Summer Reading Selections and Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed Retires

You’ve been wondering where I’ve been as you wander aimlessly through the shelves of the library or scan the books recommend to you by Amazon based on your purchasing history or peruse the book table at Costco before going to buy the items on your list.   Perhaps you’ve reread the Wild About Books blogs and caught up on your reading.  Or maybe you’ve noticed the new tab on the website that lists all of the Wild About Books books in one convenient location.

Now it is summer.  Time to take that cold beverage and a good book to the deck, to the beach, on the river or in the air-conditioned living room on the recliner.  Either way, it’s time for some reading material from your favorite source.

Here’s the summer list in no particular order.

1.  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  A memoir of Comedy Central’s Daily Show host Trevor Noah who was born and raised in South Africa.  There are some slow parts, but you should persevere through them and enjoy the crazy ending.

2.  Ordinary Grace By William Kent Kruger.  A novel that is a page turner, each chapter leaving you saying “one more chapter then I’ll go to bed”.  Lots of good characters and a few murders to be solved.

3.  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  A truly brilliant novel whose characters will still be in your life long after you’ve finished the book.

4.  News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  A quick easy novel and an unusual plot.

5.  Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher The Epic and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan.  A true story of turn of the 19th-century photographer Edward Curtis and his attempts at creating an encyclopedia of every American Indian Tribe.

6.  LaRose by Louise Erdrich.  A novel full of intertwined characters and American Indian dreams and spirits.

7.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I highly recommend it.  I read this before the birth of Wild About Books and have never had a chance to recommend it.  It’s a book that you should add to your “books to read before you die” list.

That should get you through the summer and then some.

So…..who is Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed and why is she retiring?

Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed: A very short story.

Many years ago, before cell phones and candy crush, there lived a mountain bike princess.  She traveled to far away lands crossing borders with her passport tucked into the leg of her spandex bike shorts, hauling her camping gear loaded in a bike trailer, riding with friends through relationship and child rearing debacles.  All of the mountain bike princesses adventures were upon her trustee companion Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed.  A small Giant.  A full suspension mountain bike.  A partner in adventure, riding perfectly positioned between her legs for miles and miles, climbing and descending tens of thousands of feet in elevation.

Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed is seventeen years old, which is ninety-four in bike years.  Bicycle technology has moved at an alarming pace, but Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed has held her own. She had to have her pedals upgraded twice, her chain replaced multiple times, her saddle traded for a cushier model, bar ends added and an unaccountable number of tubes installed.  She should have been replaced many years ago, but the mountain bike princess could not bring herself to part with her old friend.

There was the ten day bike tour on the Continental Divide Trail, in which Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed and the mountain bike princess won the award for successfully leading five men and one woman through the heart of grizzly bear country while menstruating.

There was the time while riding Coyote Coulee, Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed misjudged the spacing between a rock and a tree root while climbing on a side hill and they both went over, head first, down the side of the mountain.  When they finally came to a stop the mountain bike princess had come off of the bike but her shoes were still clipped to the pedals of Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed.

On another ride, the mountain bike princess and Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed were with friends riding Overwhich falls.  After several hours of joyously riding on the single track, they realized that they had no idea where they were.  Luckily, they ran into a hunter and asked him to show them on their map where they were.  The hunter said he was from Pennsylvania and all he knew was that they were in Idaho, which was more than the cyclist knew, as they thought they were still in Montana.  It was dinner time and the tired cyclists were in the wrong state.  The hunter gave them his headlamp and a flannel shirt and pointed them in the direction that he had come from as he headed back to his camp.  The three bike riders split an orange for dinner and headed out on another trail.  It was too dark to ride so they walked the bikes, wading through creek crossings as the night got darker.  Around 9:00 they found themselves on highway 93 just north of Gibbonsville, basically in the middle of nowhere.  Eventually, they flagged down a camper who didn’t have room for them and their bikes.  He took their phone numbers and promised to call for someone to come get them.  He called the sheriff’s office and gave their phone numbers to the sheriff.  The Idaho sheriff called the Montana sheriff and by midnight, as they sat by a fire warming their cold wet feet, help arrived and they were driven home four abreast in the front seat of a pick-up truck.  Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed was not happy about being beaten up by rocks and drug through cold creeks and then thrown into the back of the pickup truck banging against the other bikes, but she was not one to complain.

Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed is still around, she’s even been loaned out and is going to Bend, Oregon next week.  But she has been replaced.  Replaced by Chipsyn.

Chipsyn is a small Salsa.  A full suspension mountain bike with 27.5-inch tires, disc brakes and she’s a single track whore.  Riding up the road and then down the trail is not an option, she wants to ride up the trail as well.  She heads towards rocks and rolls up and over.  She has confidence and finesse and a lack of fear.  Where Mrs. Ecstasy Cubed would freak out and pitch the mountain bike princess cleanly down a mountain, Chipsyn smoothly executes each obstacle as the true professional that she is.  She’s mature and smart and takes the mountain bike princess to the next level.  It was time.





March 2017 Book of the Month

This book is a must read.  It’s an eye-opening experience.

I was listening to an NPR Politics podcast on a walk one day.  It was the listener question episode and one of the questions was; ‘how do we reconcile the political split in our country?’

The podcast host answered; ‘we have to mingle, intermarry.’  You are more likely to marry someone of a different race or religion than to marry someone with opposing political views.  And there’s where the problem lies.  We congregate with like minded people.  We are facebook friends with people with similar views.  We even read books that lean towards our way of thinking.  Remember in one Wild About Books post in which I was reading a book to learn more and understand Mormons, yet the book I choose was about a family who ended up leaving the religion.  “Unveiling Grace”, super good book, but a book to confirm my already set thoughts on the Mormon faith.  Or, another example, I read books that confirm my belief that a vegan diet is the healthiest diet.  I don’t read the books about paleo eating or books about ‘milk, it does a body good’.

We all do it.

That’s why traveling is such a good experience.  You get to see that most people in the world just want to raise their babies in a safe environment with clean water and nutritious food and be happy.  The end.

The book of the month for March 2017 is “Stranger in Their Own Land; Anger and Mourning on the American Right” by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

“In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets—among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident—people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream—and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?”

The author unveils a way of American thinking that is unknown to me as I live ip1010151n my bubble of like-minded individuals.

This is why we read.  Reading perpetuates empathy and as my Canadian guide on a boat in Mexico said last week; ” We have to love everyone, that’s the best thing we can do.”

January 2017 Book of the Month

January 2017 Book of the Month

When I was in fourth grade I asked my mom how many other black presidents have we had.

She looked at me funny and said that we’ve never had a black president.

And I looked at her funny and asked what about Monroe?

When I was five I went to kindergarten two days a week at the Christ United Methodist Church.  This was before there was public school kindergarten.  We had a janitor who was a big black man and his name was Monroe.

From kindergarten to fourth grade I thought that president Monroe was a black man as well.  This story makes logical sense that a five-year-old would come to this conclusion.  At the same time, this story is amazing that my mom had raised me in the 60’s and 70’s in the south to assume that we could possibly have had a black man as a president.  She raised me to believe that black people are not “black” people, they are “people”.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book recommendation.  Not that I haven’t been reading (and writing; working on my novel).  I’ve read “The Color of Water”  and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”.  Both great books.  Both memoirs of survivors of life.  I recommend these books.

The pick for the January 2017 book of the month I found on Michelle Obama’s recommended book list.  Her list includes “Life of Pi” (which is also on Barack Obama’s list), “Goodnight Moon”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Song of Soloman” and the book that we will be reading “The Light of the World”.  41vw6kgvyql-_sx327_bo1204203200_

Clearly, I’m on a memoir kick.  This book is written by a poet and it reads like poetry.  Precision with every word, no fluff or unnecessary adverbs.  A  poetic memoir of a woman, her husband, and two children.  No spoiler’s in that description.  Take my word for it, I haven’t let you down yet and if both Michelle Obama and I recommend a book, you can’t go wrong.

