Monday, November 30, 2009


It's been a busy week since my return from Tucson. There was Thanksgiving, then Unky Herb went off to Arizona for a vacation, a chance to see the Grand Canyon, some desert and his cousin, John. I guess all is going well there, but he missed a pretty good pie party on Saturday night. I neglected to get any photos of the festivities, but the usual after Thanksgiving group helped PP and I down some Papa Murphy's pizza, a nice salad and a cold beverage. UH called during the party and several of the party chatted with his Arizona host. It was cool.

PP is off to a road trip for her next to last week at MCC. She's wielding her chain saw somewhere near Rochester.

So today, with the weather still decent and no snow yet on the ground, I went to check out the beaver dam that I was watching before my trip to the high desert. The beavers have been working on the ash trees near Upper Lake. I found one tree that was gnawed through, but had not fallen. This was a fresh casualty of the beavers, gnawed through recently and hung up on another nearby tree..

I walked around Upper Lake, hoping to see the animal of the day. After once around, I sighted a brown head swimming in the lake. I think it's one of the beavers, but I could be wrong. I tried to get closer for a better view and the creature went under water and never came to the surface again. I think that he may have retreated to his lodge, but after waiting about five minutes, I went on my way. It was definitely a wildlife sighting, however.

Incidentally, on my trek around Crosby Farm I sighted two guys on bicycles, and one was helmetless. It seemed to be too cold to bike without a head covering, but maybe it was just a hardcore guy.

No tennis today. I had the day off after three straight days of doubles with various groups. My timing is back - after the altitude problems in Tucson - and I'm playing pretty well. It would have been nice to have been in this zone while the tournament was going on. C'est la vie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Thanksgiving of the Year

We managed to get another Thanksgiving dinner pulled together in St Paul. A joint effort between PP, UH, TT, and Mr. Moohoo's clan culminated in a feast. We had plenty of food and a great pile of leftovers to sustain us another day. My free range, unfrozen turkey roasted to perfection - at least to my satisfaction - on time, and on the table. A view or Mr Turkey below.

We had a small, but hungry crew. We ate, watched some uninspiring football, and some after dinner walking occurred. Then we ate some pie - PP's apple pie with home made crust, and some savory pumpkin pie. There was some playing of Nintendo Wii and another Thanksgiving is in the books.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I arrived safely back in cloudy Minnesota yesterday. It was after dark and the trip was uneventful. I'm posting a few of the Tucson photos because it's nice to remember what the sun looked like. The sky was always a lovely blue. Except at night when it was pretty black with stars sparkling through.

This photo is from Gates Pass on the way to the Desert Museum. I guess I was celebrating the fact that the tournament was over and we'd had a good time in the desert. I climbed to a minor peak in the pass and stood near a precipice to try to show the dramatic landscape in the photo. No animals were harmed in the production of this photo.

I took this at the Tucson Zoo. It's a small zoo in the same mammoth block that contains the Randolph Tennis Center. Jerry and I walked there on Thursday after our practice session. It's the first time I can remember being in the presence of rhinos. They are large animals. I also like to feature some wildlife on my blog from time to time and these creatures seem to qualify.

This shot was taken at the Desert Museum, west of Tucson. It shows some of the beauty of the desert and the mountains in the background.

Prof Bill called and invited me to play some tennis today, so I went to Fort Snelling to continue the wars with the rest of the geezer tennis association. We had some hard fought points and managed to finish a 7-5 set and part of a second one before our 90 minutes on the court elapsed. It was nice to get back to indoors tennis where the sun is never a factor and the wind never blows. My tennis game seems to be back after being thrown off beam by the altitude and the elements in the high desert. I had to play with a borrowed racket because I seem to have left both my rackets in Unky Herbs car after he picked me up at the airport, but the adjustment seemed seamless.

