Summer River Running

Morning with the moon on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with towering walls

Hi River fans,     

I ended up with more time on the water than in the office this summer which seemed to work out just fine, and only ended up with a few new scars for the effort. First was a week in Hood River, Oregon, and a few days with Monte, a dentist with a 42 foot sailboat and a passion for working in remote settings like islands in the South Pacific and is crazy enough to want to work in Antarctica as well. I sailed with him for a few afternoons on his boat with his partner, Acasia, and then shifted to some windsurfing for a high speed fix on the Columbia River for the rest of the week.     

Back in Colorado in early August I put in 4 days of work before joining 7 friends to raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for 18 days with our own equipment and no guides. Keith had gotten the coveted permit, and when he called me a few months ago to offer me to join the trip there was no way I could say no. He’s been 8 times before and the rest of the crew were well seasoned river rafters and rock climbers, so I was the least experienced of the group in both categories, which put me out of my comfort zone on an almost daily basis.      

It was an amazing trip of extremes like blistering hot weather over 105F most days contrasted with icy cold water released from the bottom of Lake Powell through the Glen Canyon dam. Spectacular scenery 24/7 of canyon walls thousands of feet above us on both sides, with numerous slot canyon hikes with water sculpted contoured walls within a few feet of each other. Beautiful camp sites of sandy beaches with biting flies and an occasional scorpion to keep you vigilant, plus fine sand and dirt on you and everything you brought along, with the opportunity to scrub yourself clean a few times from a half dozen pummeling waterfall hikes. And of course over 200 rapids along the 280 miles we covered that were at times both exhilarating and terrifying in their power to flip your boat and send you and your belongings for a tumbling ride. But no one flipped and we had only a few people tossed from their rafts for a few seconds before they were able to climb back aboard.       

We ate like kings and slept like babies under the stars, with only an occasional rain storm to make us put tents up as shelter. Overall an amazing place to experience with friends to go “off the grid” for a few weeks, since there’s no cell service or internet once you enter the canyon.     It’s good to be home for now and enjoy the comforts of a daily shower and a luxurious king sized bed. Hope your Labor Day weekend was pleasant.

Cheers,

River Rat Bob

Sailing on the Columbia River with Monte
Rowing our oar boat in calm waters
Running one of the rapids in our 15 foot rafts
Daily camping on a sandy beach with IMAX like scenery
Hike to a small waterfall with clean, clear water
Sketchy hike high above a slot canyon
Camping under the protection of a cavern eroded by the river
Napping in the shade of the massive Red Wall Cavern
Pool at the base of a canyon artistically worn by water over the centuries
A cleansing shower at the end of a hike
Keith prepares salmon on the grill for our first of many great meals on the river
A curious lizard paid us a visit
Phantom Ranch thermometer at 120F+
A slot canyon hike with narrowing walls and a stream of water at the base
Another side canyon hike with a shower reward at the end
Walls of granite with smooth slots worn by sandy water erosion

Alaska wrap-up

Hi foodie fans.     

My dental locums work ended yesterday after 4 weeks of working on interesting patients in a practice with a wonderful staff, and I think we all learned some new skills along the way. At the same time my last guests left earlier in the week following a seafood fest of home cooked dinners of salmon, king crab, halibut, shrimp and scallops with fresh picked berry cobbler for dessert. One afternoon a friend dropped off freshly caught salmon with her home baked sourdough bread, left in the kitchen while I was at work since the house is left unlocked as most places are in Sitka. The extra pounds from all this indulgence was balanced with hiking, biking , kayaking and Pickleball so no need for an additional notch on the belt yet.   

Randy and Gary from Colorado Springs enjoyed their visit and even saw a bear on one of their bike rides to add to their tales of Alaska. However  I couldn’t convince them to go to the Independence Day 11:30PM fireworks since that was when it was finally dark, but otherwise they took advantage of their “all inclusive” package at the house we all shared.      

An eagle on the shore feasting on salmon and jellyfish just below the surface of the water were unexpected sights on my kayak run after work a few nights ago, so there are still surprises when you head outdoors here. I’m heading back to Colorado tomorrow morning to enjoy some time at home and hope your summer is going well too.

