Bike Trip 2011

It was a short trip this year, on the bikes about 150 miles over four days up the Hudson River valley from Nyack to Saratoga.  The distance between the two is more than 150 miles, but we drove from Coxsackie to Saratoga because (1) we didn’t want to bike through or around Albany and (2) we needed to make dinner reservations.  It was really three half-days of riding because we drove from home to Nyack Thursday morning, returned home from Saratoga Sunday afternoon, and stayed off the bikes and out of the rain Saturday morning.  We experienced some spectacular scenery around West Point, bucolic scenery at various points along the way, and the best that Routes 9W and 9G can offer in between–which was nothing special.  This trip was much more about the camaraderie than the biking, and contributed richly to group lore.  We had 98 degree temperatures, a fender bender between our two vans, a stop my childhood home, 

thunderstorms, molasses-slow waitstaff, lost drivers in Poughkeepsie, constant disagreements about the route, visits to FDR’s home in Hyde Park and the battlefield at Saratoga, rain, some of the best coffee ever at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga, endless amusement courtesy of Anthony Weiner’s expense, gelato, few photographs, no flats, no serious injuries, and no major disputes.  And so we turn our attention to next year’s trip.

Cortona

We are in the middle of 11 days in Italy.  After visiting Nate in Crema over the weekend we drove to Cortona, a walled Tuscan hill town. Etruscans settled Cortona thousands of years ago, and it has been inhabited and a hub of commercial and artistic life since then.  The streets are narrow, cobbled, and steep.  Very steep.

Italy

Recently we returned from 12 days in northern Italy.  Our various stays provided little Internet access and I did not post as-I-was-there trip updates.  I will make up for that over the next few days.

I’ll start with our initiation into driving in Italy.  Our trip took us from Milan’s Malpensa Airport (“mal” as in bad or evil, “pensa” as in thought or idea, which may explain why the Airport is located on the wrong side of Milan) to Crema, about 50 km southwest, where our son Nate has been living since last September.  After three days in Crema we went to Venice for three days, then Canazei in the Dolomites for three days, then back to Crema.  We could have managed these connections by train and bus but wanted the flexibility of a car, so rent a car we did.  I had not driven in Italy before and felt trepidation at the start, but at least Italians drive on the right side of the road.  We brought our GPS from home, freshly loaded with European road maps, picked up our six-speed manual transmission rental at the airport, and followed the voice prompts for Crema.

Tolls presented the first problem.  Cruising along the A4 we encountered a toll booth stretching across the autostrada, and our first decision:  which lane should we use?  Eliminating the obviously-wrong Telepass lane helped just a little.  I drove into a lane marked Carte, where a gate and the cars behind blocked my forward progress in each direction.  I hoped to find a human being to whom I could hand Euros. Instead I found an electronic display showing the amount due, and a slot for a credit card.  I inserted Judy’s credit card into the slot–once, twice, three times–without success.  The drivers behind grew restless.  I tried my credit card.  Failure.  I tried again.  Success!  The gate opened and we drove through with relief and confusion, not understanding why our cards failed the first four attempts.

A few kilometers further we came to another toll.  Unfortunately, I was so focused on choosing a more idiot-tourist-friendly lane that I missed the GPS prompts for our exit, located a hundred yards before the toll.  I picked up the toll ticket spit out by the machine and drove through, looking for the next exit to reverse direction.  That exit came in a few miles and required another lane-selection decision.  Unfortunately I saw just a millisecond too late that I made the wrong choice, arriving in the Telepass lane.  Its gate prevented me from driving forward.  Three cars prevented me from backing up.  I looked around.  No place to insert cash, a credit card, or prayers.  Only a single button labeled “Help” below an intercom grate.  I pushed the button.  “Help” I said.  “Allo?” “Help!”  “Allo?”  “Help!!!”  “Allo?”  I turned to Judy, who has been taking Italian language lessons for a few years.  She started shouting something in Italian.*   “Allo?”  I looked at the driver of the car behind.  He lit a cigarette, inhaled, and leaned back in his seat.  I yelled “I can’t get through the gate!” “Allo?”  The temperature was in the 80s, the sun beat down, and sweat soaked into my shirt.  No one likes coming face-to-face with their stupidity; I like it less than most people.  This Kafkaesque scene could have dragged on for much longer but someone spared us.  In my peripheral vision I noticed the gate was open.  Immediately I shifted into first, engaged the clutch, and lurched through the opening.