If you recall, our August book of the month was actually two books, one from Hillary Clinton’s recommended book list and one from Donald Trump’s recommended book list.  Books that we read at the same time, or in close proximity.  I was hoping to do the same thing this month.  A book from First Lady Michelle Obama’s recommended reading list and a book from the new First Lady Melania Trump’s recommended reading list.  I searched and searched for a Melania Trump list and all I could find were books about Melania, but none recommended by Melania.  I tried to research what hobbies she has and the only thing I could find listed under hobbies was raising her and Donald Trump’s son.

It’s ok,  we will read Michelle’s book only.  Michelle Obama; a beautiful, smart, funny, loving, caring person.  I don’t think we could have asked for a more perfect first lady.  I was proud to have her as a representative of our country.

The lunch ladies at my school were not too happy with Michelle Obama and her input and changes in our school foods program.  They called her bad names and said our kids were starving with the newly imposed chicken nugget limits.  Now, our school foods program offers quinoa, kale, winter squash, and lintels.  No one complains.  And they eat it.  The menu includes new healthy items and cooking from scratch, all while creating something tasty for the kids and staff.  Thank you, Michelle.  We will miss you.

I went to the Darby Community Public Library yesterday.  I was looking for books to help me with the transition taking place today January 20, 2017, inauguration day.  I am reading the book of the month along with these three books that I checked out from the library.  “The Righteous Mind Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathon Haidt, “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris and “Between the World and Me”  by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I’m reading them simultaneously.  I didn’t go into the library looking for these books, they found me.  All three have great reviews.  Look into them if you are in need of something to help you through the day.

For more great book recommendations and to see the blog that includes my letter to President Obama and my letter from President Obama check out the Wild About Books .

November 2016 Book of the Month

The book of the month for November 2016 is written by a friend of mine.  Jon Turk; one of the West Fork Hippies,  living on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. He’s a 70-year-old skier, mountain biker, kayaker, writer and extreme adventurer residing in Darby, Montana, and wintering in Fernie, B.C.   His newest book came out in September and I’ve just started reading it.  My sister was in town when we went to his book reading in Hamilton at Chapter One bookstore. Meg bought two books, one for me and one for her and we had Jon autograph them.  I had to wait for Brett to finish our copy and I believe that this wait was one of those universe controlling events that will make you believe that there is a plan and life is not just random happenings.

Reading this book after the presidential election was the way my life was meant to play out.  I’ve always believed that books seek you out depending on what you are in need of at the time.  If you start a book and it’s not doing anything for you, put it down.  You and that book are not in need of each other.  You will know when you are reading a book at the right time; you can’t put it down.  Life is too short to push yourself through a book.  I tried that with “Atlas Shrugged”, I should have quit after the first 50 pages.

The November 2016 Book of the Month is “Crocodiles and Ice” by Jon Turk.  An adventure book, a life book, a plea for compassion for the earth book.  download

I’ve been to several speaking engagements of Jon’s and he always recites a quote from an elder woman he met in Siberia named Marina.

“If you lose the magic in your life, you lose your power”.

This quote always resonates through my soul and periodically re-emerges into my brain as I try to solve the relevance of this wisdom in my life.   What is the magic?  What is the power?

My sister often says that her goal is to make magic. As a yoga instructor and wellness coach, she is making magic by transforming people’s lives into something they didn’t think was possible.  I describe certain activities as magical.  Moonlight cross country skiing is magical.  All sound is absorbed in the snow so it’s quieter than quiet. The moonlight shining on the snow makes it appear as if you are skiing on fine diamonds.  Magical.  Mountain biking the single track trail on the north side of Lake Como is magical; it’s downhill on the way in and downhill on the way out. Magical.  So how does that magic give us power?

It’s not power like I can kick your ass power or I have more money than you power or more education than you power.

