A Nice Little Bounce-Back


Commemorative Air Force Museum entrance.  Notice the dark clouds and wet pavement.

Randy has had a nice little bounce-back during this second week of his first cycle of chemotherapy.  (Doctors plan four two week cycles.) He suggested an outing to the Commemorative Air Force Museum.   We spent an enjoyable day exploring this museum last spring.  The blogpost from that visit is Chapter 5: Yours, Mine and Ours.   

fullsizeoutput_4e08As we’ve visited before, we went this time to hear a presentation by Jim Olivi about his uncle’s involvement in dropping the bomb on Nagasaki.

Lt. Fred Olivi was the co-pilot on Bockscar, the plane that held the bomb dropped on Nagasaki and author of the book Decision at Nagasaki:  The Mission That Almost Failed.

The bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 weighed 2500 lbs. and contained uranium.  It was carried on the Enola Gay.   A second bomb was planned for Kokura on August 11.  It was a 10,000 lb. Fat Boy containing plutonium.   A third bomb, destined for Tokyo and never used, was also a Fat Boy containing plutonium.

As bad weather rolled in, the mission for Kokura was moved up to August 9.  The plane, Bockscar, was loaded and readied for take off.  (Bockscar was named for its usual captain Frederick Bock but he did not fly it on August 9.)

Six hundred and forty gallons of fuel were loaded in an auxiliary tank for the return flight.  Before takeoff the pilots learned that the pump for this tank was not working and fuel would not be available for a return flight.  Given the urgency of the mission and weather conditions, the pilots decided to proceed anyway.

Three planes, the bomber, the science/instrumentation plane, and a photography plane had designated meet-up coordinates.  Two of the planes met up and but the third was at the wrong altitude.  The two proceeded on to Kokura.

The Fat Boy bomb was armed once Bockscar took off and was set to go off when it dropped to 1800 feet of elevation.  Returning to base with the bomb still on the plane was not an option.

When they arrived over Kokura the weather was too bad to gain visual target, a required element of the drop.  They made three unsuccessful passes and then proceeded to Nagasaki, the secondary target. 

Also obscured by weather, the Nagasaki target was not seen on the first pass.   The target was viewed on the second pass and the Fat Boy was dropped.

Bockscar had to veer off quickly to get seven miles away before detonation to avoid being enveloped.  Even then they felt three shockwaves.


Olivi described the mushroom cloud as having a myriad of colors, dominated by salmon pink.    

After the drop, the next goal was to land on Okinawa.   Radio contact failed and Bockscar just moved into place for landing while other planes got out of the way.  They had extra weight because of the unused fuel and as a result, came in 25 mph too fast.  Their usable fuel was down to fumes.

They was able to land safely in part because Bockscar was one of fifteen B29s equipped with reversible propellers.  Normally that feature allowed the aircraft to move backwards on the ground for loading or taxi.  In this case the reversible propellers helped reduce speed.

bockscarBockscar is now in the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.    Notice the five fat boy mission markers – the red marker designates the live drop on Nagasaki.


We are in site 593 along Canal Street.

We came home to our trailer site located along Canal Street in the Val Vista RV Resort.   There is a Salt River Project canal behind us which we like because the openness allows for nice sunset views out our back window.


The real canal is beyond the fence.

But this afternoon we had a bonus canal right behind us and another bonus canal in front of us on what is usually the street.   


P1020699The water rose rapidly and it became apparent that some drainage grates were blocked.  Randy joined several of our neighbors in removing debris to allow a better flow. Unfortunately the rising water toppled a garbage can and several of us had to snag floating garbage.

As I write the sun is peeking out of the clouds and the street is mostly clear of water.  The canal behind us remains.

On Monday Randy starts cycle two of his chemotherapy.  Even though some of the impact  will be cumulative, we have learned some strategies and are hopeful he will get a nice bounce back again in week four.

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Welcome to Stillwater Ya’ll!

Given a one week delay before the start of Randy’s chemo, we were able to go to the Boise State – Oklahoma State football game – almost as planned.   Originally we were to fly in and out of Boise, meeting our friends Kent and Pam in Oklahoma.  Given we are now in Mesa we looked into changing our reservations to fly from Phoenix. That was crazy expensive so we canceled, rented a Cadillac and drove 1000 miles with about three hours notice.   It was great to take off and put some of the worry of our present circumstance behind us.


This Oklahoma map is backwards from the courtyard, but not from the street!


Our frequent traveling companions, Kent and Pam!