It's time now to start to get Thanksgiving plans in motion. I bought a turkey last night at Kowalskis - a 12.5 pound bird that is not frozen. I think feasting will begin in earnest the day after tomorrow if I can manage to get it roasted.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Positive Spin Necessary

The Nationals 8.0 Mixed Doubles tournament is over. Our team had a slow start and then pretty much tapered off. The players on all the teams are very good and we perhaps should have showed up in force a few days early to get ready for outdoors play in bright sunshine in the high desert. The site in Tucson is about a half mile in altitude and that serves as another excuse for our record of 0-3 in team matches and fourth place in our group. There are lots of positive stories to tell, however, and it was a great and positive experience. I'm claiming 15th in the nation from the 17 team tournament. Anyone who disagrees is just plain mean. We played teams from Wichita, Medford (Ore), and New Jersey. The Wichita team went to the semis and finished third or fourth.

The picture below is of our number one team, Becky of the hardcore girls and her husband, Terry, are the team on the left. They are about to call the coin toss before starting the first match on Friday against Wichita. Becky and Terry had a bad day and lost the match

A point of interest is on the grounds of the Randolph Park Tennis Courts. The Little Joe memorial court graced by the bust of Little Joe. We played our matches very near this spot.

I personally played twice at the number two spot. Friday afternoon at 3:30, Becky and I lost to the number 2 team from Medford, Oregon, 6-1, 6-1. We played in a spirited manner but altitude related mistakes and a superior team took us down. The guy on the other team was another older guy, and remarked when I met him, that I was glad to see some gray hair on the other side of the net, and he laughed and agreed. He was 57. And had very consistent strokes.

I played Saturday morning with Barb (the other hardcore girl) against a couple of pleasant folks from New Jersey, both in their 30's or 40's. We did a little better, losing 6-1, 6-3, but I was able to hold my serve 3 times - point of pride for me. Our tournament was over and we spent the afternoon being tourists and rationalizing our lack of success.

Some of us went to the Desert Museum and took in the sights of the desert and the Saguaro cactus. (They are everywhere). The is Jerry, our captain, goofing around, pretending to ride a statue of a javelina, which he called a wild pig, and for which he was corrected by one of the Museum's employees. It's a nice museum, mostly outside, and which has a lot of animals which are not native to Minnesota, including big horn sheep and rattlesnakes.

The tournament is done. The team from Northern California, San Jose, I think, won the 8.0 tourney. It's a travel day for most teams. We stayed around and played a couple of sets on the courts after the action was complete. This group, Marsha, me, Jerry, and Carol are are members of the Minnesota team. A group picture of the whole team is probably forthcoming in a few days. Watch this spot.

I'm sticking to the claim that we finished 15th. That's not too bad for a group from the frozen north. We were one of about 4000 teams that began the whole tournament process, so I guess that's the positive spin that I'd like to leave it at. A nice week in the high desert of Arizona.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gates Pass

I went to the Desert Museum west of Tucson with my host today and expected to see cactus and rattlesnakes on the other side of glass. These I saw. But when one travels, one must expect the unexpected. Today a strange thing happened as I opened the door to leave the men's room, Newt Gingrich walked in. We did not speak, but apparently he greeted Rich, who had exited the same door scant seconds earlier. Newt, the Republican muse, was at the museum with some underlings for God only knows what reasons. I have photographic evidence of his presence which I can supply once I get to my own computer. I only need to say that Newt had a little more girth than I expected.

A couple of photos follow from a brief, but very scenic stop at Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountain Range on the way back to town. The first is a picture of the place where I took the second photo, and the second is a photo of the place where I took the first photo. It is a quite dramatic place to visit, but the photo probably fails to do it justice. There are a lot of cactus in the valleys and cliffs around this pass.

This next photo was taken next to the stone building in the above shot, a building that was apparently erected in the 1930's by the WPA.

Jerry, our tennis team captain, is town for the tournament at Randolph Park. Tomorrow at 10 a.m. we, the parts of the team in town, are having a hit around at the tourney venue. There will be a team banquet in the evening and then Friday we begin the action. Newt is not expected to attend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ventana Canyon Trail

I'll be getting to the tennis tournament in a couple of days, but right now I'm still in travelogue mode. I'm enjoying my adventure in Arizona trekking, although I did squeeze in 3 sets of doubles under some miserable lighting conditions after dark tonight.