Boulder Falls

Boulder Falls

I believe that the magic is optimism and hope and that the power is having control in your life.   So, if you lose the optimism and hope in your life, you lose the sense of control.

Here’s a story to help explain my interpretation.

Several years ago, I drove to Eureka, Montana on a Friday afternoon to watch my son play a high school football game.  It’s a four and a half hour drive to Eureka, located on the Canadian border.  Nine hours of driving to watch a two-hour football game.  A game in which the Eureka team put in their third string due to the pounding they were handing the Darby Tigers. This is what I do.

As I arrived in Eureka, I stopped to top off my gas tank and go to the bathroom.  Then I headed to the high school and walked up to the ticket booth.  While I was waiting my turn to pay I put my hand in my pocket to pull out the cash I had brought for the night.  It was gone.  I checked the other pocket.  Checked my jacket pockets.  Attending this football game was already a challenge to my income and losing the cash was not helping one bit.  I went to the car.  Looked in the seat, checked the ground just outside the door.  I looked under the seats.  Then I back-tracked in my head where I had been.  I drove back to the gas station, walked up to the cashiers counter and said;

“I think I lost some cash in your bathroom a little while ago, it was like….eighty-six dollars….”

The cashier reached behind her, then put her hand out towards me and said,

“Nope….Ninety-two dollars,” as she handed me my money.

You see, I had the magic and the power.  I could have easily sulked and said, ‘well that money’s gone, nobody’s going to turn in all that cash’.  If I had said that, then I would have lost the magic and therefore lost the power.

“Now we run smack-dab-head-on into that fuzzy line between logic and magic, coincidence and synchronicity.  And ultimately, it’s not a matter of fact versus fiction; it’s about how you choose to view the world – or perhaps more appropriately – how you choose to feel or to communicate with the world around you.” 


The magic is believing that the events in your life will work out the way they are supposed to .  You have to believe it or you’ll get too cranky to be around. There’s no power in cranky.  There is no power with anger and hate.  The power comes with optimism and hope.

I had just started Jon’s book and  had to get up and grab a highlighter.  A highlighter worthy book.  Meaning you will review parts of the book or loan it out and want others to read deeper into  the bright yellow passages because they are that good.  Or…. you want to use these highlighted passages on your blog post.

“Humanity is in dire need of a ‘Consciousness Revolution’ before we can move into the 21st century with a reasonable hope of creating a peaceful, healthy and equitable world.” 

Jon’s style of writing is one of my favorites.  Pulling you in with exciting and life-threatening extreme adventures in remote corners of the world and then when you least expect it, a mix of philosophical input and scientific fact on the future of our earth and it’s custodians.

“Anyone who advocates ‘turning the clock back’ and reversing the course back to ‘the way it was’ belongs on the dismissible delusional fringe.”

Check out Jon Turk’s website for more books, future reading engagements and a link to his TEDx talk.  If you are in New York City on November 18th he’ll be at The Open Center on 30th and Madison at 7:00 pm.  Or if you just want to ride mountain bikes with the West Fork hippies, give me a call, I’ll hook you up.

You can find more great book recommendations and my own adventure writing at Wild About Books.

“If you lose the magic in your life, you lose your power”

October 2016 Book of the Month

I try not to recommend any more World War II books, but I have read another one that is a fabulous story and should be shared.

“The Book Thief”, “All the Light We Cannot See”, “Nightingale”; I recommend them all and now I can add to the list “City of Thieves” by David Benioff.  An amazing story of two young Russian misfits on an unusual mission that takes them on unthinkable and life-threatening adventures. city-of-thieves

You should have plenty of time for reading as you do not want to turn on your tv in these last weeks of political commercials.  I find it hard to believe that someone will watch a political commercial and exclaim;

“Oh! Wow.  I didn’t realize how horrible that candidate is, but according to this informative commercial I should not vote for them and I’m going to change my mind”

Do people do that?  Change their minds based on a commercial.  Maybe the commercials are just meant to justify the decision that has already been made and give people some educational dialog for the office copy room.  I am happy for the boost to our economy with all of this advertising.  The USPS employees and the trash collectors are super busy distributing and collecting the fancy fliers.  The marketing firms and tv stations must be doing well too.    And think of all the drinking games that have increased sales in alcoholic beverages during the debates.  Thanks for sharing the wealth and boosting our economy all you politicians.

