Rambling travelogs from a world traveler

Monday, February 27, 2012


Rikki Tikki Tavi

At the hole where he went in
Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
'Nag, come up and dance with death!'
Eye to eye and head to head,
(Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead:
(At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist
(Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah ! The hooded Deah has missed !
(Woe betide thee, Nag.) 

~ Rudyard Kipling

Gentle Readers and Loved Ones All,

Palau Penang is one of our nicest layovers.  It’s an island in Malaysia and the hotel sits directly on beach on the island’s northern shore.  It’s a lovely hotel with all the palm trees, swimming pools and other distractions one expects at a high end flesh pot establishment. Alerted to leave to fly back to Tokyo, I left the room in uniform, leather jacket draped over the handle of my PurdyNeat Roller Bag because it was much too warm to wear.  Down the lift, I turned the corner to enter the wonderful breezeway lobby that opens onto the pool and the beach.  I was mentally reviewing my ‘incidental expenses’ as I turned towards the checkout desk and…..


In the tiled and beautifully decorated lobby there was large crowd of hotel guests clearing an open ring in the middle of the tiled floor.  On the floor, crawling towards a particularly cute, blued eyed, blond haired eight year old Australian lass was a large cobra, hood expanded.  We are not talking about your ho-hum run of the mill lobby cobra here.  This was a Harry Potterian nightmare Nagini of a Basilisk of a cobra complete with flicking tongue.   It filled the room and commanded the totality of my attention.

Nature has fitted us with an involuntary ‘fight or flight’ response to the perception of danger.  In much less time that it will take my meager skills to relate, my reptilian hind-brain ran through the menu of possible responses.  Since I was not in possession of a large bore shotgun; nor even a large bladed weapon, preferable a long handled, sharpened, garden hoe; nor even a mere bludgeon; the check-mark went next to the ‘flight’ option.  As various sphincter muscles began to loosen in my nether regions, I turned to effect my escape. 

Gentle Reader, I am trained in how to respond to airborne emergencies.  Worse, once upon a time, I was responsible for training young budding airmen in those same skills.  It causes me great embarrassment to tell you that those skills totally abandoned me in my initial response to this situation.  I gave no thought to rescuing the young lady.

In any case, as I turned to run like a screaming moron, my upper level brain functions began to return.  I reflected that no one in the crowd of people looking at the snake bearing down on the young lady seemed to be displaying concern.  Further, there was a fellow reaching out with studied and casual abandon to grab the snake by the tail. 

I halted my flight and turned back to look.  Yup.  A Malaysian fellow had the now somewhat diminished appearing cobra by the tail and was pulling it back.  My heart still pounding, I watched as the fellow established the total attention of the snake. As I stood dumbfounded the fellow slowly reached out and smooched the serpent on the lips.  The crowd applauded.

As I regained control of the involuntary functions of my body, it struck me that I was watching a hotel sponsored snake show.  Looking around, there was another fellow behind the snake charmer charged with guarding the basket that contained the Boa Constrictor.  As the show proceeded, the young blonde previously mentioned was recruited to come up to stage center.  The snake charmer draped the ‘Bone Constrictor’ - as my daughter used to call them in her youth – around her slender shoulders to the delight of the crowd. 

This was the climax of the show, the tip jar was circulated and the crowd broke up. I paid my bill and checked out.

Since then I have found this video.  It appears to be same fellow.  Those of you bothered by snakes may wish to avoid viewing this video.

I also discovered that I took these photos.

The quality of the photography reflects my mental state.

On that note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff

* Gentle readers who know me well - such as my beloved wife - will know that my exclamation was much more scatological and deifically anathematic.  Please allow me my fiction. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yoopers Yet Again

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings,
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.  

Gordon Lightfoot, 

Gentle Readers and Loved Ones,

This week, Ann, Jaybo and I returned to the UP on another Yooper snowmobile trip.

