ll find the air is cool and clear here as well as at other higher elevations throughout this ride, so be prepared. It’s after this stretch of green grass valleys and cool water the terrain drastically changes to tall red rock cliffs that jut from the valley floor of the Delores River for the next 30 miles. No power lines or signs of inhabitants in this narrow canyon. Only rock and water and the road, sweeping left and right with every turn, bringing you another vista unrivaled from the one before it.

These red cliffs look like you are riding through a cut made by a giant dull-bladed chainsaw being forced unto a piece of ancient hard solid red oak. The umber cliff walls almost look burnt from the power of the water that pushed by here millenium ago, the harsh high desert sun giving it its dark patina.

From the canyon unfolds the old semi-deserted mining area of Uravan. I’m not sure what, if anything, is still going on at Uravan, but there is little activity except the remains of the uranium mining which took place here some time ago.
The Dolores River, at your side like a faithful companion, suddenly seems to drop below you and you find yourself riding on a two lane ledge with the red rock rising high above you. No switchbacks here though. The curves are still sweeping you onward like the efficient arc of an old corn broom. Every stroke smoothly carries you back and forth through this fantastic canyon to the town of Naturita.

Naturita has a post office and signs of the usual day-to-day life of arcane existence. Far away from any other town or city, alone but not lonely with a few choices for food and/or beverage refreshment.
A good 70 miles into your ride, Naturita has the necessary amenities for travelers if you need them. From there, the road continues and the first major choice  since you started appears from the right.
Colorado 141 breaks away to the South towards Slick Rock and Dove Creek. Route 145 picks up the slack as you continue Southeast towards Norwood. If you choose the turn-off for Dove Creek, you’ll find it a straight shot into Cortez and US Highway Route 666. This will give you access to four corners where four states boundaries touch in one spot. This is a very sacred place to the Native peoples of the area.

There are vendors here with culture and history unfolding before you. I strongly suggest seeing this site, but taking the definitely more scenic route via Colorado 145 to get there.
On the way to Norwood on 145, you arrive all of a sudden to an area that will make you feel as if you space warped to the gently rolling farmland of the Midwest. You’d swear you were somewhere in Wisconsin except for the fact that there are no silos and far off in the distance in every direction, a mountain range can be seen. Each with some of the twelve and thirteen thousand foot snow capped peaks exposing themselves.
Norwood is another nice place to stop, not to mention the numerous pull-offs you’ll encounter along your journey. The Maverick Cafe, a local hangout, may be the only place open on a Sunday morning. The town boasts the usual farm and ranch community shopping with a general store and a motel. You can gas up here if you like, the next stop is 20 or so miles away and hasn’t much to offer.
Just beyond Norwood, it seems as if the earth opens up to swallow you as you reach the San Miguel River valley. With sunlight guiding you down about 1000 feet in elevation along the very gently winding river canyon roadway, you feel like you can reach out and touch heaven.

Again, you’ll find no hairpin curves here, just the long steady descent to the floor of the valley in time to meet your traveling river companion again to escort you onward. Many places to pull over, shut off the motor and sense nature all around you.
Colorado 62 meets and ends at Colorado 145 near Placerville and takes you to the Dallas reservoir. There are camping facilities there, another 20 miles North. You can choose more luxurious accommodations as well as a variety of ethnic and american food by staying on 145 to Telluride.
Telluride is at the end of a narrow valley three miles off of 145 and is well marked. It is a destination for many in all seasons. The road into Telluride dead ends in this valley at the feet of a number of huge peaks. You’ll find Bridal Falls cascading out of the mountains year round.
Winter has the great skiing, but Summertime brings on the tourists in numbers, especially for festivals which seem to be held every week-end. They even celebrate a “No Festival” in August by proclaiming the town acknowledges the fact that there is no “official” celebration.
Mrs. Spadoman looks good with the old bike!