Cheers,

Packed up Bob

Alaskan wildlife at our doorstep

Hi outdoor fans,     

Lauren and her boyfriend Zane departed last Tuesday after a fun filled week and I had just enough time to get the beds made for Rod and Cindys arrival that evening. The weather has cooperated enough to get out and enjoy the abundance of Alaska’s natural beauty in sunshine most days around my work schedule, and now I have a solid 3 days off to take advantage of the 20 hours of daylight.        

We’ve had some super meals from fresh eggs provided by the chickens on the side of the house to King Salmon that Rod caught yesterday from his 5 AM fishing excursion with Brandon the retired coast guard dental receptionist. Rod and I then hiked the epic 6 mile Harbor Mountain-Gavin trail in brilliant sunshine with panoramic views of spectacular scenery.    

To compliment my sore legs from the hike yesterday with sore arms we kayaked for a few hours this morning after Rod spotted humpback whales in the bay in front of the house. We were rewarded with getting fairly close to the leviathans as they lead us towards the open ocean. All that earned us a good afternoon nap and quiet evening at home before tomorrow’s 4th of July activities in town.  

Cheers.   

Whale watching Bob

Alaska Gig

Hi Summer Solstice fans,   

A few months ago a dentist in Sitka, Alaska contacted me and asked if I would consider keeping his office open while he went on vacation for a month with his family to his favorite fishing cabin in a remote part of the state. He said he’d fly me up, I could live in his house facing a beautiful bay and he’d pay me to work in his office. As you can imagine it didn’t take me long to say “of course” and last week I flew to Sitka to start my working vacation.      

Ross the dentist and I had a few days of overlap to help me orient to a new setting and then he left me on my own as he and his wife, 2 kids and an energetic dog flew out to Bristol Bay. His staff is wonderful, the house comes with bikes and kayaks and a killer view with bald eagles flying around and I’ve already played pickleball a few times with the locals.    

  Lauren and her partner Zane arrived a few days ago as the first of three sets of guests that have planned to visit, and thanks to my mom, who considers herself to be a good weather witch, we’ve had some glorious sunny days to get out and about in the stunning scenery.  Zane and I kayaked yesterday in search of whales, but settled for just a nice afternoon on the water without encountering any spouting behemoths, but we may have better luck tomorrow with a boat ride offered by the dental receptionist who is a retired coast guard fellow. It’s been a great start to the summer and hope yours is going well too.

Cheers,

Back to Alaska Bob 

Home at last!

Walking around Christchurch and finding our peeps

Yo homies,
        On the second day of the citywide lockdown of Auckland, much to our relief, they let our plane fly out, (or maybe they threw us out) and sent us back to the US. Since I have a United Airlines credit card, it comes with a few United Club lounge passes that I rarely get to use, but figured it would be a good place to hang out in the Los Angeles airport for my 6 hour layover. I found the lounge and settled in with the meager pickings of an apple, some dried fruit and juice. The place was all but deserted, but a lady who reminded me of one of our managed isolation guards came over to admonish me to wear a mask while I was in the lounge. I looked up and told her I would put my mask back on as soon as I was done eating, but she instructed me that the policy was even if I was eating that it was necessary to wear a mask in between bites! I then asked if it was necessary to put it on between breathes as well, at which point she realized I was one of those non-compliant types and that I would have to leave if I did not follow her directives. So I finished my snack and left the lounge to spend the rest of the time in the terminal with the unwashed masses. I then filed a complaint at the customer service desk, knowing that she would probably be rewarded for getting rid of another trouble maker that was not helping the airline return to profitability.
     The last flight to Denver was uneventful except when the pilot announced it was zero degrees outside and we should be prepared for extreme conditions on the ground. That brought a laugh from two guys in my group since they were in shorts and a few weeks ago we were at the South Pole and it was -60F.
    I stayed with my buddy Ron that night and he graciously drove me home to Colorado Springs the next morning. I’ve been home a few days now and it’s been a wonderful return to all the comforts. I got a call the next day to get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and since I had a few weeks off but was unable to travel the next best thing the day after was prostate surgery to deal with an ongoing benign condition. It’s a right of passage if you’re male and live long enough to experience an enlarging prostate, so the post surgical catheter has been an interesting experience. Hopefully that will end tomorrow and I can enjoy a few weeks of relaxation before returning to work.
    Hope your heat and hot water are running smoothly.
Cheers,
    Catheter Bob

Christchurch Botanical gardens gum tree

Auckland lockdown!

