Saturday, December 28, 2013

Indoor Track Etiquette

The Olympic Oval, built for the 2002 Winter Games, has a 442 meter track that runs on the outside of the speed skating track.  I've been running there for the past few weeks – mostly to get out of the bad air.  Our little bowl here in the Rockies has this nasty tendency toward temperature inversions which trap polluted air here in the valley.  So far we've already had several days of “unhealthy” air – which means it’s bad enough just to breathe it normally.  Think of the gunk going into the lungs of runners trying to get enough of the oxygen molecules floating among the particulates to keep the muscles moving.  Ugh.

The Oval is about a 20 minute drive from my house.  I guess it’s kind of selfish to add to the bad air just so I don’t have to run in it.  I try not to think about that.  Running on the track is pleasant.  The air is always cool – thanks to the skating rink the track encircles.  Just before they closed the track for the US Speed Skating Trials, I was able to watch several USA speed skaters at practice.  They’re a lot faster than I am – just in case you were wondering.

Running on a track feels a little different than running on the roads or running on trails, but not so different that I feel I need to alter my technique in any way.   What I found I did need to learn was track etiquette.  I learned this the hard way – last Tuesday I was nearly knocked over by a much faster runner as we were both aiming for a break in the spectators at the same time.  Technically, the spectators shouldn't have been on the track, so there’s no etiquette rule for dodging people who wanted a closer view of the speed skaters.  Here, courtesy of Runners World, are the rules of the track.  The full article can be found at

1.  On most tracks, run counterclockwise.  If, like at the Olympic Oval, there are specific directions, follow them.  At the oval we run clockwise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before noon; all other days/times we run counterclockwise.
2.  Run in the two outermost lanes – leaving the inner lanes for faster runners and runners doing speed work.
3.  Pass other runners on the right.  (It’s always a good idea to look before changing lanes)
4.  If you use an iPod, keep one ear free so you are aware of your surroundings and other runners attempting to pass you.

And of course, yield to the Zamboni.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Volunteering in Retirement

Many retirees look forward to a time when their time will permit more volunteer work.  If you’re looking at volunteering in retirement, let me tell you that it can be a most rewarding use of your time.  My last post featured one of my favorite projects of an organization I volunteer for, Soroptimist International.  Whether you've been a volunteer all your life or whether this is your first look at volunteering now that you’re retired, here are a few tips that I've learned along the way.

Find Your Passion
I've been passionate about issues involving women and girls for most of my adult life.  I’m passionate about issues such as education – particularly in science and technology, domestic violence prevention, and human trafficking.   Soroptimist, with a mission of improving the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world, is the right match for me.  I've been a member of Soroptimist International for about 15 years now, so yes, I volunteered with them before I retired. 

I also chose the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program after I retired because helping people with their taxes and providing financial education is my husband’s passion.  It’s been great working alongside him as he shares his gift, and I’m finding that I help a lot of single moms through this program.

What’s your passion?  Animals?  Children?  Literacy?  Fitness?  Chances are good that there’s an organization waiting for you.  And if not, what’s stopping you from starting your own?

Set Limits
Determine within your own mind how much time you want to spend volunteering – and stick to it.  Once people learn of your desire to volunteer, you may be asked to do more than you are prepared for.  It’s OK to say “no” to activities that you’re really not passionate about, or that you just don’t want to do.

Honor Your Schedule
Determine not only how much time you want to spend volunteering, but when you want to spend that time.  Don’t allow your organization to infringe on time you’d rather spend elsewhere.  And believe me, they will try.  “You’re retired – can you do xxx?  None of us can get off work.”  If you really want to do xxx, by all means go for it, but don’t let them guilt you into doing something you don’t want to do because you’re the one that doesn't go to a paying job.

Honor Your Commitments
If you’re doing something you’re passionate about, this one is easy.  But I’ll say it anyway – if you commit to a project, participate.  If you commit to an event, be there.  If you commit to getting something done, do it.  If you can’t do something you committed to, let them know as soon as possible so they can replace you.  Volunteer organizations depend on their volunteers to accomplish their objectives; the volunteers that follow through are the ones that reap the benefits of volunteering.

Enjoy giving back!  You’ll find you gain far more than you give.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Single Moms Breakfast with Santa

For Salt Lake Soroptimists, the holiday season officially starts on the day we host the Single Moms’ Breakfast with Santa.  This year, our seventh, was no different.  On Saturday, December 7, SI SLC members and many other community volunteers turned West High School into a holiday wonderland for 160 single mothers and their 319 children. 

The Single Mom’s Breakfast with Santa is intended as a reward to single mothers who are doing something to improve their lives and the lives of their children.  We encourage these mothers to build holiday traditions with their children, as these traditions, more than the gifts; will be what the children will remember in years to come. 

Participants are invited to attend through our partner organizations which include the young parents programs at two alternative high schools, two drug rehab programs, and organizations which serve the working poor and refugees.

Breakfast was donated by CafĂ© Madrid.  Volunteers escorted the single mothers and their children to a linen-covered table where they were served their breakfast. 

After breakfast it was off to visit Santa and to get what for many of the mothers was the only photo they would have of their children this year.  Then the fun really began.  The children were escorted to the wrapping area by volunteer elves that helped them select and wrap gifts for their mothers.  The mothers were escorted to “Santa’s Secret Workshop,” where warm clothing purchased specifically for their children awaited, along with a huge selection of toys.  The mothers selected toys for their children, and volunteers helped them carry their packages out to their cars and out of the sight of their excited children.  Families were reunited, with children beaming with pride at the wrapped gifts they carried, and mothers breathing a sigh of relief that the financial stress of Christmas was over.  