The GPS, I discovered later in the week, was programmed to avoid U-turns and direction reversals, so instead of sending us back to the autostrada exit I had missed we headed off into the Italian countryside between Milan and Crema, on barely-labeled secondary and tertiary roads that in any event we could not have located on our map because of its scale.  We were driving blind, guided by the GPS ladyand her incomprehensibly flat American pronunciation of Italian road names.  On this drive we navigated our first roundabouts, or what we call rotaries in Massachusetts.  I came to be a fan of roundabouts, which erase the need for traffic lights, but my first two dozen roundabouts challenged to the limit my ability to pick the correct exits.  There are many Italian roundabouts I know well, from circling them two or three times.

We completed the 90 minute (if no traffic) drive from Aeroporto Malpensa to Crema in about 2 hours, 15 minutes.  It felt like double that time.  Nate saved us from wandering lost through Crema’s maze of medieval one-way streets by waiting for us at an intersection.  I have rarely been happier to get out of a car.

*A few hours later Judy realized that her Italian language skills had deserted her in this moment of need.  She had been shouting “what can we do to help you?” into the intercom, a phrase not likely to solve our immediate problem.

My Bike Travels On

I returned from my bike trip (see here and here) almost a month ago.  Veloce Bicycles in Portland (excellent store)  packed our bikes and FedEx delivered them to my house last week–except for mine.  I was in Maine when FedEx arrived and didn’t learn my bike was missing until Monday morning.  The tracking data showed the bike arrived at the FedEx Portland facility on July 2, and then nothing save a cryptic note it was being returned to Veloce.  FedEx did not return it to Veloce and could not tell me where it was.  Finally, after three days of calls (on a 1-10 scale with 10 high, I am pleased to report my testiness didn’t get higher than 3.5) I found myself on the phone with a woman from the FedEx facility in Connecticut.  My bike got as far east as Willington, CT–so close!–before label problems stopped its progress.  My bike case had two labels, a delivery waybill inside a FedEx pouch (if you’ve used them you know these pouches grip like grim death) and an ID label completely covered and taped to the case with overlapping strips of 2″-wide clear plastic shipping tape.  Somehow both labels fell off.  Hard to fathom, since they were attached to the case in different spots that would not be subject to the same abrasive forces simultaneously, but that’s FedEx’s story and they’re sticking to it.  Because FedEx didn’t know where to deliver the bike case or who to call they sent it to their national lost and found–in Salt Lake City, 2/3 of the way back to Portland.  Must be one big building.  There FedEx located my errant bike last night.  It starts eastward today.  Some bike.  It didn’t even send a postcard of Temple Square.

Privacy and Security

A story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal titled NSA’s Domestic Spying Grows as Agency Sweeps Up Data (subscription required) reports that–

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called “transactional” data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA’s own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge’s approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA’s enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called “black programs” whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

An NSA spokeswoman stated that the Agency “strictly follows laws and regulations designed to preserve every American’s privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” If you find comfort in that statement, consider this description of how the Agency uses its expanded domestic surveillance authority to pursue leads:

If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city — for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans –the government’s spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city. The haul can include records of phone calls, email headers and destinations, data on financial transactions and records of Internet browsing. The system also would collect information about other people, including those in the U.S., who communicated with people in Detroit.

The information collected “doesn’t generally include the contents of conversations or emails.” Generally. That’s a word we lawyers use to say “most of the time we don’t, unless we do.” Even without such content the NSA can identify the parties to phone calls and emails, their locations, and their cell phone numbers. The telecoms enable the NSA’s efforts either by copying all data through their switches to share with the NSA, or by ceding control to the NSA over the switches. The White House is pushing a bill that would immunize the telecoms from liability for privacy claims arising from this data collection. The NSA domestic surveillance program includes elements of and technology from the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness initiative that Congress defunded in 2003 following criticism of TIA’s potential for civil rights abuses. Before it was killed the Pentagon renamed TIA to Terrorist Information Awareness to make it seem less creepy. Now the NSA is implementing TIA through its “black budget,” beyond effective non-NSA scrutiny.