Motels and B&B’s are ample, but if you think you’ll be staying on a week-end, call in advance for reservations. You’ll enjoy victorian homes lining the narrow streets in this proclaimed National Historic village. The local color here is not unlike commercial and residential districts of a larger city near or around a major college or university.
Your trek can continue now on 145 Southwest to Cortez and four corners through the San Juan National Forest. The beauty of this area is unsurpassed anywhere as you cruise among the mountain giants. You can back track from four corners, or consult local maps for alternatives back to Grand Junction via Utah and the mountain bike capital of Moab.
If you decide to skip four corners and head back to Grand Junction, here is the perfect opportunity. Ten miles before Cortez, US Highway 160 passes through Delores. Take this road East to Durango, Colorado and catch US Highway 550 North to meet up to US Highway 50 in Montrose. Follow 50 North back to Grand Junction.
This is another scenic byway and is entitled the San Juan Skyway. The raw beauty of this area North of Durango to Ouray is indescribable. A part of it from Silverton to Ouray, the Red Mountain Pass, is dubbed the million dollar highway. The name comes from the legend of the gold mining days. It is said that the rock used for the roadbed is full of gold dust, a million dollars worth.
Here, you find some switchbacks as well as more traffic than you’ve been used to if you travel on weekends. But there are ample opportunities to pull over and soak it all in.
I find the vivid memory of these sights is better than using a camera. Ouray has the definitive respite for weary two wheel voyageurs. Ouray Hot Springs. These springs bubble naturally out of the mountains and create pools of soothing hot mineral springs. When you dip into one of these pools, you will soak away the weariness from the long hours on the road, enabling you to start fresh again the next day.  Looking into the mountains at Ouray is as though you are staring at a larger than life mural that has been painted by one of the old masters.
My dad on my Uncle Louie's 1948 Harley Davidson

Montrose, a good sized city of over 25,000, will have everything you need to spend another night on the road if you want to. You may want to do the side trip East to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River instead of the last 60 miles back to Grand Junction on Highway 50.
Taking a break on Douglas Pass in Colorado, 1993

There is an option here of grabbing a local Forest Service map and follow the road less travelled and weave your way back to Grand Junction via Colorado 92 and 65 through the Grand Mesa, the largest flat topped mountain in the world. The 53 square miles that compose the  Grand Mesa National Forest is dotted with lakes, over 200 of them, and pine forests that fill the air with freshness every mile of the way, all at near 10,000 feet above sea level.
Coming down off the Mesa on Interstate 70, it’s a scant 10 miles back to Grand Junction to the West. You’ll feel so refreshed after riding the Mesa that you just might turn off on 141 and start this fabulous ride over again!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Wood and Steel

Haiku My Heart
February 24, 2012

Each week, on Friday, we gather to write Haiku straight from the heart. We share with each other both the haiku and the spirit of friendship as we visit each writer's blog home. Join us by visiting recuerda mi corazon.

Stacks of wooden bones
Death of a community
Change of direction
These are the skeletal remains of the once vibrant ore docks at Ashland, Wisconsin. Prior to 1965, these docks saw Great Lakes shipping traffic into and out of the Ashland port at the Southern tip of Chequamegon Bay. When the steel industry died in the mid 1960’s, this dock ceased to be used and has stood rusting and decaying since that last 1965 shipment.
The ore dock at Ashland, WI

When I moved to Ashland in 2005, the dock was under scrutiny and this hasn’t changed much since then. Whether to tear it down or preserve it for historical value is always under consideration, but what really stops the conversation are the costs involved with keeping it or demolition. Either costs millions of taxpayer dollars in a geographic area that hasn’t seen prosperity for a long time, not just from the current economic downturn in the USA.