We are proud of these single moms who are working so diligently and setting such a great example to their children.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Google, Wikipedia, and the Art of Writing

I usually research before I write.  Why?  Well, let’s just say I’m smart enough to know when I’m not smart enough to write about something with just the ideas floating around in my head.  Someday I may be an expert on something – but today is not that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking so good, either.

When I started my writing for fun and not very much profit 28 years ago, I was advised that every writer should have the following books on their bookshelves.  I dutifully bought them.

1.  A good dictionary.  I have Merriam-Webster, copyright 1974.
2.  Roget’s Thesaurus.  My copy is copyright 1980.
3.  Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, by John Bartlett, original copyright date 1882.  My copy is copyright 1980.

Fast forward 28 years and you’ll find these books collecting dust on a bookshelf in my husband’s office – I don’t even use them enough to justify moving them to my office.

Today, there are several online dictionaries – with the benefit of containing words that no one had even thought to have heard of in the 1980s.  Online dictionaries contain new words such as internet, webcast, cell phone and laptop, not to mention supermom and superglue.   And they contain old words with new meanings such as mouse, virus, blackberry and tablet.

Today, most word processing software has a built-in thesaurus.  So if I’m writing along and can’t think of the word I want, I just put in a similar word that I know I don’t want, and click on “Synonyms.”  Presto!  The software gives me a choice of half a dozen words that I could use in its place. 

And while I still refer to Bartlett’s from time to time – particularly if I’m looking for something Shakespearean – I  have to go to another source to find more recent quotes. 

My favorite other source, of course, is the World Wide Web.  Search engines can do marvelous things.  Some of these, such as Goodsearch, even contribute to charity for each search.  Seriously.  You sign up, choose your charity, and Goodsearch donates a penny a search.  Doesn't sound like much, but it all adds up.

With the ease of use and wealth of information comes a price, however.  As a user of the internet, I have to consider that not all sources are created equally, and that misinformation is as easy to find as true information.   Caveat emptor.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overcoming Inertia

How is sugarcane packaged by the grower and shipped to market?  I thought it was a fairly simple question to research.  But the answer eluded me and stopped me cold in writing my novel.  I didn't skip the section dealing with it and move on.  I just stopped.  And I haven’t worked on the novel in six months.

Ouch.  I hate to admit it, but I am the queen of the unfinished project.  Several examples come to mind.  I found a maternity dress I planned to make for myself – all cut out and ready to sew.  My youngest child is 27.  I found a cross-stitch sampler that I started in 1990.  I found a baby dress I started for my daughter, who is now 28.  I don’t remember what my excuses were for not finishing these. 

I’m retired.  I have no excuses.  It’s time to take action.   How have others overcome inertia to get things done?

Google is my friend.  The first article I found was from Forbes, titled Two Ways to Overcome Inertia, written by Sonia Kapadia.  The two ways were 1) schedule the activity and make yourself accountable, or 2) deliberately do something completely different to refocus and clear the mind.

The second article Google listed was in and lists seven ways to overcome inertia and get yourself unstuck. 
1.  Shock yourself into action. 
2.  Secure short term wins. 
3.  Dangle a carrot in front of yourself. 
4.  Use a stick. 
5.  Fill your gas tank. 
6.  Create a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. 
7.  Stage it. 

The third article I found titled Overcoming Inertia: Harnessing our Minds by Kerwyn Hodge, states it both clearly and succinctly:
      1.  Inertia is a real part of our lives, and can work for us or against us.
2.  To overcome inertia, you need an external force.
3.  That external force is our mind.

To this inspired list of strategies, I add my own:  practice finishing.  We get better at things we practice.  I’m hoping this will be no exception.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Retiree Looks at the Affordable Care Act

I received my retiree health benefits enrollment package from my former employer in the mail day before yesterday.  After hearing all the doom and gloom about rising costs I was pretty nervous opening the envelope.  Turns out the cost of our total coverage – pre-retirement medical for me, Medicare supplement for my husband, and dental insurance for both of us – will go up 2%.  I can live with this.

But is there a better deal out there?   My premium for a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA) will be $713 a month.  This is the full premium for employer-based coverage for retirees – which by definition are a high-risk pool.  I am the (relatively) young, healthy person paying into this pool.  What would I pay for the same plan on the new health care exchange?

My current plan is not available on the exchange in the state of Utah.  So while I would have liked an apples-to-apples comparison, the best I can do is look at similar plans. 

As a reminder, the healthcare exchange offers four plan Tiers. 
                Bronze – plan pays 60%
                Silver – plan pays 70%
                Gold – plan pays 80%
                Platinum – plan pays 90%

With the high-deductible/HSA plans, the plan starts paying after the deductible is met.  These plans are only offered on the bronze and silver tiers.  The lowest premium of the bronze plans is $329 per month; the highest premium for the silver plans is $502 per month.  The higher the premium – the lower the deductible.  The silver plans come closest to what I have now. 

Just for fun, I also researched what my current insurance dollars would buy on the exchange.  The highest priced platinum plan is $622.75 per month.  So the answer is yes, I could get a policy with a lower premium on the healthcare exchange.