When we arrived for the game we heard “Welcome to Stillwater Ya’ll” over and over again.  We have gone to quite a few “away” games and nearly all venues have some welcoming people but nothing like Stillwater.

fullsizeoutput_4d90Like a thousand other people we started our game-day experience at Eskimo Joe’s.  Kent had heard it was the place to go – and it seemed everyone agreed.   To make it even busier – it was open seating.  

fullsizeoutput_4da6Pam was diligent in watching for BSU fans who were nearly done with their table.  They turned it over to us and we shared our table with other BSU fans.

IMG_3165The famous meal at Eskimo Joe’s is cheesy fries.  I ordered them and decided they were very good except for the too-sweet bacon.  Randy, Kent and Pam all thought the bacon was just fine.


Ready for the game – hot, humid and blissfully overcast.


Boone Pickens Stadium had free water for awhile, until it was empty.




What do you do when the game doesn’t turn out the way you want?  Have ice cream for dinner!

fullsizeoutput_4d5fAnother day we traveled 50 miles west of Oklahoma City to El Reno, home of the famous Onion Burger.


El Reno has a street fair that includes a huge onion burger.  (Internet photo)

We had already eaten but decided we’d get one onion burger to share.  It was fine, but not reason enough to come to El Reno.

fullsizeoutput_4d5aThe real reason we came was to visit Randy’s old home-town.  He lived in El Reno until he was nine years old.  He remembered this theater and other buildings.

fullsizeoutput_4d6cWe found the street he lived on as a very young boy and he recognized the house type.  I took a few pictures of possible home sites.

Matthews_P_0018I found this old photo when we got back to the computer and saw which house we should have looked for –  number 524.  Randy is front left, the third of four brothers.   Randy had remembered the scrolled M screen door but we didn’t see one  50 plus years later.


We also found his family’s second home in El Reno.


Randy attended elementary school at Rose Witcher.  


This building held his dad’s Champion Service Station in the 1960s.


We went on a Tram Tour of El Reno. 


Kent, Pam and I explored the Historical Museum grounds and found the very first Red Cross Canteen in the United States, built in 1917. 

fullsizeoutput_4d6dRandy met a woman in the museum who knew his dad, mom, aunt and uncle.

fullsizeoutput_4d50She helped us find junior and senior yearbook photos for Randy’s mom, Mable Wilson.   It was a fun day letting Randy re-live his childhood.

Kent and Pam have a goal of geocaching in every state.  They nabbed their first Oklahoma geocache in El Reno.

We were so glad to spend a few mostly carefree days with Kent and Pam.  We played a lot of cards and watched football and watched the Mariners – sometimes all three at once thanks to great wifi.   Unfortunately, real life beckoned us back and we needed to drive the 1000 miles back to Mesa.  

fullsizeoutput_4da0We stopped for a quick over-night with Randy’s aunt Lahoma near Witchita Falls, Texas.  

It was bittersweet to drive past so many places on our “To Do” document.  We saw signs to Petrified Forest National Park and El Malpais National Monument among others.


We actually saw Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo from the road.   There are Cadillacs, highly decorated, submerged halfway in the ground.

Hopefully, we’ll be out on the road again next spring with a healthy Randy behind the wheel.  Again, we covet your prayers and invite you to follow this unwelcome diversion to our adventures at Caringbridge.org.  Our site is called Randy’s Bladder.

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A Hard Leave


P1020544We left Lake Cascade a week ago.  It was a hard leave.   We felt like we were losing our boy Elko all over again.  This was the last place we had him with us.

P1020547Elko loved his woods.   He’d look at us and make it clear this was his private space and he didn’t need us to go into the woods with him.  If we had been leaving him behind to go play and travel, that would have been hard.   


But that isn’t why we left Cascade sooner than expected.  The hard leave was worse. Did I mention it was only a week ago? It feels like an eternity.  We left Cascade for Boise and then a few days later drove 1100 miles to Mesa.  Why?  It is a sad tale.

Yearly bladder scopes had been part of our life since Randy’s urologist found a low grade papillary cancer in 2008.  Quarterly scopes were the norm after Randy’s second bladder cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2017.  Things had been going well but during the mid August scope a new tumor was visible. Subsequent biopsy revealed a new, and even worse, form of bladder cancer – his third.   This tumor is muscle invasive and the bladder and prostate need to come out. Good riddance to his bad bladder!!

Randy had researched this potential development long ago since bladder cancer usually comes back and comes back worse. Unfortunately, Randy could be a poster child for this tendency. He already had an idea which of the three types of bladder removal surgeries he would opt for – one that forms a new bladder using small intestine.   

