Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Scotland Fall 2018 #1


It may be trite to call this "a Scottish traffic jam," but that what it is.

The AMS Toilet Adventure

In the men’s toilet at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam I was at one urinal and there was a lady cleaning the urinal next to me. We both agreed it was no big deal.
Anne, Dave, Charleen, and the docent at St Serf's Church in Dunning. The cross is  a Pictish carved cross from the 9th century, the Dupplin Cross.

Being Tour Guides
The group heads in to tour Duone Castle, an Outlander site.

We didn't get to tour Tullibardine Distillery, but we still had a taste.

We did tour Edradour Distillery, the smallest commercial distillery in Scotland.

We’ve been talking to Anne’s younger sister Charleen and her husband Dave for years about coming to Scotland with us—both have Scottish heritage. After both finally retired, we got the opportunity to be tour guides to family travelers. Charleen and Dave joined us for nine days of our month long fall Scotland trip.


Anne, Charleen, and Dave ready to visit Drummond Gardens, one of the best formal gardens in Britain.

The drive into Drummond Castle and Gardens is stunning.


Dave examines Earthquake House in Comrie village, home to the most seismic activity in the UK.

The trip actually started long before any of us got to Scotland. Charleen and Dave had research to do to determine what kind of things they wanted to see—distilleries, gardens, ruined castles, lived-in castles, ancient sites, big cities, small villages, etc. Anne and I had major and sometimes lively discussions about what they must see or ought to see or need to avoid considering where we were going to stay (self catering in central Scotland and timeshare in the Highlands). A couple of dinner meetings and numerous emails confirmed our itinerary, always with flexibility.
After nine successful days as tour guide here are some of my observations:
Our group (minus the photographer) assembled outside one of the reconstructed early dwellings in the Highland Folk Village in Newtonmore.

First, much of the success of the trip owes to the fact that Charleen and Dave did their homework both before the trip and nightly while in Scotland. They had good ideas of what they were seeing and thus could really enjoy the experience. Even when we threw in some last minute site, they were knowledgeable enough to understand what they were seeing or to ask the right questions. 
Charleen and Dave's first dinner in Scotland at the Tower Hotel Gastro Pub just across the road from our self-catering Thistle Cottage in Crieff. Notice, I managed to get in the picture, too.

Visiting a Crannog, a family dwelling build out into a loch, on Loch Tay.

Second, for me, the pressure was intense. I much better appreciate those tour guides who take on the responsibility for someone else’s good holiday. I think I checked too much on whether Charleen and Dave were enjoying what we were doing, but they were always positive.
Dave hand feeding a member of the Cairngorm Reindeer herd.

Impressive!

Third, I felt like I was controlling too much of the time and needed to let go more. We did separate as couples in St Andrews and met up later and we did tour Urquhart Castle independently. I probably should have planned in more of that kind of experience (Or is planning free time an oxymoron?).
We gather in front of Anderson's in Boat of Garden before going in for Pie Night--meat or fish pies.

The Packhorse Bridge at Carr-bridge not far from Boat of Garden.

Fourth, for Anne and I it was the most intense touring we’ve done for quite a while, but it was great fun. We wore them out each day which is what they wanted, but it wore us out too. In nine days we put more than 1100 miles on our rental car with me doing all the driving. As tiring as it was, the driving was never too much for me, and for Charleen and Dave it was sort of break time. Anne was stuck with her same old job, Grand Wizard of Navigation, which she did admirably.
Dave discovers the Scot's love of sweets as he tries a butterscotch sunday at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore.

Lastly, Charleen and Dave’s enthusiasm and excitement energized us as we saw things through their eyes. For instance, Anne and I have toured almost forty distilleries (many more than once), but Dave’s interest in learning about the process and tasting infected us all. And though we’d been to Innerpeffray Library (the oldest lending library in Scotland) four times before, we got a new appreciation for the facility through Charleen’s experience as a school librarian. 
We got a personal tour of the Innerpeffray Library from the curator.


The massive ruins of Elgin Cathedral.