But I won’t.  Premiums are not the only thing you should consider when evaluating a health plan.  You also need to do the math.   Look for the plan that will give you lowest total health care costs, including premiums, co-payments and co-insurance, and out of pocket maximums.

This became very clear when I researched Medicare Supplement Plans for my husband. Here in Utah there are eight available plans that cover both health and prescription drugs.  Of the eight, two have no monthly premium; the others have a much lower premium than what we pay for the Medicare Supplement offered by my former employer.  But wait!  How much will the copay on his prescription be?  About $450 a month, as opposed to the $28 per month we’re paying now.  And – what is the annual out of pocket maximum?  They range from $6700 for the no premium policies down to $2500 for the highest premium policy.  Our current plan has an out of pocket maximum of $500
I can’t cover my husband through my former employer unless I am also enrolled.  So I will choose to pay more for my health care in exchange for my husband paying less for his.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Speed Cleaning – the First Time is for Practice

I cleaned my house using the Speed Cleaning method on Monday.  I chose Monday as my housework day because, quoting one of my favorite movies, “everybody should go to work on a Monday.”  I put on my apron, put the supplies in their respective pockets and loops, and started in front of the kitchen sink.  Here’s what I learned this first time through the method.

1.  I had to remind myself several times to start at the top and work down, after something midway, or to the right caught my eye and my cleaning cloth.  Even with my self-corrections, I missed the front of the microwave and the top of the refrigerator.

2.  I’m just too short to reach the top of the fridge – and higher places in general.   Too bad my cleaning apron doesn't have a pocket for a step-stool.  I’m going to have to put the step-stool in front of the fridge before I start next time, and then put it away when it’s time to do the floors.

3.  I was totally flabbergasted by the dust that came down from the upper recesses and the crumbs that came from the appliances.  It was by sheer force of will that I allowed them to stay on the floor, patiently waiting to be picked up by the vacuum.  When I see dust and crumbs I want to get them.  The visible surfaces of the house are always pretty clean.  This method helped me find dirt in the invisible places which I’m sure hadn't been cleaned in months (years?).  Next Monday it should be a little easier.

4.  I didn't have my caddy of cleaning supplies with me in the kitchen.  I keep it in the bathroom, and when I loaded up my apron I forgot I was supposed to take the caddy with me.  So when I ran out of cleaning cloths, I had to stop what I was doing, go to the bathroom and get the tray.  This is exactly what Speed Cleaning tries to prevent – wasted time.

5.  I also didn't refill my spray bottles with cleaning solution before I started, and of course, I ran out midway through cleaning.  Again, wasted time.

6.  I could have done a better job making life easier for the vacuumer (also me) while I was dusting.  There were a number of items that could have been picked up or moved aside so I didn't have to stop vacuuming to move them.

7.  I took my apron off before I started doing the vacuuming and then the mopping.  Big mistake.  While I still had my whisk broom in my back pocket to get the stray crumbs I should have gotten while I was dusting, I sure could have used my white or green pads to get the stubborn stuff off the floor while I was mopping.

So, lots of lessons learned on using the technique, which I will employ next Monday when I clean.  That said, the house is clean – cleaner than it’s been in a long time.  [Smile]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Speed Cleaning – Making a Cleaning Apron

Speed Cleaning, by Jeff Campbell and the Clean Team, advocates the use of a cleaning apron.  OK, “advocates” is not a strong enough word.  Per Chapter 2, page 9, “Nothing makes sense in this [house cleaning] system without an apron.  It saves more time than all the other products combined.  It carries the supplies and tools that allow you to ‘walk around the room once and you’re done.’  If you’re mad at having to wear one, especially with all this stuff packed into it and dangling from it, go ahead and have your tantrum.  Then get over it.  Wear it when cleaning – start to finish.”

When I tried the method years ago, I didn't use an official cleaning apron.  I found an old apron with pockets and wore it for a while, but it didn't have the loops to carry the cleaning liquids, and it didn't have enough pockets for the tools and supplies I needed.  So even though I wore the apron, it didn't save me the time and steps to get items I needed that I didn't have pockets (or loops) for.  Eventually I quit wearing it.

Not this time.  Here’s how I made my own cleaning apron:

1.  I used a denim apron I already owned.  I chose the denim because a) I already had scrap denim to make more pockets, and b) I already had a heavy duty needle and blue thread on my sewing machine from patching a pair of my husband’s pants.

2.  I sewed the existing pocket (10 x 6.5) into three separate pockets (2.5, 2.5 and 5) for smaller tools like the scraper and the toothbrush.

3.  I cut a new pocket out of scrap denim, finished the edges and sewed it below the original pocket.  Finished measurement was 16 X 7.5, creating two 8 X 7.5 pockets.

4.  I cut a six inch length off each of the ties to make the loops for the cleaning liquid bottles.  With the apron on, I pinned the loops in the place that would be most convenient for me to carry, grab, and replace the cleaning liquids. I securely sewed them on.  

Done in about 45 minutes!  The photo shows the tools recommended in the Speed Cleaning method – in their proper places in the apron.  On to cleaning….

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Speed Cleaning

I hate housework.  Always have, always will.  I've always considered it a necessary evil that comes with living in a house.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) my tolerance for dirt is fairly low so the house does get cleaned.  Most often it coincides with the prospect of someone coming over. 

