21 November 2012

In late September 2012, my buddy Mike and I headed out of Bellevue, Washington for Sun Valley, Idaho, with his pop-up camper in tow. We’d been planning the details of our annual fly fishing trip for weeks. Our most recent few trips were to Montana. This year was different. Our plan was to fish one day and night at Silver Creek and two days on the faster moving Big Wood River. Stoked to throw our fly lines into the pristine, clear waters, we left work early and got as far as Boise where we spent the night at Motel 6 and drove directly to Silver Creek the next morning. After leaving highway 84 at Mountain Home, we connected with highway 20 and drove east straight into the sun rising over the distant hills. Sunrise over highway 20 Sunrise over highway 20 This section of highway 20 runs east-west through a high desert landscape filled with farmland and sagebrush. The road is uncommonly straight which allows plenty of time to scan the thousands of acres of hay stubble for any forms of life or activity. It’s not uncommon to see deer, sheep, antelope and occasional farmhouses during stretch of highway. Highway 20 Heading east on highway 20 Highway 20 sunrise Antelope buck Antelope near the highway Antelope Running Nervous Antelope running once we stopped the SUV. After two plus hours of our second day of driving, we arrived at the Silver Creek Preserve, which is now part of the Nature Conservancy. Under a cloudless blue sky and warming temperatures, we rigged up and set out to test our fishing skills against the optimistic fishing report from Silver Creek Outfitters. Among their recommendations was to use size 20-22 Baetis, or small nymphs like the Zebra nymph. Switching between nymphs and the Baetis, we fished for several hours. We had some success catching smaller rainbow trout, but the monster browns eluded us. Silver Creek Visitor Center Silver Creek Panoramic Silver Creek Panoramic Blue Herron with rainbow trout Blue Herron with rainbow trout After fishing hard all morning and afternoon and covering a lot of water, we took a break to wait for dark. We wanted to fish Sullivan Lake (a shallow slough connected to Silver Creek) at night, under the full moon, casting wooly buggers, while anticipating a vicious strike with each strip of the fly line. Macallan"s A little Macallan"s to celebrate the day. As we stood casting and stripping in the thigh deep cold water, under the soothing white light cast by a full moon, we listened to the rhythm of thousands of crickets and frogs calling out, and to the flapping wings and honking of Canadian Geese circling above our heads looking for safe water to rest for the night. We had three huge fish strike hard, taking our flies into the air and spit them back out at us. Although we didn’t land any of these fish, the experience was unforgettable. You don’t go fishing to catch fish, you go fishing to fish. We pointed the Suburban north and headed out to find the Meadows RV Park just south of Ketchum. After setting up our portable chateau just before 11pm, instead of heading into Ketchum for dinner, we opted for homemade turkey sandwiches washed down with a cold beer. Friday morning we drove into Ketchum for coffee and breakfast before we hit the Big Wood River. We enjoyed a hot cup of drip and bagel at the local coffee shop, Java Coffee & Café. From there we walked over to the Lost River Outfitters fly shop to get some local expertise on fly selection and recommendations on river access. Yellow Lab Puppy
Yellow Lab Puppy at Lost River Outfitters

