So there’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad.

Yesterday in a gesture of friendship and good faith, I attempted to hug a Muslim lady.

It didn’t go well. She didn’t like it. Her husband didn’t like it. My wife didn’t like it. I ended up not liking it.

Now for the good news. You may remember a blog or two ago that recounted us taking an Afghani family to Seattle to try to help them get extricated from their nightmare with Homeland Security. The trip last week did not go well, kind of like my hug.

So yesterday, we arose a little before 4:00 am, picked up the family in town, watched our odometer in the Honda van skip past the 250,000 mile mark and drove  to Seattle. Keeping with the Muslim theme, this was just like we had driven our van from Basin City to Mecca 207 times.

Granted, I am using Mecca, CA instead of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This is primarily because Google maps don’t list driving directions to the Middle East.

This time we didn’t try to feed them hot dogs like Michele attempted to the last time. They brought their food and we brought ours. I thought about bringing pork rinds to snack on but then rethought the menu and settled on carrots and clementines.

Once again the kids were well behaved. It was boring and uneventful which is highly unusual because we usually have a tire blow out at least every other trip we take. Since I’m an experienced tire man, I like to try to eke out every mile I can out of our inflatables before sticking new rubber on.

Our last trip to Utah featured 2 blowouts. I’m not lying. Our skinny temporary spare tire is now bald and has a good 36,000 miles on it. Most of the miles were covered traversing terrain at least 70 mph. It has been a great little tire as the spare tire manufacturer doesn’t have as much faith in it as I. They only guarantee it will last around 500 miles  at a maximum speed of 45 mph.


So we spent the day hovering around the Homeland Security office at the King County Airport which is located at Boeing Field.

I bought the boys little super balls to entertain them. Hours were spent with crazy balls bouncing around the little cafeteria area, hallways, parking lot, Kenmore Air lobby and assorted ceilings and walls. No one kicked us out. All we got were stares from the airplane ride salesmen and glares from the Oriental cook.

Just inside the entryway, I noticed the terminal building had a good stock of rulers. Anything you needed measuring, they had the ability. In fact, if you needed to measure the inches from Boeing Field to SeaTac, they had the measuring sticks on hand.

And you don’t need money. All you need is a cordless drill and a 1/2″ socket.





And then I turned around and saw another rack of sticks. When it comes to rulers, King County Airport can put any Staples or Office Depot to shame!


As I looked over the inventory of wood rulers, I wondered if they had plastic yellow and red ones. I saw a sign and figured that would tell me where the colored plastic ones were. It didn’t.


So I quit looking for yellow and red plastic rulers. And then I found this…


I got quite a kick out of it. Some joker had stuck a picture of Martin Luther King just above King County’s name on an outside door leading to the tarmac. What an imagination!

A few minutes later I noticed a black custodian in the hallway and we struck up a nice conversation. After getting acquainted, I pointed at the door and joked about how somebody had stuck the MLK sticker just above King County. Now I was well aware that King County was formed out of territory within Thurston County on December 22, 1852, by the Oregon Territory legislature, and was named after Alabama resident William R. King, who had just been elected Vice President of the United States under President Franklin Pierce. Everybody knows that!

I also knew MLK was assassinated in ’68, just before I bumped my head on a car hood and slipped into a coma that same summer. Though Marty was older than I, even he wasn’t around in 1852 when King County was named.

I think I choked when the gentleman informed me that that really was King County’s logo.

“But what about William R. King?” I asked. He said a while back the county commissioner’s decided to ax Willy R and slide Marty L into Willy’s slot.

I was incredulous. Oh, well. At least liberal King County is consistent in the way they think.

I googled it and he had his facts right. The guy that stuck the picture on the door was not a joker. He was a King County commissioner.

So that got me to thinking. I live in Franklin County. I think our commissioners should take Benjamin Franklin’s picture off the county logo and stick Aretha Franklin’s photo on it. While they are at it, they can make one of Aretha’s tunes the official county song. How about Who’s Zoomin Who?

We’ll show King County that they aren’t the only ones who can go berserk.