So when my friend, former co-worker and fellow blogger Adrian posted on the Speed Cleaning method, it struck a chord.  I actually own Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell.   I wish I could remember who I loaned it to.  I bought it while I was still working full time and my housekeeping service closed unexpectedly.  I decided to clean my own house and hoped to learn to do so efficiently.

I followed the method relatively closely while I was working.  After I retired, I rationalized that I had plenty of time and could do, say, one chore a day rather than cleaning everything all at once.  I planned to put together a schedule and follow it rigorously.  Ahhhh, the best laid plans….  I never did the schedule, and re-adopted the philosophy of “ignore it until someone is coming over and then clean like mad.”

Adrian’s post reminded me that there is a very efficient method of housekeeping.  Throughout my work life I strived to do my job in the most efficient way possible.  I joked that “laziness is the mother of efficiency.”  I could hear Adrian’s voice in the back of my mind, “OK, Cheri – why wouldn't you want to be just as efficient in cleaning the house?”

Adrian’s post at overviews the Speed Cleaning method.  Then she details how to clean a kitchen using the method.  The method advocates working in each room, left to right, top to bottom, never backtracking.  The method also advocates carrying everything you need with you, in a special cleaning apron, so you don’t stop your momentum to go get something you need to clean.  Adrian’s post tells you what goes in the apron.  Hmmmm.  I might need one of these.

I checked the book out of the library and re-read it.  My favorite quote from the book is “If it’s not dirty, don’t clean it.”  Now this is a method I can get behind.  My challenge:  to use the method next time I clean the house, time myself, and see if I can get faster.  Let’s see if I can set a personal record for housework.

You can read more of Adrian's posts at

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Emotional Intelligence - Learning to Argue

I don’t remember the exact topic of the discussion, other than it had to do with what I thought we should do about a particular problem with a particular tenant.  I gave my opinion.  My husband raised his voice and told me in no uncertain terms how wrong I was.  I shut up.

   “How come you’re not talking?” 

   “Because every time I say something that disagrees with you, you shove it down my throat,” I blurted with less emotional intelligence than I am capable of.

   “Get a backbone!  I need you to argue with me.”

I wasn't expecting that.  He went on to tell me that by debating the issues we would come to the best conclusion, and that he really did value my opinion.  Arguing, to him, wasn't personal – it was about hashing out options and coming to the best one.

I am really uncomfortable with conflict.  Per my StrenthsFinder profile – Harmony (an opposite of conflict) is my second strongest characteristic.  Glad to know somebody considers it a strength.  In the world of emotional intelligence, however, the use of conflict is a skill I need to learn.  Specifically, I need to learn how to debate with my husband and stay focused on the issues – even when his tone becomes heated, or worse, condescending.  I need to learn that just because a concern is personal to my husband; it isn't a reflection on me.  I need to learn to allow him to be emotional without taking it personally.

Help can be found in the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book.  One of the key premises of emotional intelligence, per authors Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, is that unlike IQ or personality, emotional intelligence can be learned and enhanced.  Here are the key take-aways I gleaned from re-reading Chapter 6 – Building Your Skills.

1.  Lean into the discomfort.  “The biggest obstacle to increased personal competence is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from increasing your self-awareness…Leaning into your discomfort is the only way to change.”

2.  Don’t be afraid to make emotional mistakes.  “They tell you what you should be doing differently…Personal development requires making many mistakes even though it is uncomfortable to recognize them when we make them.”

3.  Manage your own emotional tendencies.  Learn to recognize your own emotions in uncomfortable situations and deal with them constructively.  When all else fails – take a deep breath, slow down, and think for a moment.

Practice makes perfect, and in this imperfect world it looks like I’ll have many opportunities to practice.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chi Running Update - My First Half-Marathon

I trained all summer for the Mesa Falls Half-marathon.  During my training I concentrated on the Chi Running focuses that I thought would best help me through my first half-marathon in over 30 years.

1.  The mid-foot strike and the wheel in the back that keeps on turning (thanks to Journey for the song that I use to remind myself if I find myself getting sloppy.)  Why?  I have a defective right foot – more precisely, a hyper-mobile first ray.  This technique, combined with arch supports, has brought me from seven to 13.1 miles without pain.  Even with arch supports, I find that foot pain is a sure sign that my shoes are wearing out. 

2.  The lean.  I lived all summer in the caldera of an extinct volcano, so every run started out uphill.  It’s really true even if it seems counter-intuitive – leaning into the hill is more efficient.  And that goes for downhill runs as well.

3.  Swinging my arms to the back.  It really does help balance #1 and #2.

When I first started my Chi Running practice, I fought the concept of “technique first, then distance, then speed.”  I was completely wrong.  After practicing the technique, I gained distance without injury.  13.1 miles, to be precise.  I finished the half-marathon in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 39 seconds, for an average pace of 9.36.  It wasn't enough to take first place in my age division, but it was enough to take second.  So now that it’s time to work on speed, I know the time I have to beat.

And speaking of speed – I checked in with my cadence a few days ago and found I've slipped a few beats.  I’m down from 88 bpm to 84 bpm.  Yikes!  I thought I had cadence down pat and didn't practice it all summer long.  My bad.  The good news – if I gradually increase my cadence I should be able to pick up some speed in the higher gears.