I was in Ashland recently and took these photos. I am always amazed at the remains mankind leaves behind. Along with the ore dock was the lumber industry and their remains can be seen in numerous places along the magnificent lakeshore as well in the form of log ends sticking out of the water like someone's beard stubble.
Remnants of the docks from a once vibrant working community along Lake Superior's shores in Ashland

Now, some corporation wants to tear off the top of the Penokee Range, a long ridge that runs from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula deep into Northern Wisconsin, where the mining company says there is enough iron ore to mine for years to come.
Wooden bones

Funny how that is. The old ore dock has stood idle for 47 years, but now they want to mine the nearby Penokee and create all these wonderful economy healing jobs. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is the ore that has been there for centuries all of a sudden valuable?  How will polluting the water from such a mine and the subsequent damage to the Bad River Indian Reservation’s wild rice beds and fisheries, not to mention the general water pollution to the entire North Central Wisconsin and Eastern Upper Peninsula Michigan coast of Lake Superior, be worth the promise of a few jobs? Why is the worth that has been sitting there for all these years of value now?

Log structures from the working docks of long ago stay preserved under the cold waters of the Great lake

Why is what's under the topsoil suddenly more valuable than all these years before? Why are they tearing down the ore dock and promising new jobs and economic growth from an industry that has died long ago? 
Shadows playing amidst the old ore dock structure

As one arm of government argues who is to pay to tear down or maintain a large unused ore dock, some of the Wisconsin House and Senate are fast-tracking a bill to allow a new mine to start operation. It just doesn’t make sense to me at all.

Still, these stacks of wooden bones make for some interesting photography illustrating the ravages of man. Is the price of polluting one of the last sources of fresh water on the earth worth the risk? It pains my heart to think about it.

Asbestos laden waste tailings dumped into the Great Lake Superior at Reserve Mining's Silver Bay Plant

Peace to all

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mid Week Interlude King Salmon

Author's Note:
I finally got my external hard drive out of hibernation and was looking through some of the pieces I have written over the years. I came across this story. It is entitled King Salmon. That was the name of the small fishing enclave where I had a second home some years ago. I'd like to share this with you today. I also found a few 8mm video tapes from King Salmon and hope to get the contents onto YouTubes one of these days. In the meantime, here is a snapshot of what was going on in my life the mid 1990's.

The first time I went any farther from home other than the surrounding states of Wisconsin, Indiana or Michigan ( I grew up in Chicago, IL), was in 1957. Dad took the Chrysler to Massachusetts so my Mom could visit her Mom and the kids could see Nonna. Again in 1959, in the Oldsmobile this time, Dad drove old Route 66 to L.A. My Mom had a sister out there to visit. I didn’t get out of the Chicago area on my own until 1968 when I got drafted and traveled on Uncle Sam’s dime. Too bad Uncle got to choose the destinations.
In 1970 I wandered a little farther out and discovered Minnesota, then in 1974 moved there. With the start of a young family and trying to make the proverbial ends meet, travel was not on any agenda I had. Although I did take a few truck driving jobs that got me over-the-road once in a while.
My first trip on my own out west,m other than the all expense paid plane ride to Oakland on my way to Vietnam in 1969, was in 1977 thereabouts. I drove from Minneapolis, MN to Portland, OR. I was working for a furniture moving company and was hauling household goods for Burlington Route Railroad executives after they merged with Northern Pacific. I met up with a good friend out there and traveled south of Portland and into Northern California. My friends had settled in an area on the coast in a small village called Ferndale.
The nearest bigger city is Eureka. Other towns around are Fortuna and Arcata. It is about 250 miles North of San Francisco off of US 101 and about 100 miles South of the Oregon/California border. It is in Humboldt County with Humboldt Bay giving Eureka a large harbor. The harbor is enhanced by the existence of “jettys”, spits of land made by the relentless washing of sand from the ocean  had created long strings of beach. The Army Corp of Engineers came in and used large natural and man made boulders, along with a lot of poured cement, to make a passage opening between these spits of land, for boat traffic complete with foghorns and lighthouses. 
The extreme northern part of the bay has a very large pacific oyster fishery with the college town of Arcata at the northern tip. Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University. At the southern end of this bay is fantastic Humboldt wildlife refuge. Home of an unbelievable array of natural plants and animals.
I knew I’d come back some day when I didn’t have to be beholden to “the man” for a paycheck. It took me quite a while to get the family raised and have the time and a little money to get back there for a quality visit. My friends out there kept in contact over the years and we finally pulled it off in 1991. After that visit, you couldn’t keep me away. I traveled there many times and eventually had a place of my own in an area of Eureka called King Salmon. A name derived when the charters and fishermen would come there in droves to reel in the fish by the same name.
Ocean sunset Northern California coast