The Journal story reminded me of a recent Wired column by the always-prescient Bruce Schneier: What Our Top Spy Doesn’t Get: Security and Privacy Aren’t Opposites. Schneir’s column focuses on a proposal from National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell to monitor all–“that’s right, all–” Internet communications:

In order for cyberspace to be policed, internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. “Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation,” he said. Giorgio warned me, “We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'”

This states it as baldly as one can. This administration’s top intelligence personnel consider every increase in security to require a corresponding decrease in privacy. As Scheier states “I’m sure they have that saying in their business. And it’s precisely why, when people in their business are in charge of government, it becomes a police state.” Scheier says privacy versus security is a false dichotomy, that the true dichotomy is between liberty and control–and that “liberty requires both security and privacy.”

The Sun Always Shines . . .

. . . when you are a summer associate. Last week I was comparing notes about our legal careers with an acquaintance. We met when we overlapped briefly at a large Boston firm–I was on my out the door to become general counsel with a real estate development company, he had just come in as a lateral from another Boston firm. He stayed for about five years, went into private practice, and is now very happy as general counsel for a travel-services company. Our reasons for leaving BigLaw were similarly family-driven. As he said “I got to see all of my kids’ school plays, coach their baseball and basketball teams, and be part of their lives.” I thought of this conversation and our mutual gimlet-eyed view of the BigLaw experience when I read this lead paragraph from Legal Blog Watch:

Summer associates gave their firms overall good reviews in The American Lawyer’s 2007 Summer Associates Survey, and why shouldn’t they? After all, what’s not to like? Some found exotic adventures abroad, with one traveling four-and-a-half hours by horseback across the Egyptian desert and another put up in a fancy apartment in Paris. Others were treated to skyboxes at baseball games, cooking classes, musicals, symphony concerts, whitewater rafting trips and scavenger hunts. In New York, there was Kobe beef and Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art, while in San Francisco there was helicoptering under the Golden Gate Bridge and debauchery at Half Moon Bay. All that and a paycheck of nearly $3,000 a week.

I’ll put it like this. None of our recollections of BigLaw life involved Paris apartments, camel rides, or helicopter rides below or above the Golden Gate Bridge. And the debauchery did not occur at Half Moon Bay.

Random Articles

As the blog train begins powering up for the fall, a few news articles have caught my wandering attention:

  • 100,000 Gone Since 2001 (Bob Herbert, The New York Times 14-Aug-07) 100,000 people have been murdered in the U.S. since 9/11. “No heightening of consciousness has accompanied this slaughter, which had nothing to do with terrorism. The news media and most politicians have hardly bothered to notice. At the same time that we’re diligently confiscating water and toothpaste from air travelers, we’re handing over guns and bullets by the trainload to yahoos bent on blowing others into eternity in armed robberies, drug-dealing, gang violence, domestic assaults and other criminal acts.”
  • A New York Times article about former Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona, recounting how the Bush administration muzzled Carmona and politicized the post, quotes Carmona as saying “I increasingly witnessed a government that was more and more using theology and ideology to drive its policies and its people — stem cells, abortion, Plan B, the war and many more . . . Our go-it-alone so-called cowboy diplomacy has in fact isolated us from the world more than ever in our history.” The story is consistent with this administration’s promotion of cronyism, political loyalty, and ideological purity over competence, expertise, and fact-based analysis.
  • A Grass Roots Effort to Grow Old at Home discusses the movement to foster aging in place (a term which always makes me think of “ripening”) by delivering social, medical, and support services to elders in their homes. I read the article to be certain it credits Beacon Hill Village for its leadership role in this movement; it does. The executive director of Beacon Hill Village is a good friend and I’m pleased to see this non-profit acknowledged for its pioneering efforts.
  • Last, Who Owns the Concept if No One Signs the Papers? discusses an issue that students raise frequently: how can I prevent others from copying my great idea? The quick-and-dirty answer is this: you cannot protect ideas. You can protect the particular manifestation or expression of an idea through a patent, copyright, or trade secret, whichever might apply. The article focuses on the dispute between Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of ConnectU, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins engaged Zuckergerg’s services as a coder to work on ConnectU, their Harvard University-based social network site. They claim Zuckerberg copied their sites program code and business plan to start Facebook and want Facebook’s assets turned over to them. The Winklevoss twins never paid Zuckerberg for his services, promising him to pay him later if they made money, and apparently never asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Jason Pontin, the article’s author, states “I suspect that Facebook would not exist had it not been for ConnectU” but nevertheless concludes that ConnectU does not have a case against Zuckerberg.