A few weeks ago, Danny Dreyer posted a tip on Facebook about walking backward.   He shared that walking backward will put your body into the proper C shape and put your core muscles in the right place.  I tried it for the first time on September 24, and all I can say is “Wow.”  I've been making this SO much harder than it actually is.  I've now added a short backward walk before I start running – just to get the feel for where my core muscles should be. 

And the practice continues….

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Farewell to Warm River

We left Warm River Campground on Sunday, September 29 – a day ahead of schedule.   Our final week in camp was cold, rainy, and almost deserted.  During breaks in the weather we were able to take all the signs down, clean and lock up the restrooms, and inventory and store the supplies. We even went to a Laundromat to wash our uniforms before we turned them in.  We hadn't visited a coin-op laundry since before we were married!  They take a lot more quarters than they used to, but other than that, they are pretty much the same.

Our summer of 2013 was a classic case of “Be careful what you ask for.  You may get it.”  When we applied with AuDi Campground Services, we stated that we wanted a busy campground.  Wow – did we ever get a busy campground!  Actually, if all we were running was a campground, it would have been perfect.  But we also had the group area and lots and lots of day users.  For most of the summer we were hopping all day long. 

When we signed up it seemed like it would be great to be out for five months.  We've learned that five months is a very long time to be away from home – even when home away from home is so beautiful.

That said, there was far and away more good than bad about this summer’s camp hosting experience.  For next year we’re shooting for something in between – not quite as quiet as Hoop Lake – but not quite as busy as Warm River.  We’ll also be looking a little closer to home.  As much fun as we had touring Eastern Idaho, Yellowstone Park, and Western Wyoming on our days off, we really didn't have enough time at home – which made coming home harder work than being in camp. 

The trailer has been cleaned out, winterized, and hauled off to storage.  Time to start looking for next summer’s adventure!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fly Fishing

One of my favorite childhood memories is fishing with my parents and my brothers at Hoop Lake.  Dad had a six-man inflatable raft – bright orange – and a small electric motor.  We’d all pile into the raft and tour around the lake dragging flies from our fishing poles.  We’d even catch an occasional fish.  I think I was 30 before I realized that this was NOT fly fishing.

Fast forward to 2013 at Warm River.  I saw more waders during the first two weeks in camp than I had seen in my entire life.   I think kids here get their first pair of waders at about age 3.  And the Warm River is a perfect spot for both beginning and expert fly fishing.

Per Wikipedia, “Fly fishing is an angling method in which an artificial ‘fly’ is used to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. Casting a nearly weightless fly or "lure" requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting.”  The cast has an elegant whip-curl to it.  The experts make it look effortless.

We had a number of fly fishermen – or I guess I should say fisher-people, as several women also waded our rivers with their rods in hand – in May.  As the weather got warmer and the river overtaken by kids on float tubes, the fishermen came early, walked further upstream, and most often – went someplace else.  But now that the kids are gone, the fishermen are back.

Many of our fishermen are local, but an equal number come from all over the world.  I’ve met fly fishermen from France, Scotland, England, and the Netherlands – and these were just the ones I actually got a chance to chat with.  Who knows where else they came from?

There are several fly fishing outfitters in Ashton and Island Park.  The Three Rivers Ranch, which is just around the corner from us, is a fly fisherman’s paradise.  They provide rooms, all meals (prepared by gourmet chef Karen), fishing equipment, guides and transportation.  I didn’t ask what it costs, but it sounds like an elegant way to learn to fly fish.  The head guide, Doug, plans to take a group of cancer patients fly fishing in October.   The owner of Three Rivers Ranch is the great-granddaughter of Fred and Berta Lewies, founders of the Town of Warm River.

I’m kind of sad that I didn't learn to fly fish here at Warm River.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall in Warm River

The days are shorter, the temperature is cooling, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  Yes, it’s fall in Warm River.  It looks like we have two colors – the yellow of the aspens and the willows and the browns of the service berry bushes.  Maybe next year we’ll be someplace where leaves turn red.

Our days are much quieter.  It’s like someone turned the tap off.  The hectic days of customers in and out, the Sunday shuffles, the parking mania – all gone in favor of a quiet campground with one or two trailers coming in along with the occasional tent camper.  The joke in Yellowstone is that the changing of colors in the fall has nothing to do with the leaves and everything to do with the hair color of the visitors.  In fall it changes from whatever to grey.  That seems to be working here as well.

The customers who have come in September have had a pleasant surprise.  The wooden bridge, which was
supposed to be torn down this fall, will remain for another year due to budget constraints.  So after dutifully closing the upper loop after Labor Day, we reopened it on Wednesday, 9/4. 

We've had quite a few bear sightings in the area, which makes sense.  During August and September the bear prime imperative is to EAT.  Eat.  Eat.  Eat in preparation for hibernation.  The smell of our food is just way too tempting.  A full grown grizzly was shooed out of the Buffalo Campground in Island Park just a few weeks ago.  We still haven’t had a bear in our campground, but a couple camping with us spotted and photographed a grizzly across the river about a mile up the Railroad Grade trail last week.  Several others have reported bear scat on the trail.  Sigh - my trail running days are over – for now.

We’ll be here in Warm River until September 30.  Then it will be time to start looking for next year’s adventure.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Full Time RVers

Several of our fellow campground hosts, including our Warm River maintenance couple, are full time RVers.  They have sold their homes and most of their belongings in favor of traveling across the country in their respective motor homes, trailers, and fifth-wheels. 