The fishery is about dead. Logging and over fishing has taken it’s toll. Low daily limits and an abbreviated fishing season has driven the charters out of business. A few fishermen still participate, but it’s nothing like it was. The logging has taken its toll on the hillsides that surround the coastal range of mountains. The cutting of roads to get to the logs has caused many creeks, the lifeblood of spawning for salmon, to fill in with silt and make the spawning ritual impossible. This scene has repeated all along the beautiful abundant Northern Pacific coast, quickly killing the survival hopes of the great King Salmon.
In terms of beauty, this area is full of natural wonders both subtle and grand. Of course there is the ocean shore. As a whole, a large never ending view of the water, or as a colored rock washed up along the edge of the world. A coastal range of mountains, steep hillsides, many with grazing cattle on grassy patches or in the trees, or desolate stretches, that are impossible to get to because the winter rains wash out the gravel roads and render them uninhabitable.
The bay, with it’s industry along side the natural beauty of the creatures that live here, waiting for the many rivers that carry the run-off to bring more food and forever change the landscape as only flowing water, with the help of the Earth Mother, can. 
Last but not least of the natural wonder here is the presence of the Giant Coastal Redwood trees. The old growth preserved in groves all around the area. Younger redwoods also abound, but are forever in conflict between the loggers and the environmentalists. Thank heaven for the people with vision who bought the land and saved all they could of these majestic giants from the chainsaws of man.
At the coast, the weather isn’t very diverse. Temps usually range from 50 to 70 or thereabouts all year. A lot of rain in the winter. A lot of sun in the summer, that is, unless you are right on the coast. When the hot weather is evident inland, the fog lays on or near the shore until well into the afternoon. Inland, the summertime temps get up into the upper 90’s. This long growing season makes for the best farmer’s market anywhere all year around.
Cheatam Grove, Table Bluff, Copenhagen Road, Centerville Beach, Tompkins Hill, Field’s Landing, Samoa, Manila, Carlotta, Lolita, Fernbridge, Hydesville, Rhonerville, Bridgeville, Ruth Lake, Densmore, Pirates Cove, Garberville, McKinnleyville, Patrick’s Point, Avenue of the Giants, North Jetty, South Jetty, Petrolia, Honeydew, Swimmer’s Delight, The Van Duzen, The Eel, Southfork. These are some of the names of the places. I’ve been to them all. Some are to brag about, some are to lament their passing, all are strikingly beautiful.
The beach at Centerville

After that first trip, I found myself going out there from my home in Minnesota quite often. When I landed a job that gave me large blocks of time off between job assignments, I went out to Eureka. I stayed with my friends or camped out. 
King Salmon, a small area south of Eureka situated along the waters edge of the bay, is basically five streets, Halibut, Cod, Crab, Herring and Perch. Each street having access by road and their alley, a channel leading to Humboldt Bay and inevitably, the Pacific Ocean.
Johnny’s, the larger of the two marinas there, is an enclave of two “streets”. One filled with traveling RV’s who live there seasonally or full-time, depending on their lifestyle or financial standing at the moment. The other street has 11 small mobile homes with none newer than 1970. While driving around King Salmon one day, I saw a “For Sale” sign in the window of a nice looking older mobile home. Folks were busy sprucing it up and painting on the inside. I knocked on the door and asked if I could take a look inside.
The outside looked great for a 1955 vintage trailer. No broken windows, no missing sheet metal parts. There was an aluminum canopy out over the front door which made for a great carport or patio. The inside was small and quaint. The new paint was doing a great job of brightening up the old place. It was 52 feet long and 8 feet wide. There was a living room which adjoined the kitchen, a bathroom complete with small tub and shower, one bedroom with built in night stands and dressers and the other bedroom had three floor to ceiling closets.
The quaint kitchen of my 1955 Executive mobile home located at Johnny's in King Salmon, CA