Three Bike Tales

An Urgin’ for a Virgin

We expected to ride from Rexburg (motto: “If you aren’t Mormon, what are you doing here?”) through the Craters of the Moon, a hot dry landscape unfriendly for biking. Instead our route passed north through high desert dotted with sagebrush and scrub pine. Arid, but not too severe. The wind pushed us along at 22-27 miles an hour for most of the ride. When, after Howe, the road ascended past the Idaho National Laboratory and the wind turned against us we didn’t complain. Most of our ride was done. First impressions were not favorable—the words “desolate,” “depressing,”, and “straight from The Last Picture Show” were used—but Arco taught us to withhold judgment. The D-K Motel provided five rooms in a stand-alone building with a covered walkway, thick green lawn, and Internet access (see previous post), despite the indifferent-leaning-towards-hostile reception from the counter gal lunch at the “deli” (we’d call it a sub shop) was welcome after three days of PB&J, turkey & cheese, granola bars, potato chips, and Nilla Wafers, the teenage girl intently text-messaging on her cell phone while sitting astride her horse outside the deli was delightfully incongruous, and Arco’s shopping district yielded excellent presents for Mike W.’s birthday: a can of tuna fish, a jar of mayo (not Hellman’s—this is Idaho), a t-shirt proclaiming Arco’s status as the first nuclear-powered city (sure to be popular on the Martha’s Vineyard beaches), brownies, candles that spelled out his age (a nuclear assist might have been helpbul), and a garlic press. Why a garlic press? Why, indeed. Mike F. thought he was grabbing a can opener. Why a can opener? You know, for the tuna fish. Why tuna fish? Mike W. likes tuna fish.

The Arco highlight was dinner at the Melody Steakhouse (the sign also spells it “Mello-Dee”), separated by a plain wooden door from the Melody Club Lounge. Our noisy nine, showered, rested, refreshed, not clothed in Spandex, increased the Steakhouse’s dining population to 13. Amy, our waitress, started with drink orders. Mike F. said “I’ll have a Margarita.” “Margarita!” echoed four more voices. Bored with four nights of club soda and cranberry juice I said “I’ll have a virgin Margarita.” Amy stopped writing, shifted her weight, and screwed up her face as if sorry to convey unwanted news. Tilting her head towards the bar on the other side of the closed door she said “I don’t think any of ‘em over there are virgins.” While everyone else rolled on the floor I explained that by “virgin” I meant “without alcohol.” Amy still looked dubious–why make a margarita without alcohol? It’s like making bread without wheat. “I want the margarita mix and ice in a glass rimmed with salt. Everything but the alcohol. “Oh!” she brightened. “They can do that.” Even without their virginity.

After dinner a curious young guy wandered out from the bar, a cold longneck in hand, and answered our questions about Number Hill. The Bureau of Land Management has cracked down on the annual painting. Too bad. If Native Americans painted these numbers a thousand years ago archeologists and sociologists would travel from the four corners to study them. A thousand years from now they’ll attempt to puzzle out the meaning of the faded numbers above this long-abandoned town. The Da Vinci Code meets American Graffiti.

Stuck Inside of Challis With the Arco Blues Again

The route to Challis climbed through a narrow valley between new jagged-topped mountains that were cloaked below their peaks in soft scrub growth. They looked soft enough to pet, like they were girded with mauve (or is it taupe?) moleskin. We passed a sign reporting on a 1983 earthquake that raised the mountains’ peaks six inches and dropped the valley nine feet. Nine feet! Incredible. The road climbed out of the taupe-swathed (or is it mauve?) valley to descend through a switchbacked canyon out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Exiting the canyon we began a gradual descent into the Salmon River valley. It was a gorgeous ride topped by Challis–“Almost as nice as Ellis, but harder to spell!”–a small gem of a town nestled along the Salmon River in the gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains.