For Anne and me it is always a joy to share our Scotland with our friends, especially those who visit Scotland with us. This was even more special. And even if we still need work to be accomplished tour guides, at least we can say we had a perfect time.
At the largest commercial distillery in Scotland, Glenfiddich, we got to watch part of the bottling process.



NEXT: Part 2 -- Photos Allowed plus more

Monday, September 3, 2018

Something Different

Training my team on the beach at Pistol River.

This post is indeed “something different”—an indulgence, an experiment. A few days ago I was looking in my file of past published writing (I keep a copy of everything that gets published and usually a copy of everything I thought should have been published) and I found a series of poems about sled dogs and racing published in various sled dog journals (International Siberian Husky News, Northern Dog News, Mushing, Oregon Outdoors, 
Cascades East). As background, Anne and I raced a sled dog team of AKC registered Siberian huskies throughout the northwest for twelve years in the 1970s and 80s. Our kennel was as large as 14 dogs, but I raced in the three, five, or seven-dog classes and Anne raced in the three dog class.
The poems don’t pretend to be of high literary merit, but they were good enough to contribute to my writing being nominated for a national award from the Dog Writers’ Association. Nominated is the operative word. Since these poems have only been seen by a limited audience in the 1970s, I thought it was time to allow them a fresh viewing.
I’m sorry to say my library of dog photos is quite limited. For this post I’ve tried to use what images I have from those days and to fill in with others that will fit the poems. As this post is such a departure from my usual travel blog, comments on the poems, the photos, the concept, or for that matter any other subject (except the current American political scene) would be highly appreciated. 

PRECIPICE

Running through the dunes near Florence.



My leader looks back
from the brink of the dune
like a small child
about to cross a road:
apprehensive, 
excitement moving him nearer and nearer the edge.

I tell him, “Okay,”
and he leaps down the face. 
My voice echos
my own trepidation: 
fearful
of when I am unable to
provide the needed reassurance.

Tired dogs, Amorak and Myko.


SHEEP RUNNER
for Pete and Keno

Evil Eyes



The husky lays, eyes shut,
on his side at my feet. 
The rancher caught him, 
laid him down with a single shot
as he toyed with the freightened sheep.

“No, no,” I tell him, 
“It’s okay. You did
the right thing.
He was where he shouldn’t be.”

I hold inside the scream.
How he got out I haven’t figured.
That he did
his cold body attests.
I can’t say how long he was free,
but he paid dearly
whatever roaming he did.

It’s natural for a husky to run.
It’s natural for a husky to run
sheep.
He was shot.
Civilization seeks its pound of flesh.

“No, no, it’s okay.
If it happens again
do the same thing. 
Shoot.”



THE TRAIL

Waiting for our turn to run.

My team starting a seven mile race at Beaver Marsh.


The trail, 
packed hard by teams
that had passed before 
is crossed by myriad paths 
never covered by 
dog team or driver.

In a long flat meadow
the trail is crossed by
the tracks of a field mouse
which ends in a patch of snow
ruffled by the wings of an owl.

Around the bend
the packed trail
bisect dots and dashes
left by a coyote
with a hare fleeing before it:
the end must be guessed at.

On a ridge
the highway is
almost bare,
swept by the track 
of wind going south.

When the trail turns to dust
the sled tracks will have melted
and been blown away.
Only the occasional tracks
of mouse, owl, coyote, and hare 
will disturb the sweep of wind.
Darrell Stewart racing at Painted Hills.

Anne with the team at Beaver Marsh with Mt Thielsen in the background.


B-RRRR!

My team running across the lake at the Diamond Lake race.



get out of the truck
icy winds slap at me
ripping away warmth of the truck heater
hat pulled down gloves put on
get the dogs out of the truck
they like the cold
least they don’t mind
harnesses stiff from yesterday
struggle to get them on
ganglines unkink with static-like staccato
dogs harnessed hooked high on cold
team starts cold intensifies with speed
numbing cold
too cold
enjoy






SQUIRREL: After Being Run Over by a Dog Team in Training


Dave Hoiland (brother-in-law) runs one of my teams in Medford summer race.