All of our full-time RVing coworkers travel to places they are interested in spending time in, and find jobs that, at best, offer a free place to park, free utilities, and a salary.  Campground hosting is ideal for full-time RVers, but there are other opportunities as well, often in the resort areas they want to visit.  Paying jobs are rare in the winter in warmer climates, such as Arizona, but even in Arizona one can obtain a free parking spot with utilities in exchange for a minimal number of hours of work.

One of the fulltime couples we’ve met winters every year in Quartzsite, Arizona – home of the largest 
gathering of RVers in the world.  According to the Arizona highway department, as many as 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, mostly in RV’s, converge on this sleepy little desert town, located just 20 miles east of the California border on Interstate 10.  Quartszite has held an annual Sports, Vacation, and RV Show for the past 40 years.

There are logistical concerns with full time RVing.  How do they get their mail?  What about prescriptions?  Doctor visits?  No problem.  They find the nearest town, rent a post office box, and have their doctors call their prescriptions in to the local pharmacy or clinic.  All of the couples we’ve met agree that laundry is their biggest problem, but that a weekly trip to the coin-op Laundromat is a small price to pay.

“It’s really quite freeing to realize how little you need to be happy,” one of the women told me. 

When we were planning this adventure, Paul talked about selling everything and living out of our trailer.  I told him, in no uncertain terms, that this would not happen.  Now that we’ve seen the lifestyle in action, he agrees with me that this isn’t a lifestyle we would be interested in.  But I have to admire the people who choose it.  They’re a lot more adventurous than I am.  And that’s OK.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Best of Warm River

We've met people from all over the world here at Warm River – as well as people from our local community of Ashton and the surrounding “big cities” of Rexburg and Idaho Falls.  Here – in no particular order – are glimpses of the best of what the campground and its campers have brought to us.

Best family reunion t-shirt:  The Dye family.  Every family member, starting with the first child, wears a number indicating the order in which they came into the family.  The eleven children are, of course, numbers 1 – 11.  As spouses were added and grandchildren born, each got the next number in sequence.  The youngest child at the reunion wore #71.

Best fitness tradition:  The Nielsen Family 5K.  They start at Bear Gulch and run down the Railroad Grade Trail.  This year’s winner finished in just over 21 minutes.

Best pole dance:  Cheri shimmying down the fee tube to get into position to open it.  Note:  AuDi Campground Services Uniform is required apparel. 

Best crazy tradition:  The ParkView Ward’s Big Chill.  They jump into the river at 10:00 PM and float down to the group site.  Participants get a t-shirt.

Best acronym:  ALPOT – annoying little piece of trash – which we pick up quite frequently. 

Best service call:  Ben, a camper from Shelley, noticed that we had a broken vent cover on our trailer.  A week after his family left the campground, they came back with a new vent cover, and Ben climbed on top of the trailer to replace it.  We paid him for the vent cover but he wouldn't take any money for his labor or his travel. 

Best cobbler:  Also the Dye family, although the cobbler master married a Crockett so we got this cobbler at both the Dye and the Crockett reunions.  The secret ingredient is cream cheese, and while he didn't give me the recipe, I found one online that is similar. 

Cream Cheese Peach Cobbler

9 Cups chopped Fresh Skinless Georgia Peaches
1 8-oz Package Of Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 18-oz Package Of Vanilla Cake Mix
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened

Preparation Instructions:
Spread peaches in bottom of 12-inch Dutch oven.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and water, stirring until all of the sugar completely dissolves. Evenly pour this mixture over the top of the chopped peaches. Next sprinkle the fresh ground cinnamon over the top of the peaches, then follow that by sprinkling on the vanilla cake mix over it all. Drop small clumps of cream cheese and butter evenly over the top of the cake mix.
Bake with 20 coals on top and 10 on bottom for 35 – 45 minutes.

Most inspiring visitors:  Dirk and Trudy, raising money for charity on the Model T World tour.

Most inspiring campers:  The cyclists riding the Tour Divide Trail. 

Best daddy-daughter date:  Dave and Emily from Tennessee, riding the Tour Divide Trail together – but in a far more civilized fashion.  After they left our campground they spent three nights in the Jenny Lake Lodge.

Most exotic names:  Bernadina, Leo, Donato, and Agnesa, the children of Lawrence and Evalinda from Northern California.

Best prank:  The Hanson family’s stuffed skunk.  I still laugh over how I fell for that one.

Best crossing guard:  Sarah, who turned three on July 29, helped her grandparents park their trailer by standing in the middle of the road to stop us in our golf cart.  After the trailer was securely parked, she let us pass.  Sarah was also kind enough to invite us to her birthday party – complete with pink cupcakes.

Best coffee date:  A French trio, who patiently put up with my blundering French, invited us to have coffee with them after their picnic.  They showed us photos of their horseback trip to this area – 20 years ago.

Best fly fisherman:  Ghislain, also from France.  I have no clue how good he was at “la peche a la mouche,” but it was delightful speaking French with him.

Best camp host gift:  Come for a visit!!!!  We're here until the end of September.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mesa Falls Marathon Part 2 - Race Day

Race day finally arrived.  After verifying that our large group in the group site had not blocked the route and ensuring the restrooms had plenty of toilet paper - I'm still a campground host - I got ready for the race.  I laced up my over-worn shoes.  I was tempted, when I found both Lube Stick and Blister Pads in my race packet, to use them.  But I remembered rule #1- nothing new on race day - and resisted.  I drove into Ashton and caught the bus to the start line at Bear Gulch.