So long day short, after many hours of questioning by two Homeland Security guys who were actually packing guns, the door opened. This was the same door that I had eavesdropped from periodically through the day and heard stuff like:

  • “We understand you lost your cell phone in Afghanistan. We want to know the details.” They then spent a good hour asking him what numbers were in his phone.
  • “Where did you dump your garbage?” A good 30 minutes was spent on this subject.
  • “We understand that masked men carrying automatic weapons shot at your vehicle which resulted in you going off a cliff and wrecking. The Army has sent us statements that these men were the Taliban. We find it very suspicious that you were able to escape alive. Very suspicious. Can you tell us how that happened?”

After the door opened, we were relieved to hear one of the HS guys say “Welcome to the United States.” It was kind of cool until you thought about the real situation (outlined in a prior blog post) and realized his entire journey with Homeland Security had been totally uncalled for.

We said goodbye to Talia, the attorney who flew up from LA for the second time in a week. (They hadn’t allowed her into the interrogation throughout the entire time.) She does immigration cases full time and said she had never had an experience like this one. It was a once in a lifetime experience for us. It was nice to be able to help.

We rode home from Seattle. As we helped them out of the van, everyone’s spirits were high. I guess the euphoria went to my head and after assisting the little boys out, I figured I would give their mother a little friendly hug. Didn’t happen. Wasn’t a good move.

Oh, well. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


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We had a nasty winter this year.  Because of snow and ice, my brother Brent’s garbage truck couldn’t make it up the hill to his house. Brent decided to ice mail his trash down the hill. His wife Kashann videoed and narrated the unexpected speed and fun.


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Midnight Saturday night moon light presented me with a big problem.


As we drove home late last Saturday night I saw the moonlit glint of a row of freshly-planted galvanized fence posts appear. These posts were between lots owned by me and my longtime adjoining neighbor in the Basin City Industrial Park area.

Or I should say they were supposed to be between the two lots.  I was instantly pretty sure they were 10 or 12 feet inside my lot, even in the darkness. 20 or 30 years ago I kinda knew where I thought the boundary was, somewhere close to the power pole shown in the foreground.

I was filled with dread. This neighbor speaks poquito English, is almost as old as I and is even balder. Just like me, he tries to do a lot of the work by himself. I knew if his new metal posts were cemented in the wrong spot, he was going to have to dig them all up, dig new holes in the correct spots and replant the posts. Not an easy job.

I’ve never locked horns with this guy but I figured this was about to change. I almost hoped I was wrong in my assumption of the property line just so I could avoid the confrontation.

But it wasn’t something I could overlook. I grabbed my long-distance tape and my short-fused wife and we went a’measuring.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m actually the dynamite stick with the once-in-a-while short fuse. She’s the being with the longer fuse and even far longer long-suffering.)

Michele struggles just a bit when it comes to doing man-jobs that she has never done before but when I absolutely insist, she unwillingly tries to assist.  This is especially true when doing man-jobs in the dark.

I’ll skip the hilarious and vexing property-surveying exercise we experienced that night. But at this point I’m wondering if the after-hours survey party has anything to do with the late and cold dinners I’ve had every night since.

Bottom line, his posts were in the wrong place. All 24 of them. The correct line is shown in yellow in the picture above.

If I didn’t set things straight immediately and left the poles in place, at some future date he would assume ownership of the extended ground his fence was marking.

The land isn’t worth that much right now but if MicroSoft or General Motors moved in and started buying up ground, I would be out a bundle. I did some quick calculations and figured out that this little slice of soon-to-be-disputed ground would be worth approximately 2.3 billion dollars.

This was the point when it dawned on me that I absolutely had to talk to him. I feared his reaction because of the great amount of extra work this was going to saddle him with. I worried about my personal safety and thought about at least taking my paintball gun with me.

To my surprise,  he was fine. Agreeable. Amiable. He said he had gone by the stakes the old owner of the property had planted before he bought it.

He helped me measure both ends of the property and happily drove stakes into the new boundaries. I apologized about all the wasted work I was causing him but he kept saying “No problemo. It’s ok.”

He was fine with the 2 or 3 days of hard labor I had just handed him. Because of MicroSoft and General Motors, I was very grateful he was so agreeable.

Many people, myself included, would have responded on a bright red scale far in excess of what he did. Santiago is a fine human being, a fine man and a good example. I would do well to be more like Santiago.

I just hope my measurements are right.