“I was scuffling, shuffling in the forest duff
hunting for delectable edibles.
I was warm in my fine winter pelt;
dapper in the damp.
I knew the day was fine for frolic
with Jay and Junco.
I had a great game of car dodge going; 
could see a good ways away.
I heard the wheels a long way off;
could see it coming slowly.
I flit from behind tree to under bush,
from stump to ditch.
I waited until the last moment possible —
the thing across from me.
I dashed out to do the difficult ‘complete under’
so slowly was it going. 
I was in the road leaping to get under
just past the front. 
I was in mid-stride when the thing stopped,
started snarling and snapping.
I dodged teeth, feet, heavy boots, 
fled from fangs and flailing ropes.
I twirled and jumped, twisted and flew;
finally free to run.
I hid in a tree, heart in throat,
wet from mouthings.
I saw in the road masses of mouths, tails,
feet, hands, and boots, too.
I left them there, stomping and swearing;
trying to put it back together.
I think that next time I’ll look more carefully
at what comes down the road.




MEADOW
for Ian and Meadow




She lay in my arms; 
a quivering, frightened bundle,
hot as an August afternoon in Barstow, 
her breathing shallow and irregular, 
eyes glazed, fluttery, and caked at the edges.

It was only days ago
she ran hard in her traces
while the sickness raged unknown.
It was only weeks ago
she romped in summer fields
chasing tails and butterflies.
It was only months ago
she marched mile after mile, hill after hill,
pulling steady at my behest.

I cried
when winter came early this year
to the Meadow.




NEXT: Most likely something from Scotland.




Friday, August 17, 2018

August, 2018: Stories

     As we prepare for our fall trip to Scotland I thought it might be a good time for me to post some new stories (at least new to this blog). In many cases the photos aren't directly from the story, but I tried to find images that at least relate to the subject (less successfully on the "plane" story).
Jacky Clifford in Crieff makes one of our favorite meals, paella.

Retirement Dinner in Las Vegas
Not as fancy as the restaurant in Vegas, the Black Boy Inn in Caernarfon, Wales, is still quite nice for a pub.

Wonderful fresh bread is the attraction at the Watermill in Blair Atholl, Scotland.

In The Granary in Portree, Isle of Skye, I am happy as a clam with my mussels.  

For our retirement from teaching in 2000, Anne’s sisters got us a generous gift certificate to Emiril Lagasse’s restaurant in the Venetian in Las Vegas, the Delmonico Steakhouse. We made our reservations for the dinner and showed up anticipating a great meal. We weren’t disappointed. The restaurant had our reservation and a special table for us in a prime location. We had delicious drinks before dinner and service that was over-the-top—a waiter or two by our table the whole time. The food was outstanding with portions too large to finish. We thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the service. We told the waiter we had no room for dessert and asked for the bill which would almost be completely covered by our gift certificate.
One of Anne's most interesting travel meals was the Hot Bed (lettuce) Soup at Acorn Gardens in England.

A typical dinner in our Aviemore timeshare apartment in the Scottish Highlands.

The Horn on the A90 just east of Dundee has the best bacon rolls we've had in Scotland.

When the bill came the waiter said, “All you have to do, Mr. Gatti, is sign it.” But wait, it was for the Gatti party. We told the waiter that he had the wrong party, we were the Joneses. Suddenly the staff was in a panic. And just as suddenly we had no service with manager and staff all looking for the Gatti party who had suffered through their meal with just ordinary service. I could have just signed “Gatti” and walked, but I would probably forever have been looking over my shoulder.
The famous seafood platter from the Old Inn (hotel) in Gairloch, Scotland. The huge platter is not listed as a meal for many, but it certainly is.

Happy patrons at the Kinneucher Inn (pub) on Fife.


Playing an Out-of-the-Way Golf Course in Scotland
John Clifford and I (along with much of the male Perthshire population) hit the links instead of watching the wedding of William and Kate. And while there weren't any ladies on the course that day, there were two young buck red deer at St Fillans GC, the course where Anne and I are members.

St Fillans GC, like many of Scotland's out-of-the-way small courses is a lovely track. This is the view back from the green on the 5th which is named Bothy.