Kaikoura whale adventure and sperm whale tooth

Hi travel hounds,
     After 2 days of traveling around Christchurch with no restrictions, the  hammer came down last night after we arrived in Auckland in hopes of boarding our flight to Los Angeles.  All the mobile phones of the airport workers went off at once in an Amber alert tone, signaling that a city wide lockdown was now in effect because three people had tested positive for the virus in the city.  Compare this to the US bragging that their daily rate had just dropped to ONLY 80,000 cases. As a result, our flight was cancelled, and after only a few hours we were bussed to a hotel for safekeeping.  We got rooms and were fed a late dinner, and are now waiting to see if we need to check out or stay indefinitely as the government sorts out the details of this new outbreak. Certainly there are worst places to be stuck, but sitting in a hotel room was not my idea of a post season excursion.
      I splurged on eggs Benedict for breakfast, and I have my usual survival jar of peanut butter that could last a few days if needed, so it’s now a waiting game of airline cancellations and hotel shuffling as the story unfolds. Hope you are healthy and warm as the polar vortex descends on the homeland.
Cheers,
    Lockdown Bob

Sperm whale off Kaikoura north of Christchurch

Sperm whale heading to the depths

Dolphins around our whale watch boat

Flight to freedom

New penguin scrubs!

Hola amigos,

I made it back from the South Pole last Saturday, and have had a full dental schedule for the past few days. I finished everyone and had a half day yesterday to pack and get ready to depart, plus some good pickleball after dinner last night. I just found out the plane from New Zealand took off an hour ago, so in 4 hours it should be here, and a few hours later it will be taking us to warm weather and sunshine in Christchurch. Then we have a few days of freedom to play tourist before getting on the flight back to the US, which is scheduled for Sunday.

     Another good adventure about to come to an end, and I’m ready to pick up life back in Colorado. Time to get the vaccine, get back to work, and learn about life with the virus as I adjust to the real world again, including fresh fruits and vegetables! Hope you are well and looking forward to seeing many of you down the road.
Cheers,
   Homebound Bob

Two adelie penguins hanging out

More adelie penguins ready to molt

A Weddell seal out for a swim

Break time on the ice

Heading North

Grilling pesto marinated chicken

The Scallion 29

Hello ground hog observers,

     No doubt here about winter staying around at the South Pole since as the sun dips below a critical angle, it gets noticeable colder each day. Yesterday was -45F and today it is -52F even though the next full sunset is in mid March. I’m scheduled to fly out tomorrow to spend a few days in McMurdo where it’s in the 20’s, which will seem like a heat wave.

   Following brunch on Sunday, Lisa the chef made a delicious Indian meal with Chicken Masala, Naan and a half dozen other dishes.  I spent a few hours helping in the kitchen making samosas which are little triangular shaped dumplings which were ridiculously labor intensive but came out pretty good, especially with some chutney sauce. Today I flipped chicken on the grill and the scraps were much more tasty.

      The dental schedule has come to a grinding halt since everyone that wanted to be seen has been taken care of, so I’ve got a day to clean up and get things organized for the winter doc and PA who arrive tomorrow on the same plane that I will depart. No time for a “handoff” orientation of dental equipment for the newbies, so I took pictures of the equipment and they’ll just have to muddle through it when a dental issue arises with me on the phone coaching them along.

     A few hours of volleyball Monday night, and pickleball last night have kept the waistline in check and not sure if we’ll get anything going tonight or opt for the physics lecture to exercise the brain a little. Speaking of brain rattling, at lunch today I noticed the Traverse team arrived from McMurdo, hauling fuel and cargo 1000 miles in tractors at 6 ½ mph for 3 weeks that saves hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to flying.

     I published what is probably my last Scallion for the season and didn’t see a pink slip from the admin folks that I like to rattle a little, so I guess they’re still willing to let me poke fun at their policies and procedures that often make no sense. Hope your February is starting off well.