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My friend Doug just sent me this. After where he’s been, I can see I’ve got to get out more.


A slot canyon in Utah has been carved out for ten’s if  not hundreds of thousands of years with water and wind.  He said “lit up with sunshine it simply dazzles the imagination and there are no adequate words to describe the place.”

Other stuff and the quotes he’s sent me…


The highway from Mexican Hat To Monument Valley.  Looked sort of like that highway in the Roadrunner cartoons where Wyle E. Coyote works on his frustrations.


I found this sign in a toilet in Canyonlands Nat’l Park.  Don’t know the
nationality it was aimed at.


Thirteen thousand cubic feet per second of Washington/Idaho snowmelt, rainfall and rich Palouse loess soil plunge over the falls, creating explosive reactions by the mist as it contacts the reservoir below.


Another view. Snowmelt and rainfall from the western foothills of the Rocky Mountains and eastern Washington wheat fields thunder over Palouse Falls at 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Spray from the 185’ falls resembles a large cotton ball rising nearly 100’ upwards.  I used to think God created Palouse Falls just for me, and although I have never told anyone about this place, the parking lot was full of muddy SUV’s and even one of those small plastic jobs that should stay on the go-cart track.  February 1996 still holds the record flow (in recent memory) of 25,000 cfs; overlooking the multi-cubic mile (cms) flow from Lake Missoula 15,000 years ago.


I hate to break into Doug’s stuff but we also visited Palouse Falls during the winter thaw. This is a wide angle view of the scenic falls. I’m throwing it back to you Doug…


One of those wintry moments I remember from my youth is that squeaky sound my shoes make while walking through snow when the temperature drops into the single digits.  I try to carry that into the heat of summer, but somehow it’s never the same.  Much like trying to get your mind thinking about those sweltering days of summer while -10 degree wind chill is assaulting your nose, cheeks, and ears.

After nearly a week of temps in the teens and single digits it was time to visit Palouse Falls and check on the ice build-up before tomorrow’s chinook sends it four miles downstream into the Snake River.


Some days when rain is predicted and hoped for, but passes us by, we have to
make our own rainbows.  (An i-phone photo through a dirty pickup


My favorite spectator sport is driving the back roads of America.  Just me &
Rambo, and sometimes the little woman, we become immersed in the rolling
hills and roadside flowers of whichever trail we come across.

This particular road bypasses Colfax, Pullman, and Moscow, before reaching almost
to the front door of Northwest River Supplies.  Took a bit of trial and lots
of errors to find it, but the Palouse loess hills, Kamiak Butte in the
distance, borrow pit poppies, green wheat fields and occasional biker chick
with dogs makes the drive worth every dusty, bumpy minute.

It sometimes makes you feel like a small frog in a big pond, but it’s free except for a
few dollars of diesel fuel.  May your next journey be as pleasant.

(Photos and commentary by Doug Smith)

I’ll post more of Doug’s photos another time. Thanks Doug!

Dashed hopes

IMG1We dropped off our companions at the end of a whirlwind trip to Seattle. Just so they feel safe, I’m not showing their faces. Anderson Cooper wanted to interview them but they declined as they don’t want their image made public. I don’t blame them.

They are a great family having a rough time they don’t deserve. After getting death threats and beat up by the Taliban because he helped the US Army for 11 years, the father brought his family to the United States to be safe. The authorities here are trying to send him back to be killed. Here’s the unbelievable LA Times story about the family we spent the last two days with…

They have nothing. They are given barely enough to live on while they go to school to learn English and look for a job. These families had never seen frost before, let alone the long and snowy winter they slid into upon arriving in the Tri-Cities. Our first task was rounding up some warm clothing, gloves and boots for them along with a few other necessary items. Many people in the area were generous with their help and donations.

Since last fall we have gotten quite close to these folks. I even know their names. This is a tremendous feat since I usually can’t even remember my own kids’ names. Far different than most of my work, it’s been a rewarding assignment.

The father of one family is in his thirties and has never driven a car. I could tell that someday he would like to own one. He asked how much cars cost after riding in our 2000 vintage Honda van. “Do they cost like…three million dollars?” he asked. I told him if he could find somebody to buy our van for that amount, I’d give them a 33% discount but I had to have it in cash.