We drove north of Ketchum about five miles to the Fox Creek trailhead river access point. Again, enjoying great weather we started with a beaded Prince nymph and a tiny Zebra nymph tied on as a dropper. Fishing the pocket water, Mike quickly hooked up and landed two rainbows over 14 inches. After another hour of fishing, we headed south, parked at the Lake Creek trailhead river access and worked that water for only one small rainbow before heading to lunch. We ate at Grumpy’s, the local favorite. Fox Creek Entrance Fox Creek Entrance After lunch, we tried our luck under the bridge on highway 75 south of Ketchum. Although this water is fished hard and often due to its easy access, we landed three nice rainbows using small parachute Adams. From there we continued south to the Edgewater river access point. With no luck there, we decided to call it a day. For dinner, we drove back into Ketchum and met up with Leah, an old high school friend who had recently moved to the area with her family. We ate at the famous Pioneer “Pio” Saloon where we enjoyed a steak and huge Idaho baked potato. Afterwards, we strolled over to Whiskey Jacques, a favorite watering hole of the locals. To our good fortune, they were hosting a PAWS fundraiser with local music played by The Heaters. Randy and Leah Randy and Leah outside the Pioneer Saloon Saturday morning began with grilling up sausages, scrambled eggs and bagels as we streamed live coverage of the 2012 Ryder Cup (the RV park had free Wi-Fi!). After our fine dining, we headed back up to Fox Creek with the goal of repeating our success from the day before. As with most fishing situations, when you go back and try for the same result, it often disappoints. This was our case. Nothing happened at Fox Creek. From there it was time to take a couple of hours break from fishing to explore and photograph the surrounding area. We found a few places that framed the beautiful transformation of the leaves on the Aspens changing from summer green to fall yellow. Trail Creek and Mt Baldy Trail Creek and Mt Baldy Big Wood River Big Wood River and Mt Baldy Phantom Hill Phantom Hill north of Ketchum Backlit trees Backlit trees north of Ketchum Now it was time to try some mid-valley fishing. Landing at the Zinc Spur access point located half way between Hailey and Ketchum, we found a great run and hooked up eight rainbows within several hours. Again, we had success on the beaded Prince nymph and Zebra nymph dropper. Sadly, after another long day on the river, we came to the end of our fly fishing time. For our last evening in the area, we decided to take Leah up on her invitation to stay in her home (she had already left earlier in the day to return to the Pacific Northwest). We broke down the pop-up camper and got the Suburban organized so we could begin our long drive back to Bellevue bright and early the following Sunday morning. Then we cracked open a beer (or two), sprawled across comfortable couches and settled in to watch the WSU vs. Oregon game on the big screen. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

19 April 2011

R.I.P. Dad

Major Earl H. Falk, USMC (Retired)
My father passed away the morning of Monday, March 21st at the age of 87.  It was a sad day, but I'm comforted by the fact that he's no longer in pain.  He was born in Springwater, NY to Claude and Svea Falk who had recently immigrated from Sweden.  Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Tacoma, Washington where he was raised along with his younger siblings Arnold, Claude Jr. (Bud) and Eleanor.

A major in the USMC, he served his country in two wars (WWII and the Korean War).  After his 24-year career as a fighter pilot, he joined Aetna Insurance for another 20 years and then went on to found his own investigation firm.  Dad was an eternal optimist who turned strangers into friends within minutes and enjoyed traveling, golfing, skiing, handball, pickleball and a good book.  He served his community as member of the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club and a frequent volunteer at Northwest Harvest.

We're going to miss his charisma, his persistent smile and the light he shed on us all.

Back in Bellevue

Well we've settled back into our home in Bellevue.  Lots to do!  We've unpacked for the most part, but still have an assortment of art to hang on the walls and a tremendous amount of work to do outside in the yard.  We've shifted rooms.  Delaney's taken over the downstairs "apartment" so Randy's moved his man cave upstairs.  We no longer share an office, but we're across the hall from each other so close enough to stay in touch.  Tucker and Scout are thrilled to be back home.  Now if only the sun would shine.  Wettest spring in history here in the Pacific Northwest!

23 April 2010

It's nice in NICE, and even better in MONACO!

Last weekend we spent a fabulous three days on the French Riviera.  We traveled there and back on the TGV so our trip wasn't affected by the volcanic ash that closed airports throughout Europe.  Randy trained for months to compete in the 19th Annual International Semi-Marathon of Nice.   

Nice is the capital of the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) and the fifth largest city in France.  The area of today’s Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in the world, dating back approximately 400,000 years.

We arrived Saturday afternoon to a gorgeous, sunny day.  Tucker and Scout came along because they enjoyed Nice so much last summer and longed to return.  (Also because it was cheaper than having them go to the dog sitter.) Fortunately, they are the easiest traveling companions.  They sleep on our laps during the train ride and are well behaved (and welcome) in restaurants.

Saturday we picked up the registration materials and then set out to enjoy a delicious meal and fine wine at La Favola Risorante Italiano in the Cours Saleya neighborhood.  This part of Nice is always lively, with lots of restaurants, pubs, a flower market and open air stalls.

Sunday morning the race began at 9:30am.  Much of the route took place along the Promenade des Anglais parallel to the beach along the Mediterranean.  The dogs and I were poised at the halfway mark to take Randy's photo, but we missed him by a few minutes.  After a petit déjeuner pitstop, we ventured back and caught him coming in to cross the finish line.  He completed the 21.1KM run in 2 hours 6 minutes and 33 seconds.  It was a great accomplishment and cause for celebration.