My host led me on a hike to Ventana Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Tucson is completely surrounded by mountain ranges and the range to the north is the Santa Catalina Range. The climb starts at an elevation of 2950 feet and we ended at about 4200 feet at the place pictured below. Tucson is in the distance and a dry creek bed cuts through the mountains in the center. We crossed the creek bed several times on the way up. It took us just over three hours for the round trip. Notice the cactus.

There is a sign near the bottom of the trail saying that this is a bighorn sheep management area, but we didn't seen any sheep or, happily, any of those mountain lions or rattlesnakes. There were several nice vistas on the way up (and down) which show the prevalence of saguaro cactus in this part of the world, Cacti are everywhere. During the 3 hours on the trail we ran into 25 other hikers, by our actual count. We had a short discussion with a group of four hikers who were discussing their common home base - Minnesota. Stillwater and Rochester, I believe. It must have been Minnesota Day at Ventana Canyon today.

Because there has been some interest in the bike that I rode yesterday in Saguaro National Park, I have included a photo of the lender and the bike that I rode. Also pictured is a yucca tree, I believe, and Raggedy Andy. I had some difficulty with the shift mechanism until I got used to it, but, what the hay, no one got hurt. The borrowed helmet is not pictured.

After the hike we came back to the Stebbins Hotel, a place with great service and quite good food for dinner and to get ready for some tennis. I actually made my second batch of five bean salad in the five days since my arrival on Thursday. It's pretty popular with the host. And I must say he makes a mean grilled salmon as demonstrated last night for dinner.

Tennis went pretty well. I played three sets and managed to be on the winning team in two of them. The schedule for the tournament has been posted. We play matches beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday at Randolph Park Courts. My first match is at 3:30 at the same site. The fat is in the fire.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mission of San Xavier

I did some sight seeing in the desert Southwest before I went to Randolph Park to smack some tennis balls. The visit to the Mission at San Xavier, south of Tucson, was interesting and enlightening. The Spanish owned and controlled this area until the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 made it USA territory. This mission was established in 1699 and the church built in the 1780's. The missions were an important part of the Spanish control over the native Americans who had lived here for thousands of years.

Part of the day was spent on a ten mile bike ride on a borrowed bike and wearing a borrowed helmet. Rich lives about two and a half miles from Saguaro National Park, named for the prevalent cactus type, which appears to be everywhere. The ride was a little hilly and it took me a while to get used to the shift mechanism, but in the end, worth the effort. This was taken outside the park after an up and down ride through the picnic areas. There were no mountain lions to be seen, but there were cacti and various other wild creatures not seen elsewhere. My total mileage in Arizona reached double figures.

Javalinas. They have found a home in Rich's front yard. These two were napping when we encountered them and didn't mind the photo taking. They are somewhat protected by cactus here and are relatively tame. They are native creatures and not wild hogs. I took several other photos of members or this band of javalinas that numbers about 15.

The tennis went pretty well. I've played twice at the site of the tourney and it's beginning to feel like I'll be able to play here. My first match is Saturday afternoon against a team from the Pacific Northwest Region. The rest of the team gets here on Wednesday and Thursday. More tennis for TTT tomorrow, just to be sure that I'm ready.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sabino Canyon

I played another four sets of tennis doubles with Rich and some of his cohorts this morning at the Tucson Country Club. It was my fourth venue for tennis in my four days here. So far my won-loss record is mediocre, but I've met some nice people on the courts, and I'm getting acclimated to the climate and the playing conditions.

Rich took me for an afternoon trek through Sabino Canyon, a few miles from here. We walked about two miles up into the canyon, then two miles back and I took some photos on the way for the blog. It's quite a beautiful natural area.

The hike begins uphill towards the mountains and there are ample warnings about the animal dangers in the canyon. We didn't see any mountain lions, but there are cacti everywhere.

This shot is at one of the WPA bridges that cross the creek that winds through the canyon. The creek was mostly a dry creek bed. There are trees and more mountain vegetation as we went up the mountain, and saguaro cactus plants are mixed in.

This gives an idea of the prevalence of the cacti all the way to the top of the nearby peaks. This is the foothills, and the mountains go much higher than this, It was a beautiful cloud free day and the temperature was in in upper sixties. A very nice day.