Like the glaciers 10,000 years ago, the snow is receding from our frozen tundra. The days get longer, the sun gets higher and the thin snow is either melting or gone.  Drought conditions remain and if you want to ride your sled, "ya gotta go where da snow is". So like thousands of other sledders, we loaded up the truck, trailered up the the sleds and returned to the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Like Jack Kerouac On the Road, we left with no specific destination in mind.

We drove until it looked like the snow was good enough to ride.  We found that happy condition just inside the Michigan state line in Ironwood, MI, just after dark.  Finding an AmericInn that let Velvet stay and directly connecting to the snowmobile trail just behind it was a happy thing.  The 'free' breakfast was a bonus. 

After breakfast, Jaybo and I rode east through Bessemer and Wakefield to the Lake Gogebic Lodge, the designated rendezvous point with Ann, Velvet and the truck.  Ann beat us there and had a good time throwing a tennis ball out on the frozen lake for Velvet to exercise.  We had a nice lunch and asked the friendly wait-staff about snow conditions and "The Lake Gogebic Radar Run" posters on the wall.  The run is held on the lake just offshore from the lodge.  This year's winner set a respectable 118.7 mph pace on the 1000' plowed ice track on the surface of the lake.

After lunch we decided the next join up point would be Agate Falls.  We ran across Lake Gogebic and east on the straightest snowmobile trail in the world.  It is a retired railroad grade and runs straight as the cliched arrow for about 20 miles to the southeast.  This took us out of the snow band and the trails were getting worn, spotty and in some stretches snow free.  

Ann was waiting at Agate Falls.  The old railroad trestle bridge is now a snowmobile / bike bridge and is almost directly over the falls.  Very pretty view.  We parked the sleds and walked down the snow covered board walk to the overlook where we took these lousy pictures with our phones.

While researching Agate Falls, I learned that it is the FoxUP TV station WLUC's  "Seventh Wonder of the UP".  Intrigued at the notion of Seven Yooper Wonders, I searched more deeply.  The original article appears to have scrolled off of the intertubes - I found no complete canonical list of wonders....but on our last trip it appears we visited one of the others:  The Lake of the Clouds.  Later in this post I will tell you about another.

We continued east from Agate Falls hoping to find gas in Sidnaw.  Alas - no gas.  So we trailered up the sleds again and took off for the Twin Cities of Houghton and Hancock - a really pretty community with the Portage Lake Lift Bridge as the center piece.

Keweenaw Peninsula is very interesting geological feature.  It is cut in two by the Keweenaw Waterway.  Hancock - where we stayed - sits on the south shore of Copper Island while directly across the waterway is Houghton. We found the Bridgeview Cabins to stay in.  They are not fraudulently named...this was our view.

If you click the cabin link you see the main snowmobile trail right below our deck.  You could go anywhere on the island on that trail - and we did.

The next day Jaybo and took off to rendezvous with Ann and Velvet at Copper Harbor.  

We stopped at an intersection to let the groomer go by.  Groomers have the right of way....and they are big too.

The last 5 miles of this run was special. The trail runs right down the spine of Brockway Mountain - another Yooper Wonder.  The mountain is a hard ridge of volcanic rock that runs down the northern edge of Copper Island.  The geological link just above my bridge picture explains this.  Brockway Mountain Drive is a seasonal road that runs the ridge. This representation is from Google Earth.  You are looking west.

Google does not do the overlook justice.  The drop off is an imposing cliff.  Running off it on the ice and snow would be final.  Here is a picture of Jaybo from that overlook in the same direction.

Just past this overlook, the ridge road runs downhill to a hard hair pin turn that overlooks Copper Harbor.

We met Ann and Velvet in Copper Harbor and had a late lunch. 

I took Velvet out for exercise while Ann and Jaybo ran the sleds back up to the overlook so she could see the Ridge Road.  Then it was time for a return trip.  

We agreed to meet in Eagle Harbor to see the Eagle Harbor Light.  It was another nice place to give Velvet a walk.

Then we warmed up at the Eagle Harbor Inn.  The sun set during the ride home and we cruised along the trails lit by our headlights for the 30 mile run back to Hancock.

On that note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff