Thursday, November 24, 2016

Adventures to Palo Duro Canyon and Bosque del Apache

Like last year, we went on a long road trip before Thanksgiving to visit places we wanted to visit for some time - Bosque del Apache National Wild Life Refuge in New Mexico. Since it would be a ~ 11 hours drive, we stopped midway, at Palo Duro Canyon State Park at Texas panhandle.

This trip was an adventure in many ways. Taking routes less traveled opened our eyes, changed our perspectives - miles-long trains, forest of thousands of wind turbines, straight country roads that run 30 - 50 miles into horizon, expansive cotton field, water holes, cattle, irrigation systems ....   and the changing colors of foliage, land, sky, cloud and plants - golden, yellow, green, black, white, blue ....

Palo Duro Canyon has great landscape, amazing trails, it is second only to Big Bend in Texas! 

Tens of thousands of migrating birds and water fowls at Bosque del Apache made us in awe of nature!

We had a few mishaps before and during the trip - my van's battery died the evening before the trip, the elastic cord in a tent pole broke (luckily) right after we took down the tent, and a flat tire in the early morning on our 3rd day of the trip ...  we took all of them in strides, solved each problem as it came .... they made us stress a bit, but did not dampen our spirit or spoil our mood.  I actually learned to fix tents! As far as experiences at the destinations and on the road, this is the best short trip we have ever had. So I share our trip itinerary here.

Day 1, 2 @ Palo Duro Canyon

1. Leave DFW on Saturday morning around 8am
    route 121  ==> 380  ==> 287 ==> FM1151

    note; instead of I-40, we took FM1151 to get to Palo Duro Canyon so that we could enjoy the rural     expansive area on panhandle

2. Arrive at Palo Duro Canyon ~ 3:30pm
    set up tents at camp Hackberry 

3. Hiking on Lighthouse Trail @ 4pm  - to see the famed light house rock formation (~ 6 mile round trip)

    note: a. beautiful scenery, easy hike most of the trip, the last 0.25 mile to the lighthouse is                                 strenuous, may need to be on 4 limbs to climb. It is worth the effort.
             b. return trip would be in dark, bring flashlights

4. Picnic for dinner 7 - 9 pm

5. Walking around the camp under the beautiful starry sky

     note: remember to bring heavy coat for the cold night and morning

6. Hiking @ Sunrise on GSL trail for only 0.6mile - sunrise was ~ 7:47am  - not too early

     note: beautiful scenery, crisp air and amazing sunrise

Turkey visit to our camp

7. Breakfast and Hiking on GSL trail, turn around at 1.5 mile marker

     note: balanced rock and remote view of light house rock

8. Leave for Bosque del Apache  ~11am

Day 3, 4 at Bosque del Apache

1. Arrived at Bosque @ 5:30pm  to see sunset and sandhill cranes and snow geese - flight -in - return to their roost

    note: we were late for the flight in - should be at the roost area before 4:30pm

2. Stay at Best western hotel at Socorro, NM, which is ~ 20 miles north from the refuge

     note: dinner at Bodega Burger

3. See sunrise (day 3) and sandhill cranes and snow geese - flight -out  (6:40am)

4. Auto tour around the wildlife refuge  (12 miles loop but may take 3 - 4 hours to view wildlife)

     note: take short hikes on boardwalk trail, J P Taylor Trail and stops at various locations

5. Hiking longer trails after lunch (cancelled due to flat tire - had to go back to town to replace tires)

     note: lunch at  El Camino Restaurant

6. sunset (day 3) and see sand hill cranes flight -in. (No sunset due to dark clouds in western sky)
note: dinner at Domino Pizza - pizza, chicken wings and salad

7.  Back to Bosque del Apache for sunrise and sandhill cranes and snow geese flight -out  - due to sunny morning forecast

Sand hill cranes fly out at sunise
     note: wonderful crane flight out, and magnificent/massive snow geese in the beautiful sky

8. Drive home via 380 ==> I-20 (again route less traveled to see different places).

NOTE - driving on less traveled roads is great, but the consequence of potential hazards is more severe - there could be nothing within 50 miles, no cell signals either. Be prepared for the adventures!! maintenance of your vehicle, food and water, spare tire ... 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ski Vacations

As our skiing skill improves, ski vacation has become our most favored winter vacation.

I started skiing more than 16 years ago at small hills, Boston Mill and Brandy Wine at northeast Ohio, which were only 5 miles away from our home then. I bought the season pass and the whole package of skiing equipment, ski, boots and poles, the second year I skied after I could ski green trails. To ski was not a vacation then, but more a weekend excursion. I skied every weekend during skiing season!! The whole family would go to skiing with me every three or four weeks because the perk with my season pass was that I could have quite a few free tickets for family or friends each season! The only skiing vacation we had during the early years was a trip to holiday valley ski resort in New York, with another family, which I don't remember much. But the thrill and excitement of skiing, the blue sky and white snow, and the crisply cold fresh air of outdoor in winter made us, me in particular obsessed with skiing.