Arizona is a pleasant place to spend some leisure moments as I wait for the tournament to commence.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Finding Arizona

After solving a photo download problem I can continue recording this adventure in the Southwest.

I managed to find the Randolph Park Tennis complex with the help of my host. He knows the city pretty well, and also where most of the tennis courts are. At these courts next week there will be 3 mixed doubles national tournaments, pretty much in unison - the 8.0 leagues, the 6.0 leagues, and the 2.5 leagues. The 8.0's where I'll be participating are composed of three doubles duos, wherein the ratings of the players adds up to 8.0 - quite often two 4.0 players like me, TTT. The courts are ready and seem to be quite playable. There are 25 of them in a mile square park containing several other athletic facilities.

I think I may be one of the first to arrive. I played on one of the courts, number 24, this afternoon on a windy day. There were even some raindrops falling on my head, a rarity here.

I've played at two other tennis facilities in my three days here. One was a dude ranch - Tanque Verde - with nice courts and the smell of horse offal in the air. The other was a country club with a swimming pool near the courts that makes most of its profits by catering wedding receptions. The courts were adequate.

The sunsets from Rich's house are quite lovely. See below, from last night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tucson, Tennis Tousan

After a three hour plane trip, I seem to have found summer again. It wasn't a blazing hot day in the desert, only in the lower 80's. Pictured below is my host in his backyard next to a cactus. Cacti are everywhere here. The vegetation is alien, but it's a nice place to spend a few days and to get acclimated to the climate for the upcoming athletic event. Rich has shown me around and has been the perfect host. Tomorrow we'll play some desert tennis and go for a walk in the mountains.

Below is another cactus in Rich's yard. Cacti are everywhere here. There is even a National Park in town named for a cactus, Saguaro National Park. We drove through it today and it is filled with cactus plants. Cacti are everywhere here. There is a bike trail along the rode that could be used for a Tour De France mountain stage. There were no riders on it, but Rich says that there are plenty of accidents here each year on a particularly steep section of the road with a hair pin turn at the bottom. No place for a great flatlands rider.

There will be tennis news in the days ahead.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Pair of Mallards

Another September day in November, although it is tending towards October. It was a tad too windy for an excursion to the tennis courts. It was mainly in the 50's and I went to find out if the ducks were still in town. Normally, this time of year most self respecting water birds have taken their act south. These mallards were still feeding at Como Lake this afternoon as I circumnavigated the lake yet again. They had plenty of company, Canada geese and a variety of other duck breeds populated the pond.

I checked out the butterfly garden near the Conservatory, too. Nearly all the color has gone from the site. The fragile flowers are long gone, but there are some plants with a cabbage like appearance that are still thriving. They must be an import from Siberia or the North Slope of Alaska to have come through October in a green frame of mind. There were no butterflies to be seen. But there were people out and about, enjoying Veteran's Day with a walk in the park.

The sports section has been reporting on Andre Agassi's new book where he admits to quite a bit of recreational drug (crystal meth?) use back before he hooked up with Steffi. Apparently he has never liked tennis that much, having been forced into the sport by a pushy, ambitious dad. He had a pretty good career and won a lot of money in the sport, so I suspect he enjoyed himself a little bit. Marat Safin thinks that Andre should give back the money and the titles. Martina also came down pretty hard on the guy. I guess his actions kind of stink, but at least he wasn't using performance enhancing drugs, in fact quite the opposite. He's older now and seems to be doing good things with his money. And he can't be too bad a guy if Steffi still loves him. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Down the Hill from Gino

There is a reason that they call this Hidden Falls. It's hidden. This is just down the cliff from where Gino was today. I actually took this shot yesterday after the patio party. But yesterday was a carbon copy of today, so I'm using the photo.

As the St. Paul city site says about Hidden Falls, "The park dates back to 1887, when it was selected by Horace Cleveland, a nationally known landscape architect and park planner, as one of four major park sites for the City of Saint Paul. ..."