My favorites are the commercials with the dark prison looking mug shots of the opponent that the commercials are attacking accompanied by the deep secretive voice.

In Montana, the happy non-attacking commercials always show the politicians fly fishing.  Fly fishing must make you a trustworthy person. But they are all fly fishing so it doesn’t help with your decision.  Assuming that is what you base your decision on.

For more great book recommendations check out the Wild About Books blog.




Canoeing the Missouri

Canoeing the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River for three days with eight high school students and one science teacher with 27 hours of unrelenting rain may not sound like your idea of a good time, but don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Yes, I was wearing three pairs of pants, three shirts including a wool sweater and raincoat.  I was wearing neoprene socks under my river sandals and an oilskin stetson hat.  img_0192

Canoeing in the rain is magical.  Sharing this magic with high school students is an added bonus.

It wasn’t easy.  The students persevered through rain, a headwind, and poor paddling techniques.  Mr. Olson and I were challenged to keep everyone warm and dry and trying with all our energy to keep their spirits up.  I knew it was a  successful trip when most of the students, although not all, were asking what our next trip would be.  They were feeling the magic. The magic of being outdoors, in nature, hearing nothing but silence or wind or rain or flocks of geese flying through the river corridor.  The magic of seeing an osprey fishing for breakfast, dive bombing his body into the river, pulling a fish out of the water with his talons and taking flight clinging onto his meal.  The magic of watching an adolescent bald eagle enticing his parents to come play.  And the magic of the group dynamics that is an unpredictable but inevitable result of spending time with a small group on an outdoor adventure; bonding with  people that you had never seen yourself connecting with otherwise.

The trip started with a long drive, a long drive even in Montana standards.  A drive to eastern Montana where the mountains are fewer and smaller, where the plains are vast and never ending, where Montana got the nickname “big sky country”, where the rivers are wide and lazy, and where the population is few and far between.  We drove past Great Falls towards Fort Benton where we had to stop at the canoe rental office for our paddles and life jackets.  The canoes were already at our boat launch.  We pulled into Fort Benton, parked the bus and started walking on Main Street looking for the address to the Adventure Bound Canoe Rentals and Shuttles assuming the business would be in the central location of the town with the other shops and stores.  We walked for ten blocks past the recreation center, past the historic sites, and into a neighborhood before we found the address which was a house marked with a paddle standing beside the mailbox.  The wife of this couple owned business set us up with our gear and told us that our canoes would be under the Russian Olive tree at Coal Banks Landing.  She asked us if we were aware of the weather coming in and questioned if we still wanted to follow through with our plans.  We told her we’d been planning this trip since May and a little rain wasn’t going to stop us now.

We drove another 30 miles towards Virgelle, Montana taking a long, dusty and washboardy dirt road to the campground at Coal Banks Landing.  We set up camp, had dinner and took pictures of the magnificent sunset.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn, my favorite time of the day.  I wanted to get an hour without the kids to enjoy my tea and watch the start of a new day.  Mr. Olson was already up and enjoying the morning on the front porch of the little visitor center where I joined him.  The bats were flying in and out of the porch roof, finishing off the last of the night bugs.  We watched as the river birds started waking up and were honking at whoever would listen.  I think they were telling all the other birds that there was a hellacious storm coming and that they all better get a move on.

We hated to break the spell of our morning, but we knew we had to make breakfast, pack the boats, teach the kids how to paddle a canoe, and try to do all of this before the rain started.  As soon as we started shoving the canoes into the river the rain started.  It slowed up a bit when we stopped for lunch, but mostly it rained the entire 20 miles of paddling that day.