When we moved to Texas, one of the first things I did was to locate where the closest skiing location was. It turned out that Taos Ski Valley is the best ski resort in driving distance. Our tradition of annual family ski vacation started.

Driving or Flying

Skiing is very expensive, flying to far away ski resort can almost double the expense - airfare plus more expensive lift ticket and ski rental. There are a few ski areas within driving distance to North Texas - Ski Santa Fe, Sandia Peak, Taos and surrounding ski resorts, and Wolf Creek in southern Colorado.

Driving to ski areas has quite a few advantages -  bringing your own equipment conveniently, side trips to visit great places along the way, family bonding, .... and more economical.

We have been to Albuquerque to visit friends from our graduate school time, and many other places for sightseeing, including Santa Fe, Banderlier National Monument, Las Alamos National Lab, Palo Dura Canyon State Park, Petroglyph National Monument and Pecos National Historic Park., Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Great Sand Dune National Park,  Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge .....

Driving long distance is also twosome time for Lily and I  as Kids were quietly watching a movie or playing computer games, we had time to talk about topics other than kids' education and discipline, such as tax cut, health care reform, politics, ...; we also spent time talking about our work, long term career plannings and expectations, exchange or re-exchange research philosophy, personnel management, team building ... Occasionally the boys actually stopped watching movie, stopped listening to music, to listen our conversations with great interest for extended period of time.

Due to the side trips and sharing of driving responsibilities, the main disadvantage of driving to ski vacation for us is the inclement weather on the road which can make driving hazardous.

After numerous ski trips in driving distance for over 10 years, we started thinking to explore other, much further away ski resorts, we thought about Colorado, Utah, California and Canada. We flew to Denver to ski at Winter Park in 2015 and Keystone during spring break this year.

 Hotel or Vacation House

For single family ski vacation, staying in hotel will be more economical for lodging. In addition to that the beds will be made by house keeper everyday,  the family will have more opportunities to taste local food. For multi family group ski vacation, staying in vacation house may not be too expensive if a few families share the house.

condominium complex - rental home
For the Keystone trip, we went with another family. They love to stay at vacation home and we went along. The home rental was taken care of. It was about 2 miles away from the ski lift and very roomy for two family to stay.
dinning area of the rental home
Since our friend Jean purchased all the necessary food/drink/fruit, we had freshly made hearty breakfast made right at the kitchen every morning. After a full day on the mountain, Lily and Jean would then make dinner for the whole group while chatting about skiing and many other topics. Communal cooking and eating is always fun and pleasant. It will make kids have more fun together after skiing, and parents have more time to chat and get to know each other much better.

We had lunches at the ski resort restaurants 100 yards away from ski lifts - first day at kickapoo tavern for sandwiches and burgers, and second day at spoon cafe.

decoration in the living area
Skis on the wall

Enjoying Skiing

Since we only ski once a year, every time we go to ski, we always start with an easy green trail and gradually increase the difficulty level as we move along the day.

At Keystone, we started with the longest green trail schoolmarm, and then explore the three mountains there via mostly blue trails.We enjoy ski because of the excitement of skiing and curiosity of exploring the mountains.  We  spent three full day to ski. The first two days were exciting, but by the 3rd day, we explored the mountains already and were a bit tired. We would then tried to ski on black trails, moguls a bit, skiing on green or blue trails as breaks.

Lily and I sometimes hike to areas we were unable to ski on, just to get a feel of what it was like to be there, we hiked the peak at Taos and  the peak at wolf creeks. Because of these experiences, I recommended to other who was unable to ski at the top of mountains, to take a gondola rides to there to enjoy the spectacular vistas. One family took the advice - it was awesome for them!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Presidential Election After thoughts

Why did Trump win?

There are many explanations to why Trump won, and Clinton lost. Of course there were many reasons. People wanted change - Trump is an outsider, Clinton is an insider, Trump spoke his mind, Clinton lied ..... Given all the outrageous comments Trump made in public, all the alleged bad behaviors he has ....he won the general election fair and square!

I thought that there were two main reasons that Trump won - one is widely attributed to - "the forgotten working class", see one interesting report here, the other is the suffocating "political correctness".

Political correctness has gone so extreme that people dare not to speak their minds in public if their opinions, ideas are contrary to that of the liberal media's. People lost their jobs, and even their properties - see the example in former LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling, whose private conversation being taped and led to his downfall.

Nobody dare to speak their minds in public and in some cases in private. One reason that many polls were wrong because many Trump supporters did not want to tell pollsters they would vote for him since he was labeled racist, sexist ...See a good reflection from one journalist on 

Trump was their champion to fight extreme political correctness. 


Democracy means majority rules - in this case, majority in Electoral College. There is no report of irregularities, no protest from Clinton campaign about the election. Trump won fair and square.

There are protests reported in major cities around the countries. Those are sour losers who don't understand what Democracy means.  Losing side should get over with the election, try to win next round, true believers of democracy do, even they voted for Clinton.

Democracy 2

Some commentators, domestic and international, said that Trump's candidacy was a mockery of democratic process. Democracy does not guarantee the best outcome or even a good outcome. It guarantees that majority rules. Trump's candidacy and success in this election actually demonstrated one more time that democracy works!

Peaceful Transition

I was pleased to hear a quick concession from Clinton when election outcome was clear. Her gracious concession speech was moving considering the animosity between she and Trump. She yielded to democracy, not to her political enemy.

I am heartened every time I see the peaceful, gracious transition of power after presidential election: Bush to Clinton, Clinton to Bush, Bush to Obama, and now Obama to Trump.

Obama said to Trump during their first meeting after election: "We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed — because if you succeed, then the country succeeds."

They are true believers of democracy!!

Pain in the Ass

My doctor suggested that I have colonoscopy baseline screening in the past couple years, and I finally decided to take his advice after this year's annual physical.

I had the colonoscopy on a Thursday earlier this year without drama, and everything was as expected.

The drama and pain was before the exam.

In order to have the colonoscopy, one has to be cleansed internally!

No food the day before the exam, only clear liquids for the whole day

Start the cleansing at 3:00 pm

Drink a 10-oz liquid magnesium citrate 

Bowl movement ensued

Drink 1st supprep for colonoscopy from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm per instruction  - total of 16 oz liquid in one hour, and then drink 32 oz water from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Diarrhea ensued especially from 5 to 6, every time after I drank some water

Drink more water or chicken broth  from 6 to 10pm.

More bowel movements followed

Drink 2nd supprep for colonoscopy from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm per instruction  - total of 16 oz liquid in one hour, and then drink 32 oz water from 11:00 pm to 12:00 am

By this time the  what comes out is pretty much only water with "flak", the watery defection becomes clearer with each ensuing trip to the toilet. In the early morning hours, the last two trips to the bathroom, the defecation was clear dark yellow liquid - like urine. I was cleansed by now,

2 lbs was lost during the period.

After so many trips to the bathroom, the rectum was really irritated - especially after the second supprep.  It is very painful, very annoying, very uncomfortable and you can not do much about it except wait it out  - it is "pain in the ass".

Note - in addition to pain in the ass, the other thing that bothered me was general anesthesia: I was worried any side effect it might have, if I would wake up after sedated seems to be OK....for now.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Election Related Items

2016 Election

The election is 3 days away. Did you vote in early voting? If not, election day is November 8, Tuesday. Remember to cast your vote! We voted during early voting despite the bad choices this election cycle provides. 

Trump cried that the election was rigged. Clinton alleged that FBI meddled with election by disclosing additional investigation into her usage of personal email server for official business .....

We will know if the election itself is rigged or not after the election is over. 

But meddling with election process? 

Did FBI meddle with the election by releasing information about additional investigation into Clinton email gate? If there is cause for this investigation, the voters need to know, especially for those who have not voted, and undecided, then No. From news reports I saw, no Clinton supporters alleged that there was no cause for this investigation, they were outraged because of the timing of the revelation of the investigation.

There is one obvious meddling of the election process - biased media reports on the general election - no major media outlet reports about it because they are guilty. reported that "Poll: Majority of voters believe media biased against Trump". An Chicago Tribune article proclaimed "Of course the media is biased, because most of the audience is, too" But the reporter forgot what he learnt in college about one of the basic principles of journalism,  "Fairness and Impartiality".

I watch TV news, read online newspaper everyday, I observed the bias the whole election cycle, from primary to general election. During primary, the media tried really hard to crown Clinton, even when Sanders was surging. In the general election cycle, the media's bias is more aggressive - my observations are mostly superficial - positive coverage on Clinton even when the news was bad, show Clinton's attack on Trump while summarize Trump's event for him - image without audio .....

The media bias is so severe, a USA Today opinion article declared that "If you want checks and balances, vote Trump."

Voting Statistics Comparison - Asian American vs. Black

Asian Americans make 5.6 percent of the total American population. Black 12.2% of total population. As of 2016, there are 10 representatives of Asian-American descent, there are 46 black representatives. Out of 435 Representatives, Asian representation is 2.3%, half of its population percentage, black representation is 10.5%, close to its population percentage.

Asian-American participation rate in 2012 presidential election was 30%, Black's participation rate was 60%

On a local level, the city where I live has 20% Asian, 7% Black, no Asian American on the 8 member City Council, one Black council member.

The consequence of voting or not voting is significant - see how powerful black people are in American politics,  and that Asian-American's voice is frequently either not heard or ignored!!

Your Vote matters

In a democratic society, elections have impact on all aspects of our lives. On local level, it can be ordinances, bond issues, property taxes, water rate ..... On national level: Laws that impact our life directly (do you know that concealed weapons are allowed at Yellow Stone National Park?); How we live (Health care reform, Social Security Reform....); how TAX dollars are spent (wasteful spending eventually will lead to more TAX), ...... The list can go on and on.

Don't complain that you are not represented in city council, state house, congress or goverments at all levels ... Time to Vote!

Past posts on elections