Anne tees off at Dalmunzie GC in the Spittal of Glenshee (village)--it's a wonderful highland course designed by the famous James Braid.


We’ve played many small out-of-the-way golf courses, particularly in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. A few come to mind: Cruit Island GC in Co. Donegal is miles from even a small village, and though Connemarra Isles GC is less than an hour from Galway, it takes backroad after backroad to find it. At St David’s City GC in Wales there’s nobody about except on Saturdays. In Scotland we’ve played Harris GC on the isle of Harris and Lewis—the clubhouse is buried into a sand dune and the strong island winds blow the flag sticks out of most holes. One of our favorite out-of-the-way golf adventures, though, is playing Durness GC in the far northwest corner of Scotland—a fifty mile single-track drive from almost any direction.
Here Anne is teeing off on the 5th at Dragon's Tooth GC near Glen Coe.

At Harris GC on the Isle of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides the wind blows so hard that the flags on many holes pop out. The setting on empty pristine white sand beaches is jaw dropping. 

Cullen GC, set along the North Sea, is a fun small 18-hole course.

In May of 2016 we took a trip to Durness for the interesting links golf. When we arrived at the course, Anne stayed in the car while I walked up the fifty yards to the clubhouse to inquire about playing. There was a gentleman in the clubhouse who asked if he could help me. I looked closely at him and said, “And who are you?” Sort of indignantly he replied, “Someone who could help you.” I said, “No, I mean what’s your name?” Questioningly he said, “Martin.” I commented, “You’re Lucy’s husband aren’t you? And I met you a few years ago…” I reminded Martin of our meeting when Anne and I first came to write about the course for our books. His attitude completely changed—from defensive to extremely friendly. I got Anne and we visited with Martin and club secretary Lucy who had just come in off the course. 
Located in the far northwest corner of Scotland, not far from Cape Wrath, Durness GC is one of the most isolated courses in the country. Here Anne tees off on the 8th hole, a downhill par 4 with the green set on the edge of Balnakeil Bay (out of sight from the tee). 

Number four at Durness GC.

The tee shot at the 9th/18th is a shot across the Atlantic, and although the shot is short and should be easy, the constant wind and sound of the ocean waiting for your ball makes it much tougher than it should be. 

When it was time for us to go out, I offered to pay, but they wouldn’t hear of it. With thanks, I gave Martin a twenty for the club’s junior program and we headed to the first tee. We were the only ones on the course—one of the most spectacular in the world—for the entire round.
With the Cuillins in the background and ferries to the small islands going by, there are always grand views at Isle of Skye GC.



The church in the background of the first hole at Tarland GC in Aberdeenshire makes an interesting photo, especially with Anne so bundled up on a cool fall morning.
Aggressive Lady Getting Off the Plane

Anne with a light lunch at AMS on our way to Scotland.


Our flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam in the spring of 2017 was thirty minutes late leaving, so we knew it would be tight to make our connection to the flight from Amsterdam to Portland. After we landed and were okay to unstrap and get up, I stood in the aisle and reached up for our Rick Steves carry-on bag in the overhead bin. Just as I grabbed our bag a lady from a row behind shoved through to get her bag from the bin in front of mine. In the process she actually pushed me hard twice knocking me off my feet onto a passenger still seated. He yelled at her, I yelled, Anne yelled, other passengers started yelling as the lady continued to push forward. Finally, she got the message and backed off. Anne said her husband had been winding her up the whole hour flight about how they’d miss their connection if she didn’t hurry off the plane. In Amsterdam's Schiphol Delta terminal I saw the husband butt another person out of the way to ask a question at a Delta desk. The clerk, to her credit, didn’t let him get away with the rude behavior—she made him wait his proper turn. There is some justice.
At Moray Old GC in the north of Scotland, the NATO jets take off and land right over our heads.


A commuter train passes as we are playing one of the local golf courses. 

I'm glad nobody shoved me on this particular train trip from Aviemore to Boat of Garden in the Scottish highlands--those are very nice tastings of Speyside Whisky he's passing out. The train trip was a special event which was part of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.



NEXT: Images from Oregon's hottest summer.