Friday, January 15, 2021

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens offers splendid global flora, fauna

 

A mother cheetah and her growing juvenile wander about a beautiful preserve near Palm Desert.
They are not caged, but able to roam within a large expanse at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

TAKE A WALK WITH NATURE FROM OTHER CONTINENTS WITHOUT LEAVING THE U.S.


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
A group of Australian budgerigars a
is almost close enough
to touch -- but we wouldn't disturb them. We know them
as "budgies" or parakeets, and they love seeds.

IMAGINE in these cloistered "Covid times," a walk with nature from around the world.
Picture yourself admiring graceful gazelles on the African plain, or getting up close to a pair of playful wallabies in the Australian outback.
Zebras, giraffes, beautiful green and yellow "budgies."
Foxes, oxen, exotic deer from distant  continents.
You can join us. We were thrilled to find this exotic, international outing possible, without leaving California.
IT HAPPENS at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens  near Palm Desert, Calif., not far from Palm Springs.
It's a magnificent, welcome native wildlife zoo, considered by many to be one of the finest zoos in the world.
 accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, exhibits more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The park provides an up-close experience for visitors, with a variety of fun interpretive programs for every season, geared for the
All wallabies are marsupials ,
with young born tiny, helpless
and undeveloped. This mother
has a young "joey" in her pouch.

family. Living Desert also has beautiful hiking trails, picnic areas and group facilities.
WE PICKED a Sunday for our visit, arranging tickets on line, as the website requests.
Because of distancing and masking, the zoo has reopened with strict protocol in place, and we were happy to see our fellow animal lovers behaving in respectful, courteous manner.
One of our favorite exhibits was to the wondrous wallaby enclave. Several wallaby adults are hopping about not far from the paths that lead zoo visitors around from "continent to continent."  There are several dozen species of kangaroos and wallabies, and they are among the favorites at the beautifully designed zoo and gardens. 
While viewers are welcome to get fairly close to many of the animals, guides and guards monitor the flow of viewers, keeping a close eye on behavior to make sure these beautiful critters are protected. 
Keller and Cookie spent a "masked afternoon"
discovering wildlife at Living Desert Zoo.
Numbers of entrants are monitored so the wildlife wonders unfold in a leisurely manner, allowing visitors to step up to viewing areas without crowds, respecting social distancing edicts.
WHILE SOME of the enticing attractions are closed -- no giraffe feeding or endangered species carousel for now -- there's plenty to entertain a family on holiday, or anyone simply looking for a unique, nature-driven outing.
We headed past the in-progress rhino attraction, which should open within the year, and stopped first in Australia, then on to Africa.  We didn't do justice to North America, since we live here and have
A graceful Arabian oryx eyes the camera.

The grounds and buildings are handsomely designed.
seen bobcats, badgers, wolves, foxes and eagles in the wild.  The exhibit is praised for its beautiful and varied collection of critters, ranging from coyotes to desert tortoises, jaguars, bighorn sheep and peccaries.
The large North America section is also home to some striking gardens, including palms, cacti, ocotillo, and many others of the varied plants our continent enjoys.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens was known for a time as the Living Desert Museum. The current name better represents the place, which is both a remarkable desert botanical garden and an impressive zoo.
Palm Desert isn't far from Palm Springs, and this is a great time to view the Sonoran Desert as spring begins in the Coachella Valley and Santa Rosa Mountains foothills.
Architects have fashioned an inviting terrain to simulate that of the animals' native homes.
The attraction is also a "free range" zoo, along with a marvelous botanical garden and nature preserve, protecting 1,200 acres of desert.
WE WANDERED through carefully marked garden and plant areas, which greet the eye on a casual stroll.   
The nature trails were not open the day we visited, but the non-profit enterprise is slowly rebounding from closure at the beginning of the "Covid scourge."
 It's a wonderful place to visit and learn and when Covid is conquered, the petting zoos, wildlife and reptile shows and lectures will be back in business.  Meanwhile, a worthy endeavor to support.

Go on line to livingdesert.org to book tickets in advance for your visit.


We bring you news of cruise line reopenings, reschedulings 
and more. Travel is slowly opening up again, so have faith.