We played outdoors tennis today, the second time this month, beginning at about 3 pm and finishing as dark overtook this part of the state at about 4:45. The sun presented some tricky challenges, Because the trees are leafless and only branches blocked light, the shadows were blotchy. It was harder to see and accurately predict the path of a ball when the sun was up than it was after it had gone down leaving only ambient light. The cooler than normal temps made the balls less resilient and one had to hit the balls with much more gusto to get the usual result. And the little bit of wind required each player to more closely watch the ball to be able to hit it in the abbreviated sweet spot of their racket. All this made for some frustration, but also for some long and closely competed points. We managed two complete sets, 6-4, 6-3. This was preparation for the Tucson tournament. As I told Tennis Dennis, "now I'm ready to play tennis in cold weather." Not Tucson weather.

It was, however, a very fine September day in November.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The Prairie Princess planned a cookout for her MCC compatriots and she planned it for November 9, today. As luck would have it, the weather turned decidedly glorious. Who'd a thunk it? Sixty degrees on November 9, weather warm enough for bare feet. I hung around for a photo or two and also to sample the food. PP made bison burgers and wild rice with mushrooms and onions. We had three bean salad and the MCC guys and gals brought additional vittles. Here's PP hanging out by the grill in bare feet. It was a nice feast, and I got to partake.

I also managed to get the group to pose for a picture. They are funny people and the joking and laughing was out of control, but you can see by the photo that they were enjoying themselves. Then I went off to Hidden Falls for a walk in the wilds while the young'uns socialized. They're an entertaining bunch.

Funny story. My patio furniture rotted away a couple of years ago and I haven't replaced the table. PP and I thought we should have a table for the cookout, so we went to Menard's yesterday to buy some patio furniture. The signs indicated "Patio Furniture" above the department where they used to have patio furniture. They apparently moved that all to storage a couple of months ago and filled the space with Christmas decorations. There was not a single patio table to be had. We improvised for the cookout and it worked okay. I had an old card table and we used upside town waste baskets for coffee tables. I'm getting a new table next spring while there is a selection.

Other points of interest. Yesterday was Sunday and the weather was even better than today. So the GTA geezers played two sets of tennis outside, in the wind. Outdoors tennis on November 8. And we're scheduled to do it again tomorrow. We're starting later, about three pm and, given the shortness of the days lately, we'll be lucky to get in one set before the sun deserts us. But it will be outdoors tennis in November in Minnesota.

The order of months has apparently changed this year. Now it's August, September. October, and September again. I am not against it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November's Best Thus Far

The nicest day of November, mid fifties. I had to revisit the beaver lodge to see if there have been any changes. The beavers have been active, but are not around in the daytime. The lake (Upper Lake) itself was still and very reflective. It was a pretty place to be.

There was mixed doubles at Wooddale tonight. The hardcore girls and Jerry are nearly ready for the Tucson trip. The schedule of play has been posted and we are all committed to the trip to the desert. It should be a nice adventure.

We played three sets tonight and then I was off to Yang's for their Singapore Rice Noodles. I'm thinking about asking for their recipe for posting on the family food blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crosby Lake

It was a gray November day and no tennis was on my schedule. It's not warm enough for much, except a walk in the wilds of St. Paul, namely Crosby Farm Park. It was in the mid 40's, and the chance of rain was small. I had been to Upper Lake in the park a couple of days ago and discovered evidence of beaver activity. I thought I might be able to surprise a beaver and get a good photo of one, perhaps enjoying some ash tree for lunch. I have since learned that beavers are nocturnal and hard to find out and about during daylight hours. I did get a pretty good look at a couple of beaver lodges. This one is in Upper Lake.

I also learned that in the 17th century the Catholic Church ruled that the beaver is a fish for purposes of the dietary law. Thus, in Lent the faithful can eat beaver - also otter, if the truth be known. I am amazed at the things one can learn from Wikipedia.

I decided to walk around Crosby Lake. I have been by the lake on my bicycle many times, but the side that runs along the cliff has only foot paths, and rudimentary ones at that. It's a good size lake, but I set out into new territory. New territory is always a little exciting. I first found this deep crevice cutting into the cliff below Shepard Road. It looks dangerous and alluring.

There is also a previously unknown (to me) cave cut into the cliff. See below.