Or so we were told. Riding into town the words “desolate” and “depressing” again escaped our lips. The Village Inn Motel (motto: “Next Stop, Chapter 11!”) was tired, dark, and uncomfortable. The manager, affable and well-meaning, had arrived with his wife and daughter in Challis only a few days before. I asked if the rooms had Internet connections, not a crazy question when many small, inexpensive motels provide free wi-fi. “No, sorry, we don’t” he answered. “By the way, what is wi-fi? I’ve heard about it but don’t really know what it is.” After cleaning our bikes Mike F. and I reconnoitered for a dinner restaurant. The Village Inn’s manager himself said not to eat in the motel’s restaurant. The first open restaurant we passed had a “For Sale” sign. Another looked more suitable for a townies-versus-WYMPS bar fight. (In such event seven of us would hide behind either Bruce or Randy.) A drive hither and yon in Challis led to two entries on our list, a pizza place named Antonio’s and the Subway advertised on a dozen signs entering town. Unfortunately the Subway (a) is located inside the supermarket and (b) has not opened yet. I stopped an older couple in the supermarket aisle and asked if they could recommend a place for dinner. “Antonio’s” they said. As good as Zagats. We drove back to reserve a table for nine.

Antonio’s–salad bar lettuce floating in a bowl of brownish water notwithstanding–was surprisingly good. Last summer on my first WYMPS trip the first thing I learned—before learning never, never, ever to allow even a speck of jelly into the peanut butter jar—was that eating is as important as biking. The Mikes, Bruce, and Neal swap stories about bad meals they’ve eaten west to east and back again. Some of the stories I’ve heard so often I can recall how bad the meals were, even though I wasn’t there to eat them. We expected Antonio’s to enter the Annals of Bad Dining but it sucker-punched us with decent pastas and tasty pizzas. After dinner we drove to the dairy counter at the bowling alley for root beer floats, dipped cones, and shakes. No one bit on my half-hearted attempts to get us to bowl a few frames. We finished our desserts and returned to the motel.

Our advice: if you find yourself in Challis hit Antonio’s, hit the bowling alley, and then hit the road.

Ups and Downs

From Challis we drove to Sunbeam, unloaded the bikes from the vans, and began the beautiful ride along the Salmon River to Stanley and through the Sawtooths to Sun Valley. It’s hard to compare scenery, to rate the exotic drama of Yellowstone’s geyser basins and Firehole River against Idaho’s serene grass-swept valleys, lush farmland, impressive Warm River or Payette River canyons, or any other sight. We rode each day through spectacular, humbling beauty. One image to which I will return is the ranch land south of Stanley along the Salmon River to Galena Pass. I could have stayed there for weeks. I wanted to hike the foothills, fish the Salmon, explore Redfish Lake, and sit on my porch each morning to drink coffee and watch the sun rise and set over the Sawtooth Mountains.

Galena pass was a tough climb, ascending about 1,800 feet over five miles. We hit the climb about 12:30 PM in the heat of the day. Climbing it’s every man for himself, especially at altitude. You find a rhythm and stay with it, riding within your limits. It’s not a race. The goal is for everyone to make the ascent. We succeeded. Our reward was supposed to be about 30 miles downhill to Ketchum. Good in theory, not true in practice with a 15-20 mile (or greater?) wind in one’s face. The ride to Ketchum was a slog. We broke into multiple pace lines and traded riding lead, which means we all shared the misery. On one reasonably steep downhill I stopped pedaling, to see what would happen. I watched my speed drop from 15 miles per hour to 1.5, when I could no longer maintain balance and stopped. Wind stronger than the pull of gravity on a good downhill? That’s tough.