I bought it right then and there. I negotiated with Johnny to pay a certain amount each month for lot rent. I found out my mobile home site rental at the marina gave me a berth on the dock with access to the bay. I had no boat but thought I might get one some day.

This trailer was eight feet wide and fifty two feet long. The longest semi trailers on the road today are at 53 feet, so for that era, this thing was enormous if you hauled it on the road. The woman that bought it new, a Miss Clark, (That was the name on the original 1955 California title), had set it up at Johnny's and never moved it one inch. This trailer was the same make and model featured in the motion picture by the name of "The Long Long Trailer" which starred Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz. Here is a photo from the movie showing the general idea of what our place on Humboldt Bay looked like.

This photo from the movie gives you a general idea of what our home on Humboldt Bay looked like

I set things up where I left a vehicle out in California so I’d have one waiting for me when I got there no matter how I decided to travel. I even had a Yamaha thumper I found at an auction and kept that at my new second home.
The next few years, I traveled out there multiple times per year. I drove, I flew, I took the train in combination with the bus. In one year, I went out there and back eight times. I never really lived out there like in changing my address and stuff, but I lived out there when I was out there if that makes any sense. I felt like I had a gem in my pocket because I had this place to go to on the ocean.
Daily walks, picking up rocks and shells, the smell of salt air, the sounds of the foghorns and the gulls. My little mobile home was very comfortable and only 100 or so yards from the waters edge. I rode my motorcycle often and explored many of the twisty highways through the coastal range. I attended many summer festivals in the area. I shopped at the fabulous farmers markets.
It was a sad time when I had to sell the place. New owners took over the marina as Johnny and his wife were getting too old to run things on a day-to-day basis. New owners meant new rules and higher fees. I was having some health problems myself and didn’t make the trip as often as I did in the past. But it was a good gig while it lasted and I sure enjoyed myself out in that part of the country. Now, when I go back, I stay with my friends.
Another time, maybe another day, I might get specific and tell you in more detail about a certain place, because I’ve barely broken the surface as a travel piece. I’ve just broken the ice.