After he showered, we took a 20 minute train ride to Monaco.  Monaco, the second smallest country in the world (Vatican City is the first), has a population of 34,000 and is just under 2 square kilometers in size.  The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco since 1297; Prince Albert II (son of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III) is the current head of state.

When we arrived, we were surprised to see lots of preparations underway for the 81st annual Monaco Grand Prix.   The Grand Prix is a Formula One race widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world.  The race is held on a narrow course laid out in the streets of Monaco, with many elevation changes and tight corners as well as a tunnel, making it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One.  It is a dangerous place to race.  

As we walked along the streets, we saw grand stands for viewing erected in nearly every open space, and rolls of fencing erected in front of storefronts on both sides of the streets.  It was hard to imagine cars racing through these narrow streets at high speeds!

We spent some time in the Monaco-Ville area where the palace is located.  We went into the church where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier (and where each is now entombed) and strolled the palace garden and the narrow streets.  We couldn't go into the Oceanographic Museum, headed for 30 years by Jacques Cousteau, because they don't allow dogs.  Can you believe that!?

We ventured over to Monte Carlo on the opposite side of the main harbor, where the casinos and luxury hotels and shops are located.  Randy was happy to see all of the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and other exotic cars. We ended the evening with a meal on the harbor and then caught a late train back to Nice.

We spent our last day climbing the steep steps to the Parc du Chateau on top of the hill overlooking the harbor.  It has a huge waterfall, lit up at night and visible from the town and amazing views.

We packed a lot of sightseeing, feasting and fun into our three day adventure, and are blessed with many fond memories.

23 March 2010

Paul McCartney at Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy

Paul McCartney came to Paris December 9th and thanks to our good friends, Tammy and Gilles, we got to see him in concert.  The last time I saw Paul in concert was in Seattle in the late '70s when he and Wings played there.  I convinced Miles, my boyfriend at the time, to get to the Kingdome well in advance to ensure we had great seating.  

Growing up, my older brothers were big Beatles fans who had all of their albums playing all the time.  From Meet the Beatles, to Rubber Soul, A Hard Day's Night, Help and Revolver, we knew every word to every song.  I remember when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band came out and we begged my mom to buy it for us.  She thought the album cover was clever, so she caved.  I remember when she made my brother Greg take me and my little brother Eric to see the movie Help.  He was so bummed that we came along with him and his friends.  We had a hard time following the plot (didn't everyone?), but it was still a thrill.  As I recall, there was the Beach Boys camp (YUCK!), the Rolling Stones camp, and the Beatles.  I still think the Beatles were the front runners for talent.  

Paul McCartney is 67 years old!  Still, he gave a phenomenal performance to the crowd's delight.  He did touching tributes to both John and George, each uniquely special.  He charmed the crowd by trying to speak French.

He may be father to a 6 year old, and grandfather to four, but he's as talented as ever.  He had amazing stamina and thrilled us with two encores. 

Here's his setlist:
Magical Mystery Tour
Drive My Car
Only Mama Knows
Flaming Pie
Got To Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady
The Long and Winding Road
(I Want To) Come Home
My Love
Here TOday
Dance Tonight
And I Love Her
Mrs. Vanderbilt
Eleanor Rigby
Band on the Run
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Sing the Changes
Back in the U.S.S.R
I've Got A Feeling
Paperback Writer
A Day in the Life / Give Peace a Chance
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Encore 1
Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
Get Back

Encore 2
Helter Skelter
Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
The End

18 March 2010

R.I.P. Reilly

As I scurry about my day-to-day life, it's easy to be mired down by the challenge of the hour. Honestly, I've never before experienced a time like this where the highs and the lows come at me rapid fire like aliens in a video game. Many days it's a struggle to keep everything in context. Like all of us, there is usually something that comes along to jolt us out of our stupor. For me, it was learning that an old friend had died from colon cancer at age 49.

Reilly and I worked together in Seattle at Rainier Bank. Actually, I was his supervisor, but we were the same age and went to school together at the University of Washington. His fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, was next door to my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.