There were 191 runners in the Half Marathon.  Remembering my running etiquette, I started at the end of the pack.  I had decided that my strategy would be to hang back on the trail and catch them on the hills.  Looking back, I think this cost me a couple of minutes.  I did pass quite a few racers on the hills, but could have really opened up on the trail if there hadn't been so many slower runners in front of me.

At about mile 8 I caught up with a couple of runners – Ryan and Tricia – that seemed to be running at my pace.  They appeared to be in their forties.  Ryan welcomed me and commented that “it’s nice to find your pace group friends.”  As we chatted about kids and her grand-kids, I realized that Tricia was not forty-something; she was fifty-something.  I had to beat her.  I made my break at the aid station on the last mile.  I crossed just ahead of her.  I took second place in our age group; she took third.  I gave her my coupon for a Huckleberry Shake for one of her kids.

My final results:
Time:  2:05:39
Finished 2nd of 8 in my age division
Finished 30th of 119 women (top 25%)
Finished 64th of 191 overall (top 34%)

Lessons learned for the next race
1.  Buy a new pair of shoes at least six weeks before the race and run in them.  That way I’ll have a choice on race day.
2.  Start in the top third of the pack.
3.  It’s OK to be friendly – but all’s fair in love and racing.

My goal for the next half-marathon:  finish under 2 hours.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mesa Falls Marathon Part 1 - Training

I had wanted to run the Salt Lake Half Marathon last April, but when we learned of our early start date for our camp hosting job in Warm River, we had to push another trip into the slot formerly reserved for the race.  So I was delighted to learn that I could run a half marathon right here in Warm River – in fact – right through our campground.

I've been calling this my first half-marathon, but in reality it’s my second.  My first was the Molestus Mini-Marathon, Ogden, Utah, in the summer of 1977.  I don’t remember my time.  I do remember that my brothers, who promised to run with me, left me in the dust in the first 30 feet of the race.  All’s fair in love and racing.  I also remember being grateful to them for making me train on the 30th street hill.  I got shin splints on that race, hung up my running shoes, and didn't run again for 25 years.

But back to the present.  I modified the training schedule from the Wasatch Training Group for the timeline leading to the Mesa Falls Half, which was August 24.  I trained on most of the course, making sure nearly every training run included the hill into Ashton.  I didn't go too far up the railroad grade trail – scared of bears.

On my 12 mile training run, August 14, my right foot started to hurt.  Yikes!  I knew what was happening.  My running shoes had too many miles on them.  Unfortunately, ten days ‘til race day didn't give me enough time to break in new shoes.   Rule number 1:  nothing new on race day.  Suck it up, buttercup!

I did have plenty of training runs left to try the new food supplements members of the Wasatch Training Group recommended.   I liked both the Sports Beans and the Honey Stinger Chews; settled on carrying the Sports Beans because they were the easiest to manage.  I just dumped the package into the pouch on my water belt.  No trash; no sticky mess, and easy access to pop one in whenever I wanted.

I stayed with short runs between the 12-miler and the race.  Training done.  On to the race….

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Warm River History

One of our more frequently asked questions here at Warm River is, “Where is the place where you can feed the fish?”  I learned the answer to that question the first week we were here – two stops signs, turn left, cross the bridge and pull over.  It seems to be a tradition of the families that camp here regularly.  They take large bags of bread, cereal, dog food, etc., pile it in the back of the pickup with all the kids and grandkids, and off they go.

Last Wednesday, I finally took the stale hamburger buns out of the microwave (yes, I use the microwave for bread storage) and we went to feed the fish.  The area is clearly marked.  No fishing.  No swimming.  No wading.  No float tubes.  The fish are free from every stress in their lives, and they are huge.  We tossed chunks of bread into the water and watched the fish grab them as quickly as they hit the water.

The fish-feeding site has a large historical marker titled, “Warm River – A Place of Community on the Frontier.”  What?  Warm River was once a town?  And there I thought we were famous only for our campground.  Here’s a brief history of the once-thriving community of Warm River:

Rounding the curve, music fills the air.  A moment later, a festive string of colored lights appears.  That was the sound and sight that greeted many people coming into Warm River.  They were headed to the Rendezvous Dance Hall where the sound of laughter and the aroma of hamburgers filled the air on a Saturday night.

The Rendezvous was the creation of Fred Lewis and his wife, Bertha.  Fred incorporated the Town of Warm River in June of 1947, and Bertha became its first mayor.  Warm River’s legacy dates back to 1896 when settlers arrived from Europe establishing farms and ranches.  Years later, Warm River was the stopping point for many travelers on a slow journey on a narrow muddy road to Island Park and West Yellowstone, Montana.  In 1907 Warm River’s popularity soared when the town became one of the stops for visitors traveling along the Oregon Short Line Railroad to West Yellowstone.

During the next sixty years the town in the canyon with its community of farmers, ranchers, and lumbermen grew quietly.  In 1957 the new highway to Yellowstone was completed, bypassing Warm River.  The town faded into the shadows, leaving only memories of a time when Warm River was a place of community and friendship.