In consultation with his urologist, she recommended that he plan for that extensive surgery to be done elsewhere.  The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale kept coming up as a good choice (thanks Sharon!).  After a frustrating false start for pre-surgery chemo with a Boise area oncologist, we decided to pursue everything at the Mayo Clinic.  

We made that decision on Wednesday evening and the next day Randy had an appointment scheduled with the surgeon for the following Tuesday.  I arranged for an RV site for the fall with the promise of them making something work for the already booked January, February and March.   Everything fell into place quickly, in less than 24 hours, and it absolutely feels like a God thing.  

fullsizeoutput_4cffWe drove all day Saturday and most of Sunday to be here for today’s appointment.  We feel confident in the doctor and the plan.  For the first time in four weeks, we had a doctor’s appointment that made us feel better instead of worse. We are encouraged.  

The road ahead will be hard with aggressive chemo for six weeks and then extensive surgery. We are under no illusion otherwise.  We are so thankful for those who have upheld us with their time, prayers and good wishes.  

We will have the support of Randy’s brother and sister in law who live in the Phoenix area but still covet contact with our family, Boise friends and road friends.    

To make it easier to keep people updated we have opened a Caring Bridge site called Randy’s Bladder.   The link is:  https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/randysbladder/journal     You may visit the site or sign up to receive updates when either of us post new information.

It is likely that the Serene Wandering blog will be quiet for the time being, until we can get out there and have some fun again.

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What’s a Handy-Randy To Do?

P1010926Randy worked really hard on two campground fences and has been enjoying a bit of a lull before starting his last campground.   He’s mostly worked alone but occasionally has help from the rangers or seasonal workers. 


Randy has enjoyed getting to know the ranger and seasonal staff including RJ and Kenny.  When RJ and Kenny helped Randy install posts Randy wanted everything to be very precise.   One of them asked “Are you an engineer or something?”  They chuckled when Randy admitted that he was an engineer.

Given the lull, Randy tackled some trailer maintenance.  Our Progressive Industries Electrical Management System is designed to give information about electrical usage and provide warnings and protection if the power amperage is too low or surges.   All that was good until it started humming at a pitch that drove me crazy!   The hum started in May and we pursued a replacement under the life time warranty.  While waiting for it to arrive, we had a thunderstorm complete with electrical surge that took the hum away.   Recently the hum started again so Handy Randy switched them out.   

fullsizeoutput_4cb2We had another company stand behind a product in an unexpected way.  We ordered a 10 X 10 canopy from Crown Shades on Amazon and it came and all was well until a microburst sent it flying and bent one leg.   I contacted the company to see if there was a way to purchase a replacement leg.   There wasn’t – so they sent us a brand new canopy.  We made it clear that the leg had not come damaged but they sent us a new canopy asking only for a positive review on Amazon.  We got to keep the old canopy and Engineer Handy Randy made the bent leg workable so now we have two.


Handy Randy repaired the rotating sprayer inside our black tank.  That was a smelly job.

And he replaced a cracked drain in our shower tub.   There’s no end to what Handy Randy, the engineer, can do.

fullsizeoutput_4cc4As a break from all that maintenance, we walked the Tamarack grounds and came upon a few abandoned construction sites.   Randy enjoyed these the way I enjoy museums!



Randy never saw a closed (but unlocked) door he didn’t feel free to open…..at least in a place like this!

We found some interesting things.. like these Delvo pucks.  I had to research what they are used for.  They are recommended for use in slowing down the hardening of fresh concrete or stabilizing returned concrete wastewater.  Now you know…


Yes, it’s fiber optic wire.


Abandoned or never used Tamarack signage in here.


Handy Randy is good looking, capable, smart and very strong.  Look at him lift the massive styrofoam block!  There were dozens of them.

So…there’s going for a walk with one engineer – and then there’s going for a walk with two of them…


Kent, Pam, Randy and I started the day at the Donnelly Huckleberry Festival pancake breakfast!



Then we went up the Tamarack chairlift to see what we could see.  



We were hoping to see the Mesa fire on the other side but that involved an additional three mile hike uphill so we didn’t.


We did come across this 4000 gallon water tank.   Kent, former engineer for the Public Health Service and the City of Boise, quizzed us on water usage.   He explained that nationally households use about 5000 gallons of water per month.   It was interesting to have that 4000 gallon visual.


Who is providing salt licks and why are they different colors?  Even the engineers didn’t know.


We’ve had so much fun with Pam and Kent this summer!


This upper lodge was never completed.


The hazy, smokey view of Lake Cascade from up top.


Pam enjoying her passion – photographing flowers, bugs and critters.



We saw lots of elderberries but had no way to get to them.