I only met one person during the wild part of the walk. It was a young woman walking with her Springer Spaniel. As I met her I observed that I hadn't expected to meet anyone on the trail. She responded that she had that same expectation. I then said that it was a pretty area. She said that she agreed and said that I shouldn't tell anyone about it. You are all thus sworn to secrecy.

On Crosby Lake there were more signs of beaver activity. There were some gnawed trees, an elevated beaver pond, and this large beaver lodge in the lake itself.

I have included a google maps reproduction of the area where I spent part of my day. I managed to circumnavigate both Crosby Lake and Upper Lake before I came home for a late lunch, maybe four or five miles.

Lastly. The Highland Villager, our local newsy paper reported some info about the deer hunt in Crosby Farm Park last week. The deer herd was estimated at about 24 members, and 5 of them were taken in the first three days of the hunt. There were 14 bow hunters who joined in the doe-only hunt. The same 14 will be at it again next week in the final three days of the attempt to trim the herd to a more manageable number. They hope to salvage some of the shrubbery in the yards of some Highland Park homeowners.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First Tuesday in November

Today Is election day in Minnesota. St Paul had a school board election, a mayoral election and a referendum on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV lets everyone's second choice enter into the election when the race is close and no one has a majority of the votes. IRV is being used in Minneapolis this year and St Paul is thinking about following the trend. I'm not sure that I'm in favor of it, but since UH and PP seemed to think it's a good idea, and they will be doing a lot of voting in the next 50 years, I went with "Yea." Maybe we'll find out which side won sometime tonight. I walked to the Linwood precinct with PP, just in case she needed someone to verify her residence in this precinct so that she could vote here again.

This is PP entering the voting building. Somehow the photographer got caught in the frame. So be it. The voting area was not busy. No lines strung out of the room as they did last November in the presidential election, and we were able to get in and out in about ten minutes - including voting and getting our "I Voted" stickers.

I played some tennis at Fort Snelling this afternoon, just as the weather was turning wet yet again. We played a couple of sets and came out at 3:30 to a pretty good storm. One cannot count on a full day of pleasant weather, but at least the morning was sunny.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Upper Lake

It's Monday and November. PP had a day off from her restoration quest. She and I decided to visit the smaller lake in Crosby Farm Park, Upper Lake. The season has redecorated the park. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and the oaks have become the predominant colored tree. The buck thorn is still green. They seem to be the only bush that is still green and they are the arch-enemy of PP in her day job. She chainsaws them down when she gets a chance.

The interesting development at the lake is the activity of a group of beavers. They seem to be building a lodge for the winter out in the lake. They have been chewing down trees in the area. I took this shot of an ash tree that was recently felled, but there are others in the area. They bite quite large chips out of the tree trunks and the pile next to the trees is pretty impressive. We walked around the area, hoping to encounter one of the lodge builders, but it wasn't to be.

It's a wild spot in the middle of a metropolitan area and the beavers are doing what beavers do. This is the same area that had a deer hunt for archers last month and they'll be doing it again next week.

It was a sunny day, more like a nice October day than November.

A full moon is out tonight, the one known as the Hunter's Moon. The season is changing.

There was no tennis today, but I'm scheduled for tomorrow afternoon with three other geezers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Double Doors

With a theme day titled "doors," you might expect at least a few photos of Jim Morrison, at least from bloggers of a certain age. I passed up the obvious and am posting the doors to The Fred Wells Tennis Center. It's a place that I use twice a week and so I pass through these doors at least four times a week. Today was no exception. We played at 2:30 and that meant missing most of the first half of the highly hyped football game of the local pro gridders flailing away at the Packers in Green Bay. The local boys managed to beat the cheesehead favorites and everyone in Minnesota seemed happier for at least a little while. Today's tennis sets at Fred Wells went well, too. The doors appear to be propped open by a pumpkin, perhaps a nod to the recently completed candy wolfing holiday.

PP went to a Halloween party last night and I'm including a photo of her costume. She went as a pirate, complete with a parrot and a sword. [Not a real sword or even a real parrot.] She managed to survive the party and is safe again from the demons of Halloween. I guess she learned a little about her coworkers and the evil firewater.

November is here. And immediately it warmed into the fifties. I feel somewhat encouraged.