We slogged on, took our last driver changeover five miles out of Ketchum and, inspired by Peter’s intent to consume a frappe (a milk shake, to those not from the Northeast), we picked up the pace. Nearing Ketchum and the first cell-phone coverage in two days our mobiles woke with chirps, beeps, and rings. While riding Mike F. pulled the phone from his jersey pocket and spoke to his wife. After hanging up he rode next to me and said “Judy wants you to call. It’s not an emergency but you need to call as soon as you can.” This message translates as follows: It’s an emergency, but don’t make it worse by rushing and getting hurt. As soon as we hit Ketchum and located an ice-cream parlor (priorities are priorities) I listened to my messages: Uncle Ray, my father’s youngest brother, a sweet, wonderful man, had died after a long illness. I called Judy’s office number; no answer. I called her cell; no answer. I called home; Nate, my youngest, home after a month in North Carolina, answered. We chatted for a minute and I said I’d received the message about Raymond’s death. “That’s not why Mama was trying to call you” he said. “Grandma”–my mother–“died today. I’m sorry.”

My mother’s death was not a surprise but not expected this week, either. She was 91, in a nursing home, confined to a bed and wheelchair since breaking her hip three years ago, and seriously compromised by dementia. I visited her three days before this trip. She did not know who I was and could not speak. It’s painful to see one’s parent in that state. Driving home from that visit I called Judy and said “I don’t know how she is still alive.” In spite of everything her heart continued to beat. She seemed no closer or farther from death than on any other recent visit. Yet here it was. A life event at the tail end of the bike trip. You never know when reality will break into your reverie.

Facing Number Hill

I’m sitting in a plastic patio chair on the parking lot in front of the D-K Motel, across the road from Number Hill in Arco, Idaho, the first city in the world to receive (on July 17, 1955) nuclear-generated electric power. I’m sitting in the parking lot because the D-K Motel’s wireless Internet service does not extend to our motel rooms, and this is the first time we’ve had Internet access since Friday morning. “We” is the nine members of the 2007 edition of the WYMPS tour. Since Saturday morning we’ve biked round-trip from Colter Bay Village to the top of Togwotee Pass–35 miles one-way including an 18-mile climb, and if you think the 18 mile downhill return is easy you are wrong–, 65 miles from Colter Bay Village to Old Faithful, 90+ miles from Old Faithful to Rexburg, Idaho, and 85 miles from Rexburg to Arco, Idaho, the first city in the world to receive, etc. We’ve climbed and descended more than 12,500 feet of road and have the sore hamstrings and tight calves to prove it, drunk about 2 gallons/day each of water/Gatorade/grapefruit juice/V-8 (yucky in my opinion, but it takes all kinds), even more wine/beer/gin/club soda (I’m the permanent designated driver), eaten a number of very bad meals (the southwest chicken pizza at Brownstones in Idaho Falls was to die for-literally), attended the opening night of the Applebee’s restaurant in Rexburg (operating under a provisional liquor license in the dry Mormon-dominated town, in one night our party helped the local Applebee’s achieve its alcohol sales budget for the month, even though it ran out of its one bottle of tequila before we arrived), taken a personal tour of the Yellowstone Geyser Basins with Ranger Mike (seeing first-hand the ridge where Harry Walker was eaten by the bear and the pool next to Castle Geyser where the young boy . . . never mind, it’s really gross), and seen some of the most spectacular country imaginable (samples here, here, and here). We’ve seen traffic stopped by a mama grizzly and her three cubs–a few weeks ago a jogger was mauled at 5:30 in the morning by a mama grizzly with three cubs behind Jackson Lake Lodge, a few miles from our digs at Colter Bay Village (the jogger survived)–and by a group of bison, including one stubborn old guy who stood in the middle of the road, just refusing to move. We’ve seen a herd of elk and a herd of bison, a bald eagle perched on a tree limb above the Firehole River and another circling a thousand feet up near Grand Teton, a flock of white pelicans, deer, two young moose swimming and gamboling across a lake and two more standing in a bog like moose ordered up from central casting, an antelope (John did, anyway), innumerable hawks, and muskrats. And prairie dogs. To protect from intense dry heat we’ve consumed mass quantities of sunblock (30 and 50 SPF), chapstick, and zinc oxide. We’ve done laundry once, about 15 minutes ago. We’ve avoided getting the jelly in the peanut butter (the one in-joke in this post). Two of our party saved two itinerant Belgian tandem bikers from [choose one] (a) a 40-mile uphill ride to Grant Village, (b) a night in the Yellowstone Park pokey, (c) another day without showers, or (d) the consequences of their own poor planning.

We are having fun. More to follow.