Cheers,

     Grilling Bob

Jen mixes up cocktails at the Tiki bar

Ryan demonstrates good form on the pickleball court

The traverse team parked outside after their 1000 mile journey

Melanie waves in front of the South Pole entrance known as the beer can

 

Weekend at the South Pole

 

Another view of the polar plateau

The Scallion 28

Greetings weekenders,

       Another six day work week of a filled dental schedule and a lot of folks with clean teeth has come to an end, so our one day weekend is upon us. I woke up and started some laundry, and ate a light breakfast in anticipation of the usual overwhelming brunch later in the morning. I then walked the 30 steps to the medical clinic to sort out a few things only to discover that a soda I put in the fridge last night was actually a freezer, and the 12oz can had exploded around 5:00 AM. It’s pretty amazing how 12 ounces of liquid can turn into a gallon of exploded frozen sugar water, and I spent the next hour defrosting and cleaning up the mess. In the “it could have been worse” scenario I was glad I hadn’t put a six pack inside the small freezer or I probably would have been cleaning the walls of the room it was tucked in.

     Last night was the annual South Pole head weighing contest where inebriated encouraged participants dunked their heads into a full bucket of water placed inside a larger tub. The displaced water in the tub is then weighed to determine the largest and smallest head in the crowd, and heckling is encouraged throughout the evening to add to the ambiance. Of course the same water is used over and over again so after 20 folks have dipped their head it became a bucket of everyone’s oral, nasal and ear discharges plus whatever goodies were populating their hair and beards. However, with enough alcohol on board it was a moot point and everyone had a good laugh throughout the evening.

     I ventured out for a stroll the other day with Melanie, the PA in our medical team, and we did some photos out by the south pole marker in -40F wind chill, which was pretty invigorating. I’ve been here eight times now, and it’s still incredibly impressive to imagine the explorers who sailed, skied and sledged here over 100 years ago, and all I had to do was get on a series of long plane rides.

     Hope your weekend is enjoyable as we move into February and some good times ahead. A South Pole Scallion is attached for your reading pleasure.

Cheers,

    Dry headed Bob

Practicing Pickleball in -45F

 

Note the look of disgust on the dunker on the left as he looks in the bucket!

The head weighing set-up

Taking a break in the dental corner of the clinic

Another fabulous brunch complete with a Tiki bar

South Pole meaningless safety notice

 

Southern Living

Ready for a flight to the South Pole

Hola Polie Wanna-bees,

    It’s another sunny, clear day at the South Pole today, with the temperature at a brisk -21F and a wind chill of -45F. I made it here in the Basler, a 1943 turbo charged DC-3 a few days ago, and have done fairly well acclimating to the 10,500 ft. altitude. The real altitude is 9300 feet of ice but it feels like more because of the dry, cold conditions, so the stairs still require a few extra breaths.

     I got the dental machinery working and the digital x-ray software going with some help from the IT department, and it appears my schedule is booked solid for the next week. Some skeptical souls have sent notes questioning how much work I was actually doing around my recreational activities so here is my answer to how your hard earned tax dollars are being put to use in the dental arena. My work schedule is 7:30AM-5:30PM six days a week and I usually see 4-8 patients a day, sometimes with the help of the other medical staff when needed. In comparison, at McMurdo the other 6 health care providers (2 docs, 2 nurses, 2 PA’s) see an average of 2-5 patients a day between all of them. Elise, our 30 year old energetic physical therapist is the only one who is busier than me seeing 6-8 patients a day, and still runs marathons, teaches Pilates and yoga, and makes all of us look like couch potato slackers. Now at the same time I’m able to make my own schedule and have been known to take an occasional afternoon off for mental health, physical exercise or just a nap and reading to avoid dental burnout, so no need to be concerned that I might be overdoing it.

     Life is pretty simple at 90 degrees south, with interesting people, great food, plus satellite internet and phone coverage a few hours a day. It ends up being a close knit community of 60 people this season, but 10 days is just about the right amount of time for me rather than some folks I’ve met that have been here over a year. I’m still drumming up some ping pong and pickleball matches to keep the joints moving, and will probably venture outside at some point to walk over the crunchy snow and gaze out on the featureless landscape. I took a hard “pass” on the Scott tent pitched outside next to the ceremonial pole for a unique summer camping story, but admire anyone who wants bragging rights to that experience.

    Hope you are healthy and can see some light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Cheers,

   Not burning out Bob

Inside the DC-3- cozy but unpressurized

Scenery of endless mountains and glaciers

The grow room at South Pole of lettuce, cucumbers and other fresh green treats

Summertime camping awaits you next to the ceremonial pole