The kids paired up at the start and stayed with their canoe partners most of the time.  Three times that first day Mr. Olson told one pair of girls to pull over and let us split up to help them as they were never canoeing down the river but back and forth more like a sail boat does when it’s sailing into the wind.  Every time he would tell them to pull over they would get mad and paddle harder and faster determined not to be the only canoe that would have to be rescued by the adults.  img_0190

We pulled into the Hole in the Wall campground around 4:00.  It was still raining.  We had stopped and collected firewood and even hauled it up to the camp, but the rain never let up enough to start a campfire.  There were two shelters at this campground.  We used one to store our stuff and set up our kitchen.  The other one the girls used to set up their tents.  One of the girls told me she was glad she would be able to put away a dry tent in the morning but she was going to miss the sound of the rain on her tent all night.  Everyone set up their tents and put on some warm dry clothes.  We heated up homemade chili and had a beautiful green salad.  Each pair of kids were assigned a meal that they had to plan, shop for, prepare and clean up from.  After dinner and cleaning up from dinner one of the kids asked what time it was.  Mr. Olson pulled up layers of clothing off of his wrist and said it was 6:00.  Guess we’ll go to bed they said.

It rained all night.  The next morning we packed everything in the rain.  The rain and cold had seeped into our bones making it harder to stay warm.  We all had on one more layer of clothes.  Paddling helped keep us warmer.  Our feet and hands were colder than the water temperature so we would periodically dip them into the water to make them feel warmer.  Several times we would group up, holding onto each other’s canoe’s and just let the river current pull us downstream.  As we grouped up  I started singing and dancing “Shake it up……. shake it up”.  One of the 15-year-old girls gave me the evil eye complete with death darts shooting towards my heart and said;

“Lisa……. those are not the words!”

I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t pushed these kids past their limit. But there was nothing we could do.  Couldn’t call her mom to come get her, couldn’t even pull over and hitch a ride.  All we could do is to keep paddling to the next campsite in the cold and rain.  It rained hard most of the morning.

We grouped up again and I said, “…let’s play Lewis and Clark;  I’ll be Sacajawea”.  One of the boy’s said he would be Clark and assigned Lewis to the other boy.

“Who’s going to be the baby”

“Me”, said one of the girls.  “I just want to do nothing and be held”

“What’s the baby’s name?” I asked.  “Who wants to be the dog.  Pompay?  Is that the baby’s name?”

“I’ll be the dog,” said Mr. Olson

“Great”, what’s the dog’s name?” I asked again.

Mr. Olson didn’t look up and quietly said “Seaman”

“SEAMAN!”  I yelled as one does when the answer was on the tip of your tongue but you couldn’t come up with it yourself.

We broke up the flotilla after that and paddled to lunch. The rain slowed to almost nothing as we finished our sandwiches.  Most of our lunch ended up on the ground as our shivering hands shook all of the insides out from between the bread.

The clouds were thick and high and the rain had stopped, which seemed to have given us hope and our canoes went faster.  An hour after lunch we found Slaughter River Campsite, our destination for the day.  Still shivering, we unloaded the canoes, set up our wet tents and made a campfire.  The heat from the fire warmed up more than our bodies, the heat thawed our attitudes and scowls on faces warmed into smiles and laughter.  Once our hands were able to work again we heated up water for hot tea and hot chocolates.

One of the students was so revived she announced that she was going to go for a walk up to to a rocky knob above the campsite.  I told her that Mr. Olson was talking about a walk as well and she should invite him to go with her.  The two of them headed out and the rest of us watched as they went higher and higher further and further away until they finally disappeared behind a ridge.  Last time I hiked with Mr. Olson, I lost both of my big toe toenails.  The time before that I lost both of my little toe toenails.  The guy never stops, you think he’ll stop to eat or drink or pee or maybe his shoe will come untied and he’ll have to stop to tie it.  But no.  He never stops, he goes and goes and goes and he goes fast.  We were all starting to feel bad that we had not warned the new member of our group that a walk with Mr. Olson was a far cry from a stroll in the park.