I hope he is successful in this car selling venture. If he is, I’ll give every one of my friends a hundred dollar bill. (That means it’ll cost me three or four hundred dollars. It’s lucky I don’t have more friends.)

They are a sweet and humble people. They have seen immediate family members gunned down by rebels right in front of them. They are missing fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers and sisters. We have seen great sadness in their faces when they speak of departed loved ones.

What an experience it has been so far! We sing a song in church called “Count Your Blessings”. The song has taken on new meaning.


We got word last week the support group we work with that helps these refugees needed someone to haul a family that was from Afghanistan to Seattle for a couple of days. They needed to meet with an attorney named Talia and have a court hearing so they could stay in America. That’s all we were told.

We volunteered since we had already been approved by the support group to drive refugees around in my high-priced roadster from Japan. I really had other stuff to do and didn’t much feel like driving to Seattle. However, I knew somebody needed to help them. I told Michele to offer our services if no one else volunteered. Now I’m glad they didn’t and we did.

I gotta say here that I voted for Trump. I like some of the stuff he is doing. I have a few concerns about some of the other things he is up to but that discussion is for another day. Anyway, suffice it to say since the Donald has taken over, being a new-comer in this land of amber waves of grain is becoming more difficult.

This particular family is Muslim and being a newcomer to this fresh set of circumstances, I was a little wary as we traveled to pick them up at their apartment. I didn’t want to end up with my throat slit before we got home from Seattle.

My concerns were unwarranted. Vastly. Like many Americans, I’ve had great concerns for years about radical Muslims and their agenda. We didn’t know this family’s story until we started driving down the road with them. And then, WOW!

In a nutshell, here’s what we learned:

  • The couple are in their 30s and they have three little boys.
  • The father worked for the the US Army for 11 years as a translator and information source.
  • His life is at risk from ISIS the Taliban. He and his family are dead if returned to Afghanistan.
  • He had several friends in his same situation move to the US on recommendation from the Army. No problem. They and their families are here, settled and happy.
  • A month ago, this family flew in to LAX. The cops at the airport handcuffed and shackled him, stamped ON PAROLE on his passport and threw him in jail for three days.
  • No law enforcement person could give a reason why. When this guy asked them why he was being jailed, they all said “I don’t know, that’s not my job.” They told him they were going to send his wife and kids to a detention camp in Texas. A judge ended up taking the wife and kids to a law office where they lived and slept until the father was released. This is a guy who risked his own life and had helped US forces for the last 11 years.
  • It appears that with Trump’s hard line on immigration and the way most  government minions toe the line, anyone from the Middle East is toast, whether they be friend or foe.

So a nice immigration attorney named Talia from LA flew up yesterday to help this family. While we helped babysit the kids, Talia spent several hours with him to review everything she needed to know. Later that afternoon, they got word the feds were asking for a continuance on the court date that was scheduled for the next day.

I suspect employing continuances is a legal ploy to extend the agony of the victim, justify their job and drum up a little more pocket change for the lawyers and judges.

We spent the night with the family, hoping the judge wouldn’t accept the request but like all things (namely common sense) seem to turn out in the legal world, it was not to be. We walked out in the Seattle rain, got in my three million dollar Honda van (No, it hasn’t sold yet) and drove home.

The attorney headed for the airport to fly back to LA. I guess we’ll be doing the same exercise next week including her flying back up. Hopefully, this will be the last legal hearing in the matter. I’m not sure how many more trips to Seattle our worn-out van has in her.

This is a sweet family. The boys, a nine month old, a six year old and a seven year old, were friendly, content and cute. Throughout the entire sojourn, they were perfectly behaved. Heck, my wife and I wouldn’t mind adopting them. We might have to if their mom and dad get sent back to the war zone.

The only time I saw them even look a little cross was when we took them to Red Robin and Michele tried to get them to order hot dogs for the kids. I guess she wasn’t aware of the Muslim’s stance on eating pork. They ended up eating veggie burgers.

I’ve got to admit that I have seen the other side of the refugee crisis in the last few months. It’s easy to have a hard-line attitude of indifference concerning everyone outside and even inside our borders. But most of these people are innocent and simply trying to survive in this world. Again, I count my blessings. There but for the grace of God go I (and you).

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