Sunday, February 19, 2012


I was beaten at times as a child. There was no love in the home where I grew up as far as I remember. My Dad thought that working and bringing home the bacon was love. No hugs, no kisses, no compassion.
I went off to war and returned before I was 21 years old. I saw the horror of it. I committed terrible acts.
I had my first heart attack and open heart surgery when I was 36. I had another heart episode when I was 44. I had another bypass open heart surgery in 2003 at 54. And the latest foray into my heart just happened in 2011. I'm making it through that, but barely.
I lost my oldest daughter to a car accident when she was a month shy of her 18th birthday.
These traumas have caused my life to feel like I am on borrowed time. I struggle with severe depression. I’ll never show it to you, but I have it. I suffer from the effects of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My family suffers from it as well because they are codependent. They stuck by me and suffered with me and and they too went through the trauma when their sister, our daughter, was lost to this world.
I am not asking for any sympathy, just laying the groundwork for the story I am about to tell you.
For 25 years or longer I lived through this. I grew my hair long, or in my case, thick and bushy, almost like an Italian Afro. I let my beard grow to hide my face. I swept up my family, spouse and one-year old child at the time, and moved to the country way up North in Minnesota, far from our birthplace and home near Chicago.
I was hiding out in the woods, hiding behind a cloud of smoke and a one quart bottle of bourbon. People that met me and knew me never knew I was a Veteran and never knew who I really was. I didn’t show that side of myself to anyone, and even though there were secrets that my family and very close friends knew that other’s didn’t, there were more secrets that no one but myself lives with and never will learn of for eternity.
Since those darkest times back then, something found me. I certainly can’t say I found something. I can’t take credit for looking for help and healing from the scars of trauma. No, it found me. I wandered across two healing spirits, two women, one a healer and clairvoyant, the other, let’s just say she was described to me as an Ojibwe Medicine Woman.
The day I met them, a mutual friend took me to the rural home of the Medicine Woman and we talked. It was decided to hold a healing ceremony for me. A date and time was set and I showed up, along with some others, on a Saturday evening.
I didn’t know what to expect, after all, I had never been exposed to ceremony or had anyone use any other healing methods on me except pills prescribed by a doctor or an operation at a hospital. I arrived, and in the side yard of the farmhouse, overlooking a great hayfield high atop a bluff along the Mississippi River, was a small rock fire pit with a small but steady fire burning.
This fire pit was surrounded with cedar fronds in a circle around it with space enough to walk between the pit and the fronds. There was an open space, which was on the East side of this circle, to enter the space. There were others around, but they were not there for the purpose of being a part of this healing ceremony or to observe it. Seems they often meet at the fire on a Saturday night.
I had been given instructions earlier on about how to prepare. I was told to put a pinch of tobacco into a small piece of cloth and tie these into a little bundle. I was instructed to make seven of these and use red cloth. I was to tie the end shut using any color thread or string I wanted to use, but to tie one of the seven with a different color thread or string than the others. These are commonly called prayer ties or prayer bundles in the Native community.
I carried these tied bundles in my hand and held them out to the Medicine Woman for her to see. The other woman spoke to me and it was assumed that she would run the ceremony, but the Medicine Woman had instructed her on how to proceed.
The ceremony itself was quite simple. Take four of these ties and go off in the four directions and leave a tie on a tree limb. Then, back at the fire, take one and offer it to the Grand Father in the sky above, and another to the Grand Mother Earth below. That would leave me with one tie remaining, the one that was different from the rest, the one with the different color thread.
I held this and it seemed like the woman was ignoring me. I stood there for what seemed like a very long time. I felt stupid and dumb. I was confused, but then, she turned to me, rather abruptly, and told me, 