Reilly was one of the more interesting people I've met in my life. Scathingly intelligent. Curious about everything. Thoughtful. Introspective. Funny.

By day we were college students in the Greek system, drinking beer, writing papers, drinking beer, studying for exams, drinking beer, chilling between classes, attending football games, hanging out at exchanges, and drinking beer. By night, we worked as VISA card collectors, calling people to encourage them to make payments on their past due accounts. The art of persuasion. We cajoled. We begged. We were evaluated based on our results and the team was quite competitive.

At our relatively young ages, the experience gave us a unique opportunity to peer into the gritty reality of people living off of credit cards, dealing with unemployment, divorce, illness and misfortune. During breaks we'd share stories about the crazy excuses people gave, or the sad stories we'd hear about why customers had fallen behind on their payments. It was like a sociology or psychology class. Reilly always seemed to be more sensitive to the hardship people were enduring.

After we graduated, I lost touch with Reilly. I'd hear about him occasionally from friends. He went on to attend law school at the University of San Diego. He was a partner and trial attorney, litigating , writing and speaking on habitability, personal injury, employment and business claims. He married and had three daughters. Reilly was a life-long athlete, excelling at track and field, baseball, skiing, golf, tennis and was coach to his daughters' soccer and baseball teams. A gifted musician, he performed in bands as guitarist and lyricist and produced and recorded four CDs of original music.

It's been roughly 25 years since I last spoke to Reilly, yet learning of his death hit me hard. There's no understanding why his life was cut short. He was a good soul. A quality person. I treasure the time I got to spend with him while he was here. His last gift to me is reminding me not to take one moment of life for granted. R.I.P. Reilly.

17 March 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

I got my Washington State Driver's License on the morning of my 16th birthday. My appointment was at 8am and my kind father drove me out to Renton to take the exam. By 10am, license in hand, he was driving me to Holy Names Academy, my all girls Catholic high school. On the way, I suggested it might be easier for me to drop him off at his office in downtown Seattle and then take the car up to Capitol Hill where my school was. I don't think I've heard him laugh that loud since.

Fast forward too many years for me to actually say here. We've been in living in Paris since December 2008. I was able to drive here with my Washington State license up until December 2009. At that magical moment, the deal was over. The French have decided that I can no longer drive unless I take driving lessons and pass their written and road exams. Crazed by the challenge of finding time in my busy schedule to learn French, study the Code de la Route - en Francais! - and then take these pitiful tests, I GOOGLED like mad looking for an out. There was none to be found.

My lovely car sits parked in the garage while I take the Metro and study at the Fehrenbach International Driving School in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris. For 1800 Euros (roughly $2500), I get private lessons in English and a crash course. After spending all day Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday with a tutor, and taking practice tests on the DVD they provided, I tagged along with a group of five students to some other remote suburb to take the written exam.

It's a sweet set up for English-speakers. After all of the paperwork is settled (and believe me, we're in France, so we're talking a lot of paperwork), we are given a device that looks like a remote control and assigned seating. No cheating! The French facilitator reads the questions on the screen in French, along with the possible answers, while the English interpreter, her back to the screen, repeats what she says in English. Each question is accompanied by a movie size photo of the situation we're being asked about. The main actors are the roads (auto routes, major / important roads, substitute roads, access controlled roads, etc.), tunnels, and overpasses, the lines on the roads (dashed, solid, blue, yellow, white, etc.) and the signs or "paneaux" we must interpret. Bit players include people, animals, wind socks, emergency vehicles, etc. The settings vary from city to town to village and from urban to rural.

Forty questions. Can miss only five. I missed seven. ARGH! It is rare for anyone to pass on the first try. I thought I was rare. Turns out I'm common.

My new friends and I stood in the parking lot going over which ones we thought we missed (they don't tell you). It's funny how quickly six strangers can bond over a common experience. One woman from Nigeria passed on her first try. She studied and studied. She read the book over and over. At the school before the test, she was a mess. She said she couldn't sleep. She was hilarious.

I'm hoping to go back and pass it on the second try. I know why I missed five of the seven. It's funny how something I thought was going to be a thorn in my side has turned out to be just another one of life's interesting challenges. And along the way, I've met an eclectic group of people - including my private tutor whose other job is Marc Jacobs' personal chef in Paris - who have made my life richer. LUCKY ME!