The old railroad line is long gone, but the trail it followed remains and is popular with hikers and bikers.  Several summer homes now sit on Dance Hall Drive – the last traces of the town of Warm River.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Warm River Campground Overview – Tent sites

Warm River Campground boast 13 beautiful tent sites, most of which are set in a field with grass and trees and have great river access.  All the tent sites at Warm River are walk-in sites.  We have a large parking lot for the cars.  This can present a challenge to campers, as the National Forest Service Food Storage order mandates that all food be secured in bear proof containers – mostly this means your car – when unattended and at night. 
T12 and T1
We’ll start our review of the tent sites with site T12.  This is another site that was added on after the fact and not renumbered.  In my opinion this is our best tent site.  Lots of shade, but furthest away from the parking lot – which means you have the furthest to haul your food at night.  First come – first served.
Site T1 sits next to site T12.  A little closer to the river; a little less shade.  First come – first served.

Site T2 has two tent pads.  It sits a little further back from the river. 
First come – first served.

Site T3 is right on the river and is hidden from the other site by a large copse of trees.  Not much shade, but people like it for the privacy and the proximity to the river.  First come – first served.

Site T4’s tent pad is tucked away between the trees.  First come – first served.

Site T5 is the tent site closest to the restrooms.  Good or bad?  You decide.  First come – first serve

Site T6 is partially shaded and is reservable.

Site T7 has two tent pads and can be reserved as a double site, which means you can reserve T7 for up to 16 people.  It is completely shady.

Site T8 can also be reserved as a double site, and is also completely shady.

Site T9 is very close to the parking lot.  It has partial shade.  Reservable.

Site T10 is, in my opinion, our best reservable tent site.  It has lots of
shade and is close to the river, the parking lot, and the restrooms.  It is very popular with day users; we have to put an orange cone on it on the days it is reserved.

Site T11 borders on the group site and is in full sun. The reservation site neglects to mention anything about shade in its description of T11, and our customers are often disappointed.  The site is often reserved by the people who reserve the group site for additional tent space.  Reservable.  Caveat Emptor.

Site T13 is the only tent site that is not on the river.  It is also the only
T13 Entrance
tent site where you can park your car right next to your site.  We've been known to sell this site to small trailers and campers when the RV sites are full.  When we first arrived and spring had not yet worked its magic, the site was brown and very unappealing.  Now it sits among lush greenery and is quite a beautiful site.  We jokingly refer to it as the Honeymoon Suite.  First come – first served.

So now that you have all the information to make an informed decision on your campsite at Warm River, only one decision remains.  When are you coming to camp with us?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Warm River Campground Overview – RV sites

We've been at Warm River for 13 weeks now, and have come to know the personality of the campground.  We have 28 total sites.  This post will feature the 15 RV sites. I’ll cover the tent sites in my next post.

Site 1
Site 1:  Mostly sunny with a beautiful riverfront that is great for kids to get in and out of the river.  Canoe not included. Is being right next to the camp hosts good or bad?  You decide.  Reservable. 

Site 2:  Full shade across from the river.  Right next to the maintenance couple.  First come – first served.
Site 2

Site 3:  Mostly sunny, good river access.  Reservable.  Similar in appearance to Site 1.

Site 4
Site 4:  Mostly shady, across from the river.  Has a tent pad and lots of space.  First come – first served.  

Site 5:  Mostly shady, on the river side but access is more toward site 3.  Has a tent pad and lots of space.  This is the best site for larger RVs.  Dog not included. First come – first served.
Ty at Site 5

Site 14:  Yes, site 14 is in the lower loop – between sites 2 and 4.  It was added on and the Forest Service did not renumber the sites.  Lots of space and a tent pad.  First come – first served.  
Site 14

Site 6
Now we’ll move across the wooden bridge to Site 6:  A double site with good space for RVs, vehicles and with additional space for tents.  Great river access.  This site has lots of privacy if you want it.  It shares a large lawn with site 9.  Reservable.

Site 7:  A double site with a tent pad.  Site 7 has less space for vehicles, but has great shade.  Reservable.  I couldn't get a photo of site 7 - trailers and their tow vehicles always seem to be in the way.

Site 8
Site 8:  Across from the river.  Mostly sunny, some lawn at the site.  Reservable.

Site 9:  On the river.  Mostly sunny.  Shares the lawn with site 6.  Has a tent pad and grass for additional tents.  First come – first served.
Site 9

Site 10:  Beautiful view of the river, which makes it a very popular site for single RVs.  Mostly sunny.  No tent space. First come – first served. 
Site 10

Site 11:  Across from the river.  Mostly sunny, a tent pad and some lawn at the site.  Can stretch a longer power cord to the power box at site 12 for an additional $5 per night.  First come – first served. 
Site 11

Site 12:  Our most popular non-reservable RV site – the only one with both power and water hookups.  Costs $6 more than the non-electric sites.  First come – first served.  People wait in the parking lot for this one.  No photo available - the big trailers are always in the way.

Site 13
Site 13:  Our most popular reservable site; reserved for the foreseeable future.  Has a fenced patio with steps leading down to the river.  Beautiful views of the river.  Has electricity. 

Site 15:  If I were in marketing I would tout this site as being our only pull-though site.  The site is in the parking lot.  It does have a great story – a family from Rexburg suggested a campsite be added in that location because it’s at the halfway point of a river float.   First come – first served.  Or, as often happens, it’s last to arrive gets this one.  No photo.  We sometimes forget we have this site, and that's what happened when I took the photo tour for this post.

Next post we'll take a look at the tent sites.