The only wildlife we saw were the human variety riding the chairlift with their bikes and then racing downhill.  $169 for a season pass for human and bike.


On the way down… enjoying the mountain biking wildlife.  We left the top on the chairlift at the same time this group left on their bikes.  They went a lot faster and covered more ground and we arrived at the bottom at the same time.

More adventures from Donnelly, Cascade and McCall coming soon!

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McCall  Memories


We’ve been coming to McCall, a quaint mountain town two hours north of Boise, for many years.  We have a whole slew of memories involving boating, camping and winter carnivals.  We have memories of feeding elk, snow skiing, golf tournaments and even a wedding.   

But the McCall memories I’m writing about now aren’t from way back – these are just from earlier this summer.   As we lost Elko and have wildfires to get through, these more current memories just got left behind for a little while.   They are no less valued and the friends no less loved.

fullsizeoutput_4acaOne of our first McCall activities this summer was a cruise on Payette Lake.  This goes into the category of “How did I  not know this was here.”


The cruise starts on the southern end and travels clockwise around the lake.  Drinks and snacks are available.  Mine is a huckleberry something as huckleberries are big in this area.


The Thursday night cruises have a piano player for accompaniment!

fullsizeoutput_4ac0Along the way there is narration about Payette Lake and the surrounding geologic features and homes.   The lake is eight miles long and 392 feet deep.  Native peoples thought there were evil spirits in the deep lake.


This property was involved with the early saw mill history of the lake.


This is Sylvan Point.  Cast and crew lived here while filming the movie Northwest Passage in 1938-1939.   Local construction crews built 125 structures including two forts.  A few of the original cabins still remain.

fullsizeoutput_4be6 Northwest Passage starred Spencer Tracy and Robert Young.  Some 900 extras were hired including many locals and 375 Indians from seven reservations.   Extras received $5 per day plus a box lunch.  


Sylvan Point on Payette Lake continued as a Hollywood destination and retreat.  We were told Marilyn Monroe’s potato sack photo shoot was at Sylvan Point.

fullsizeoutput_4abcNowadays there are beautiful homes surrounding Payette Lake. One of them comes with an interesting swimming pool.

P1020123We learned about the Payette Sunset Cruise from friends Kathy and Ted.  We didn’t cruise with them but we did meet them in McCall for a special dinner.    


Special because it was Kathy’s birthday and special because it was quite fancy!  We met at the Narrows Restaurant in Shore Lodge for a very delicious, enjoyable meal.

P1020063We enjoyed less pretentious eating at Jug Mountain’s Nine and Dine.  Randy joined former Boise golf league friends (and HP comrades) Mike and Rodger, and Rodger’s wife Donna for nine holes of golf.   Rodger and Donna now live in McCall.

Mike’s wife Nancy and I just went along for the ride and food.   Mike and Nancy now live in Arizona but were in McCall visiting.


Rodger and Donna hosted all of us at their home too!

fullsizeoutput_4bddCertainly not a personal memory,  but McCall history tells that the town is named for Tom McCall, a prominent leader who arrived in 1891.  Mining and timber were the town’s early industries and Tom McCall owned one of the first saw mills on Payette Lake. The picture depicts his first homestead.

We still have more than a month before we leave the McCall-Donnelly area and it is very likely we’ll live additional memories before we do.   Those will surely appear in another blog.

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The old Platters song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” includes the lyrics:   When a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes.   We have certainly shed tears since our lovely flame, Elko, left us.  We thank those of you who reached out with love, support and good memories of our boy.  It has helped a lot.


We have also had some real smoke in our eyes since Idaho is on fire.  Photo by our friend Pam.


The sun is often colored by smoke.

When we took a trip to Boise the normal route down Highway 55 was closed or delayed due to one fire so we went the long way around on Highway 95.


As we drove we could see a helicopter and bucket fighting a new fire.



This was my view of the fire from Highway 95.   The highway was closed shortly after we went through.  


Although we had delays we eventually did make it back to Donnelly using Highway 55 – one lane with a pilot car escort.


The closest fire to our campground is the Mesa fire.

The Mesa fire began July 26 and, as of August 5,  involves over 34,000 acres and is 42 percent contained.  We’ve heard it is about 4 miles away.

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 3.47.09 PM

The blue dot is where we are.  The fire is coming our way but we haven’t heard anything about evacuations.


One day it snowed a lot of ash.


The fire fighting planes come right over us for hours each day.


We  know the fire is getting closer because of the frequency of the Scooper planes gathering 3000 gallons of water from Lake Cascade right in front of us.