UP NEXT: Fellow cruise junkies, listen up.  We're researching the return to the seas, which is happening as we write.  And we couldn't be happier or more excited.  With more than 125 cruises under our life vests. So we've been following the industry's disastrous hit during COVID times.  Slowly, the ships are returning to the waters so  we're updating our "travel in COVID times" cruise column, with our latest observations and new information which should help fellow cruisers.  We also have encouraging news to report on current hygiene policies on the high seas. Meanwhile, remember to mask, distance, and explore, learn and live while we await a vaccine. Please share this column, too, and comment.  We appreciate that!

Friday, January 8, 2021

'Jeopardy!' ends an endearing era with Alex Trebek's January 8 finale

Alex Trebek with one of his Emmy awards. He received  "Outstanding Game Show Host" Emmy
seven times,  and was presented with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  He died Nov. 8, and his last taped show aired Jan. 8.
 

BELOVED GAME SHOW HOST SIGNED OFF WITHOUT FLOURISH

A giant billboard of host Alex
Trebek greets "Jeopardy" fans
who line up for tapings. We
joined the queue last autumn.
The billboard will remain.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and Sony Pictures Television

A montage of Alex Trebek's
"Jeopardy!" moments
moved viewers Friday.
IF YOU tuned into "Jeopardy!" Friday, you did not hear an inspirational message from the game show's popular host, Alex Trebek. But you were treated to a bittersweet, 90-second montage. The moving tribute was set to Hugh Jackman singing the Peter Allen song “Once Before I Go." 
It was a whimsical, laughter-filled remembrance showing Trebek's evolution through his 36 years as host. We saw him with moustache and without, with curly black hair then with grey, with costumes and snappy suits from several decades. The show was taped in October, days before Trebek died, not realizing it would be his last.
Earlier in the week, he'd used his opening time Monday to deliver a powerful message urging unity, compassion and generosity.  That felt like a farewell to us.
ACCORDING to the show's executive producer, Mike Richards, “That was something Alex decided to do in that moment.” The audience greeted the impromptu message with enthusiastic applause, grateful shouts, cheers and whistles. That was his welcome in the studio all week. 
Many of us shed tears when Trebek's pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in March of 2019. 
San Francisco professor Jim
Gilligan won Friday's game.
Friday's winner, Jim Gilligan, said in an interview after Trebek's November death that the veteran host was a pro to the end, and that no one on set had any idea the final game would indeed be that. 
The correct answer to the "Final Jeopardy" clue was "What is isotope?"  The San Francisco professor was one of only two players to make it to that last question. "Alex was incredibly intrepid and very positive. I think we were privileged to have him around.
 Monday's spontaneous thundering ovation obviously moved Trebek who has hosted the popular show for 37 seasons. His final episode was taped Oct. 29.

"Jeopardy" staff ready the show and quiet the crowds before
the taping begins. The lady walking up the steps at left is
coming to order a viewer to put his phone camera away.
THAT LAST SHOW had no fanfare or formal farewell from the veteran host, nor any kind of personal message to viewers in the opening statement. That's because “Alex didn’t think it was going to be his last show,” Richards said.  The show was filmed only 10 days before Trebek died Nov. 8 at his Los Angeles, family at his side, following a heroic and much publicized battle with the disease. “He had planned to host the show again that next week, and was focusing on that," Richards said in an interview. "Then when he wasn’t feeling well, he told me, ‘I don't believe I'll be able to come this next Monday or Tuesday but let’s look at the following Monday and Tuesday’." Trebek died days later.

"Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings takes a
selfie with the legendary Trebek two years ago.
Jennings temporarily takes the helm next week.
AS RICHARDS 
A young Alex Trebek in
"Jeopardy's" earlier days.
and his team put the final touches on this week's final Trebek episodes, a search for his successor began.
“It's going very well. There are  lots of people very interested in hosting Jeopardy!, which is gratifying, and also appropriately reverent of the shoes they will be stepping into,” Richards said. “We have had some great conversations with people.” 
"Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings will be the first guest host beginning Monday, Jan. 11, after Trebek's sign off Friday, Jan. 8.
Media mogul, entrepreneur
 and former TV host Katie 
Couric is a top contender.