They finally came back from an opposite direction that they started in.  The student was talking non-stop about sinking up to her mid-calf in gumbo and about the sandstone that looked like solid rock but crumbled into your hands into sand, and the hidden canyons in the hillsides. We thought she was going to be angry about a never ending walk with Mr. Olson, instead, she wanted us to all go back with her so she could show us what they had explored.  Her enthusiasm was contagious and within five minutes we were ready to follow her and Mr. Olson.

There was sandstone climbing up to stone plateaus where yoga poses were photographed.  The boys ran across gumbo hillsides until there was no choice but to slide to the bottom.  I walked to the top of the ridge opposite where the students and Mr. Olson were.  I sat on top of the ridge and watched them below listening to their conversations that traveled up to me.  Watching them in this unscheduled, serendipitous event made me realize that this is what creates the adventure that you can not put on an itinerary or describe in a grant application.   To watch eight teenagers uninhibited, dirty and messy, helping each other up the rock faces, constantly asking Mr. Olson to “look at this” or “what is that?” is to capture the spirit of the adventure.

I know what some of you are thinking at this point.  “What is gumbo?”

Gumbo is what happens to concrete-like dirt after it rains in eastern Montana.  It turns into a combination of mud and quick sand and is slick as ice.  It sticks to your boots and then collects dried grass and you have to have help removing it from the bottom of your boot before it turns you boot into a high heel shoe.  If you’re trying to climb the side of a mountain that has turned to gumbo, you’ll never make it.  It’s like climbing a marble wall.  The gumbo dries onto your skin and is now a part of you like your fingernail.  And, as we would soon find out on our shuttle out, it is nearly impossible to drive on.

Just after I woke up and snapped some sunrise pictures a huge bank of fog rolled in blocking the sun from drying anything.  We made a fire and ate hot oatmeal then packed up all of our wet gear.  We had about a three-hour paddle today to our takeout where we were scheduled to meet the shuttle driver at noon.  Not only did it not rain, the sun finally burned off the fog and started to warm us up.  We also got to experience paddling into a headwind for the first time on the trip.  We were still making good progress, but you would have to look at the shore to see that you were actually moving down the river, the headwind made it feel like you were going nowhere.  My arms were shot from three days of paddling.

The kids drove me nuts always asking:

“What time is it?”

“River time”, I would reply.

“What time do we get up tomorrow?”

“When the sun comes up.”

“How much longer to our camp”

“Thirty-eight minutes”


“NO!……… How the heck should I know…………..  let’s enjoy the now.”

It’s not their fault.  We’ve raised them on pretty tight schedules and we don’t want to be late or miss something.  They need to be prepared for the next something as well.   It all works out in the end.  We told our shuttle driver that we would be at the take out at noon and we arrived at 11:58.  He was not there.

The kids unloaded the canoes, washed out the gumbo, and hauled them up the bank setting them upside down to dry.  We were just getting our lunch out when the shuttle driver, the husband of the couple owned rental and shuttle company showed up. He was late fifties, half bald half hair that would be better off bald, sporting a pot belly and double chin with a day old growth of hair.  I was going to throw the lunch back into the cooler, not wanting to hold him up, having quickly reverted right back into the world of schedules.  He told us to take our time and eat our lunch.  He said the road needed to dry if we were going to get out of there in a loaded van. He told us he’d blown a transmission driving in the gumbo the day before and had to have his customers rescued by a local rancher.  Local being a relative term due to the fact that eastern Montana ranches can be 125,000 acres in size.

The van ride out was an adventure itself.  The gumbo did prove to be challenging especially going up hills.  We were in an old 10 passenger van pulling a trailer with all of our gear and canoes.  If you stopped, you’d never get going again.  If a car came from the other direction you’d get stuck.  Forty-four miles until we hit a paved road near Big Sandy, Montana.  I told the shuttle driver that one of his canoes was broken.  He looked at me a bit surprised.  I explained that the canoe would only travel in a zig-zag fashion all the way down the river. He said he had had that problem before as two of the girls sunk into their seats in embarrassment.