“Think about something you need to get rid of and put it in that bundle, then toss it into the fire.”
I immediately thought of my Father and how he left this world without us ever having reached a time of closeness in our lives. I thought of how I wished I understood why he was the way he was and even though I don’t remember using the word forgive, I wanted to forgive him and get on with living in a more peaceful way. I put this thought into that last prayer tie bundle and cast it into the flames. The ceremony was over.
I wondered then, “Now what? Is that it, I’m healed from it all?” I still didn’t understand, but I knew something had happened. I felt lighter. This is how I started on a healing path even though I didn’t know that at the time. 
One of the things that I was given some time before this was a cassette tape of something called guided imagery. It is a voice and it speaks and soothes and comforts as you relax and rest. The one I received from a friend was on PTSD. After a while, I found more at a healing arts bookstore about Diabetes and Heart Disease. I also read a book by a well-known comedian, Louis Anderson. It wasn’t a funny joke book as I expected. It was his own narrative of growing up and learning to forgive his Father long after he had passed away.
I have a broken heart. Literally and figuratively. The tape was helpful. It painted a guided image of my heart and a journey through it. It was black with many scars. The words told me that there was a light deep down inside that still burned, but I didn’t believe it because I never saw it.
Some years after this healing ceremony, in another attempt to accept healing, I went to a 7 week inpatient program at the Hot Springs, SD Veterans Hospital. The program taught me many skills and gave me some tools to deal with the anger, depression, hatred, hypervigalence, paranoia, malaise, general bad feelings about myself and many other symptoms of PTSD too numerous to mention, but you get the idea.
The program helped to heal by taking care of the body, mind and spirit. One of the treatments was a hands on healing session with a practitioner. In the public realm, she would be a Reiki Master. In the VA, she was a practitioner doing hands on healing therapy.
I liked these sessions. I asked for more of them and had three in the 7 weeks I was there. The woman who did the treatments was a nice person. Very gentle. She touched me at my ankles and my knees, my hips and then at the shoulders. She spoke softly with a smooth voice.
This wasn’t a massage, just hands on, just touch. She would exclaim that she was doing this for the greater good of Joseph Spado. She would take her hands off of me with a sweeping motion and cast what evil came to her away from my body. I felt it go. I was feeling it physically.
In one session, I went into a trance. You might say sleep. I might have been dreaming, but I like to think of it as a vision. A real vision where I saw my heart, the inside of it. I saw the soot and cobwebs inside of the chambers. I saw the black coal like dust and I was afraid to walk through it. I know I had to, but I was afraid. The heart was black. There was no light. It was sick. I was dirty with the grime of a lifetime of despair. All this came to me in that vision, just like the person that talked to me when I played the guided imagery cassette tape.
I walked through amongst the filth and horror and eventually, I did see a light. Very faint, but I saw it. I was terrified. I was drawn to the light and walked that way, not knowing what force was leading me as I was still afraid, but at least there was something ahead of me to guide my way. As I got closer, it got brighter. I had walked a long long way to get to it. I wondered if I’d have enough energy to get back, but I kept walking towards the light.
When I got close, I saw it was bright, very bright. It was golden, like a bright sunshine, just the light, not the orb, but the light itself, shining ahead of me in my path, bright, golden.
From this light emerged two figures. One was my Daughter, Maggie. She was beautiful. She was clean, immaculate, and in her hand was my Fathers hand. He had a sheepish look on his face as if to ask, “Is it okay if I come into your heart?” Maggie was leading him by the hand.
I wept, I am weeping now. I’ll forever weep when I think of this vision. It was at that moment that I accepted my father for himself. I realized that he didn’t wake up every morning and decide how he would hurt us. I realized that he did what he thought he must do. He was walking his path and I was finally given this understanding.
As I walked back out of my heart with this great understanding, the woman who was touching me was sweeping the walls of my heart. Sweeping them clean. They were still black, but were shiny and allowed the light from deep within me to glisten on the walls of my broken heart.
I started to forgive him a while before this happened at another spiritual ceremony I attended. I now realized that I, too, needed to ask that he forgive me. I told him I loved him still. Then, I realized the important task of forgiving myself.
I thanked Maggie and realized that her job in the cosmos was to help others cross. Those that would have a hard time crossing themselves, she was to help them. That was my Dad. I know he was afraid of death and dying. She was there to help him cross. I understood why she was no longer here with us. I accepted that I’d see her when I was to cross.
In a few weeks, I had a dream one night where my Dad appeared to me. We hugged for the first time that I remember. He looked young and had on a clean white T-shirt. In all previous dreams, he was old and shabbily dressed. He never hugged me, now he did, and he told me he loved me and forgave me.
Now, I feel the narration of this episode of my life establishes a real friendship for I have shared the intimacy of my very soul. I trust it with you for some reason. The connection about your ancestors, or maybe the paganism and religious beliefs some of us follow.
The book I told you about also had some influence with this whole experience. For in his book, Louis Anderson comes to the same realization I did. His Dad was a drinker, mine was not, but their behavior was the same. I experienced the same sensation that Mr. Anderson did about my relationship with my Dad.
The light shines brighter these days. I’m not healed completely. I never will be. But I know what it is to forgive and to love. I still have a hard time accepting love. This is the hardest thing to deal with from the PTSD. The realization that nobody should or could really love me on any level. I accept the inevitability of loneliness as I struggle to be understood.
Thank you for allowing me to share these things.