We first noticed the scooper planes about a week ago coming through to scoop water for fire suppression.   They came in pairs on a 15-20 minute cycle.  Over the course of time, the fire grew closer, and now the planes come every 5-6 minutes for hours at a time.   See the video below.


fullsizeoutput_4bb8It is very interesting to watch and would be fun if it wasn’t so sad.  We know the pilots and firefighters are working hard to protect what they can.

P1020213Unfortunately wildlife is also effected.  Twice this week we have found a weakened, disoriented bat during the daylight hours of early evening.  This one was in our campsite and rested for a time on our paddle board.


fullsizeoutput_4b93Between us and the Mesa fire is Tamarack resort.  The resort has been through a variety of bankruptcies, tax delinquencies and foreclosures since 2008.   There are still lovely homes, winter skiing and a variety of activities available at Tamarack.   One entity that did not survive the financial problems was Osprey Meadows Golf Course. 

fullsizeoutput_4bb5 Randy remembers playing the course years ago and it is sad to see it now.

fullsizeoutput_4bb6The former cart paths give us a terrific place to walk through rolling meadows and hills.   There are some interesting sites such as this former sand trap.


Former tee box.


A former par 3 at Osprey Meadows.


We haven’t seen as much wildlife in our walks around Tamarack as we would have thought.  We did hear and see sand hill cranes a couple times.



These were really bothered by my presence and took off – like I could bother them.  They are as big as me!


fullsizeoutput_4bccThanks so much to my friend Jacque who braved the smoke to come up for the day.   Loved spending the time with you!


Sunset looks different when the smoke gets in your eyes.


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Elko’s Last Blog

fullsizeoutput_490aMy mom asks me to write the hard blogs, so here I am.    It is hard because I went to Rainbow Bridge this week and my people have a hole in their lives the size of a big black dog, the size of me.

I’d been having some pain in my face and at my age any little thing (or in my case the big cancer thing) can mean it’s time to take that last sleep to Rainbow Bridge and play with all the other beloved pets.  

fullsizeoutput_22b0And I am beloved – by almost everyone who knew me – but especially by my mom and dad.   My people love me – and I knew it every day.

I came to live with them in 2010.  My other people left me in Elko, Nevada and even though it was scary at the time, it worked out very well for me.

fullsizeoutput_2549I couldn’t tell my new mom and dad my name so they named me Elko.  My mom almost always calls me Sweet Boy which fits me perfectly.   My dad has many names for me – Baby, Baby Boy, Big Brawny Boy.  I answer to all of them because my people love me – and I knew it every day.

I couldn’t tell them exactly how old I was but we decided five was a good age to begin my new life.  (That makes me thirteen now – a good long time for a big black dog – but it doesn’t feel long enough.)

fullsizeoutput_32b2I couldn’t tell my people about all the things I knew and they sure were surprised when I showed them I could herd cows!

034They showed me some things too.   They showed me that hiking sand dunes could be fun.

IMG_0316They showed me that riding in our boat could be fun too.  I had to show them I knew how to swim but I never liked it.  


I like to wade and get my tummy cooled off, but NO SWIMMING!

P1030568When we left our house and my backyard and all of our stuff, they never considered leaving me behind. My mom and dad took me so many places.   My people love me – and I knew it every day.






fullsizeoutput_41c6And then we went even more places together!  My people love me – and I knew it every day.

fullsizeoutput_3ae2fullsizeoutput_42a9My dad used to say he was the pack leader because sometimes I’d follow my dad more than my mom.  But really, maybe I was the pack leader. My mom and dad followed all my routines.  My people love me – and I knew it every day.

fullsizeoutput_4103My special time with my mom was early in the morning.  We’d go outside and then she’d make me a special breakfast because I liked variety.  She’d make sure I took my pills and then help me get on the bed for a morning nap with my dad.  My mom loves me – and I knew it every day.

P1030168My dad would sit outside with me all the time because I really liked being outside.  Sometimes it was cold and sometimes it was hot but he sat with me anyway.  My dad loves me – and I knew it every day.

I knew how to get as many treats as I wanted and as many walks as I wanted and how to make my people happy with a little bit of cuddling.  I am the sweet boy – always wanting to be close by – but cuddling was something I did only in small portions. Mostly we cuddled for a few minutes at night as we all went to bed. My dad would rub my ears and I’d do little growls to make him happy.    I love my people too.



I always like it best when the three of us are together.  I love my people and my people love me – and we all knew it every single day.

They enjoyed watching me dream and see my feet twitch and my nose move all around.  They’d imagine I was dreaming about running and playing the way I used to before the old body held me back.   They hope that life is like that for me now at Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again…


My people love me – and I knew it every day.


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