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Three in a Shower? Cleaned Up; Ural Gear-Up; Hello, Cupcake; Stronger than Steel; A Good Motto; The Sound of Freedom; Scott Lake

I was in the shower with a redhead and a raven-haired beauty when My Lovely Bride called from Scottsdale. This wasn’t a wild bachelor’s dream. It was reality. And I couldn’t answer the phone…

Okay, now that I have your attention, here’s “the rest of the story”. It was doggie bath time, and Suzanne was in Arizona. Rudy and Gretchen like baths about the same as most dogs. They run and hide. After rounding them up, I set to work. I didn’t take a snapshot of Gretchen in the shower; like any girl, she’s shy about such things. Rudy, on the other hand, didn’t complain, although he doesn’t look very happy.

After drying off (towels and yes, a warm blow-dry with My Lovely Bride’s Con-Air), they were soft and fluffy and looking like little show dogs. Long-haired Miniature Dachshunds are mostly hair; Gretchen is the lightweight of the family (her nickname is “Ten Pounds of Fighting Fury”) and Rudy weighs in at 17.5 lbs. They stay in fighting trim by chasing squirrels and gophers (on lead, of course; they’ve never caught one, so no letters from PETA, please!). Here’s dainty little Gretchen after her bath, standing guard duty at her post in the starboard side window. She thinks she’s a Doberman; a fearless girl, she actually once lunged with teeth bared at a Rottweiler. We had to restrain her so we wouldn’t get sued.

Rudy (nicknamed “Elvis”, or “The King”), on the other hand, is more laid back, although he can bark with the loudest of Dachshunds. A neighbor in the campground saw us walking today and said, “Gee, based on their barking while you were gone, we thought you had really big dogs!” (Uh-oh… but in fairness, he was walking his own dogs past our coach, and our little guys were just trying to protect their territory.) Rudy is a dark red Doxie; we’ve actually had people ask if he was a short Irish setter…  yeah, very short! Now they’re fluffy and looking sharp, ready for their Dog-Mom’s arrival tonight! They both clean up good!

Most readers will see “Ural Gear-Up” in the title and wonder, “What the heck…?” History and geography buffs will of course recognize the Urals as western Russia’s mountain range that runs from the Arctic Sea to Kazakhstan, and which served as the Russian industrial heartland when Hitler’s armies overran most of the country west of Moscow in 1941-42. Ural Motorcycles is the primary manufacturer of Russian motorcycles, originally based on the BMW model R-71 with sidecar in the 1940s. During WWII, thousands of Urals (known then as Cossack motorcycles) were manufactured to help the Soviet Army’s transportation requirements over poor (non-existent?) Russian roads. The company now sells off-road capable sidecar motorcycles around the world, and while they do not meet the quality standards of Harley-Davidson, Ducati or BMW, they are rugged machines.  Evidently one soldier here at Fort Lewis wanted one, because this photo is of a Ural Gear-Up model (with engageable sidecar wheel drive). Note: Russian automobiles (and airplanes) still cannot meet US safety and EPA standards, but after extensive modifications, this motorcycle has been cleared for the US market. (And yes, I still believe that anyone who would fly with a Russian pilot must have a death wish.) 

“Hello, Cupcake…” That sounds like a line that an old guy would use to a sweet young thing. Yeah… so what? Well, it’s also the name of a real cupcake shop in downtown Tacoma. Unfortunately, it was closed when I walked by so I couldn’t sample the wares, so to speak, but it’s on my list for my next visit. Their July special cupcake is banana split – chocolate banana cake with cream cheese frosting. Sounds decadent.

We were biking through the woods recently and stopped right next to another one of Mother Nature’s wonders. It wasn’t a majestic waterfall or a snow-capped peak, but a device created by an eight-legged arthropod out of proteinaceous silk… also known as a spider web. Here’s some arachnid trivia: the tensile strength of spider silk is indeed stronger than the same weight of steel, and has much greater elasticity; its microstructure is being researched for possible uses as artificial tendons and improved bulletproof vests.

We are staying at Fort Lewis, which is the headquarters for the US Army’s I Corps (also known as “America’s Corps”), consisting of 20,000 active duty soldiers assigned here and another 20,000 reservists from many other states as well as Washington. The heart of I Corps at Fort Lewis is the 7th Infantry Division, whose motto, “Light, Silent and Deadly”, reflects the modern Army’s emphasis on rapid response and enhanced mobility in restrictive environments (mountains, deserts, etc.). Their vehicles are primarily Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV), faster than tanks but much more lightly armored, and only armed with .50 cal machine guns and grenade launchers, rather than the 120 mm gun carried aboard Abrams tanks. They carry a crew of two plus an infantry squad of nine soldiers plus their personal equipment.

Riding around the base, I noticed this door with a sign appropriate for the young men and women assigned here who regularly have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in their nation’s defense. What better credo for warriors than “Everybody Fights; Nobody Quits”? HOO-AH!

While we had visitors over for drinkees tonight, we heard “The Sound of Freedom”… for the uninitiated, that’s “military speak” for jet and helicopter noise at a military post or base. It could also refer to any loud noises that are military-related: artillery or small arms fire, grenade and explosive ordnance detonations, tank engine rumbling… you get the picture. Military operations are often loud, and those who have served take noise as a matter of course. But when several CH-47 Chinook helicopters fly over your RV, you get up and take a look. For an hour or so, these helos were making approaches onto American Lake alongside our campground, where they hovered, dropped rubber boats and swimmers, and then returned for personnel extraction 15 minutes later. The rotor wash was enough to almost knock you down, but it was a great air show.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this picture of serenity in the Cascades. This photo was taken at Scott Lake near McKenzie Pass in Willamette National Forest, Oregon, elevation around 4,800 feet, with the Sisters in the background. If it hadn’t been for (a) the mosquitoes and (b) the fact that this was US Forest Service land, I might have looked to buy an acre here and put up a cabin for The Pack’s summer abode… Sigh…


  • Joann
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Beautiful pictures!

  • Anonymous
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I still can't fathom how a Chinook helicopter flies. It's quite the lifting machine! Brad


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