The shuttle driver asked the kids if they wanted some music as he turned up the volume to the one radio station choice.

“It’s all girly music,” he said to me.

“I like girly music, makes me want to dance”

“Me too,” he said.

“Do you think they’ll play; ‘Shake it up, Shake it up’?”, as I sang and danced the question.

There was a scream from the back of the van.

“LISA! Get the words right”

“I have a thing for Taylor Swift”, said the shuttle driver, “but she’s too young for me”

“….and you’re married,”  I said.

“I dig Lady Gaga too.” he said as ‘Poker Face’ played on his radio.

“She’ll make ya wanna  dance.”

And we drove down the gumbo road sliding left and right, with the kids sleeping in the back and the beauty of the plains of eastern Montana slowly rolling by us, while the shuttle driver and I did the “driving in the car bobble head dance” to Lady Gaga.

More adventure stories and books of the month can be found at Wild About Books blog.  Click here.




August 2016 Books of the Month

Books of the month?



Books of the month.

In the spirit of the election climate, we are going to read a book from Hillary Clinton’s book list and a book from Donald Trump’s book list.  Together.  At the same time.  It should be fun.

I liked a facebook page called “Book Bub”, which gives you book ideas based on certain similarities or themes.  For example, yesterday’s post was titled “24 Books to Read Instead of Watching the Olympics”.  Some of the titles listed are John Updike’s “Brazil” and Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken”.    Another post was “Four Books Recommended by George Clooney”.  You get the idea or you can check it out for yourself too.  Here’s the link;  Book Bub

Several days ago the subject was “12 Books Recommended by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I’ve inserted the link in case you would like to see the entire list of books that they recommend.  A few from Donald Trump’s List are “All Quiet on the Western Front”  and “The Power of Positive Thinking”.

Hillary Clinton’s list includes Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”, which if you recall from a previous Wild About Books post is on my top 10 list as well.  She also includes “The Color Purple” and “Little Women”.

The books that I have chosen for us to read this month include one from Donald Trump’s list and one from Hillary Clinton’s list.  They are both memoirs and they are both by Chinese women.

Hillary Clinton’s book is “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang.  Clinton’s quote about this book selection;

“Set against the historical backdrop of imperialist China, the rise of Communism and, finally, Mao’s cultural revolution, Wild Swans is an inspiring tale of women who survived every kind of hardship, deprivation, and political upheaval with their humanity intact.

Donald Trump’s book is “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua. Trump’s quote about this book selection;

“I’ve read hundreds of books about China over the decades.”

Can reading from a presidential candidates book list help you decide who to vote for?

Yes!  Hell yes.  This is Wild About Books.  We know that what a person reads is who that person is.  You know that you have gotten to know me, the author of this blog, better because of the books I have read and recommended for you to read.

If you are still undecided about whom to vote for during this presidential election, perhaps reading these two book choices will help you with that decision.   And if you do know who you will be voting for, these books will possibly justify that decision.  Not just justify, but maybe make you excited for who you will be voting for or maybe even change your mind.

I recommend that you find out what your local politicians are reading in order to help you with your choices.  I’ve always wanted to add that question when I’m interviewing people for positions at work.

“What are you reading?”

Would that be an appropriate question in an interview?

One time I put a math question in an interview for a school foods manager.

“If a recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of salt and you are quadrupling the recipe; how much salt would you need?’

Interviewee’s answer; “you put the 1/8 teaspoon of salt in 4 times”.  Yep….that is not a wrong answer; indeed.

I digress.  This is not a Wild About Math blog.

I have started both of these books, but just barely.  I gave them a quick Wild About Books approval, but no guarantees.  We’ll see how it goes.  Feel free to endorse one book or the other.  Maybe we’ll vote in November about which book we enjoyed more.

More great reading suggestions can be found at Wild About Books blog.

Also, If you are looking for some comic relief I highly recommend this video.  It has nothing to do with anything; it’s just fun.

Click here.