Johnny Gilbert, now 96, says part of him died
when news of Trebek's death reached the crew.
'KEN STEPPED in and did a great job for us as a guest host,” Richards said. The plan is to have a series of guest hosts through spring, using the mix of stars' and past winners' appearances as prospective auditions, Richards told fans. “You'll also see big-name people who are not going to be considered for the role but they just love the show, love Alex and wanted to pay tribute,” he said. “We don't want to hurry to name a new person. We all are still mourning the loss of Alex, and I think to just turn around and name someone would be irresponsible and not thoughtful."
Alex Trebek and his wife Jean
at a fundraiser. His ashes rest
at their Los Angeles home.
Christene "Cookie" Meyers,
excited to be on the lot
where "Jeopardy!" is filmed.
 Trebek’s death leaves a void, including deep sadness for announcer Johnny Gilbert, 96, who golfed with Trebek and worked with him since 1978. 
 The staff of "Jeopardy!" is unanimous in its affection for Trebek, who Richards said, "was in inspiration to us all. He was so professional, so hard working, so intelligent and in all of that,  also incredibly kind. When you hear people say it will not be done like that again, that’s true.  But we can all aspire to do it that well again.”
A permanent new host won’t be named before spring, Richards said in a press conference. 
FORMER 'TODAY Show" host Katie Couric is believed to be on the replacement host list. Actor and children's PBS TV host LaVar Burton is also said to be a candidate for Trebek's replacement.
"Reading Rainbow" host
for many years, actor
LeVar Burton, is a
contender for new host.
Veteran actor and TV personality Betty White, 98, may take a turn as guest host, speculators say. She was married to "Password" game show host Allen Ludden until his death in 1981 and was a good friend of Trebek's.
“We are going to take our time and talk to a lot of people, have some people guest host and see what our fans think as well,” Richards said.
This week's final Trebek shows were originally slated for the end of December, but were moved into the new year. Check your local listings to see what time the show airs Jan. 8. (We get it at 6 p.m. in Montana and 7:30 p.m. in California. It airs as early as 4:30 in some markets.) 
We have cherished memories of our three "Jeopardy!" viewings and I'm proud to have met Trebek twice.  We'll keep the Kleenex nearby tonight as we watch his last show. In true show biz fashion, the "Jeopardy!" show must go on. Once it's up and running again, tickets are available on line. They are scarce, and coveted. Check out:  jeopardy.com/tickets

The regal cheetah mother surveys the landscape with her
juvenile, at left. Found usually in Africa, this family
lives happily and without cages near Palm Springs.
UP NEXT: While we're celebrating our favorite game show, we'll take readers with us to visit another California attraction. Join us as we journey into a world of spectacular nature and wildlife, at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs, California. It offers an  enlightening insight into the lives and beauty of animals around the globe.  We recommend a visit for families, couples or anyone with an affection for plants and wildlife. Come visit this national treasure, ranked among the top zoos and gardens in the world. Until the COVID situation is resolved, distancing and masking are enforced, and numbers are limited, so make a reservation first. Remember to explore, learn and live, and share these stories with your friends. Check out: livingdesert.org and 
whereiscookie.com

Friday, January 1, 2021

Yellowstone in winter: greet 2021 with nature's delights in an uncrowded wonderland

 



If you visit Yellowstone National Park on a warm winter day between snowstorms you'll see bison 
snacking on the grass that must sustain them until the spring rains bring fresh grazing material.

PARK'S WONDERS UNFOLD IN A CLOAK OF SNOW, ICE AND STEAM


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Christene "Cookie" Meyers, left, awaits entry to the coach.
YOU'LL SHARE Yellowstone's wonders with its four-footed inhabitants if you venture into the country's first national park this winter. There's no better way to celebrate the breakthrough with COVID, and hope for a healthier, more normal 2021.

The glorious hot pools in Yellowstone are a 
wondrous sight with the steam and snow.

In Yellowstone National Park, winter means seeing the park in a new light -- fewer crowds, frigid temperatures, and steaming geyser basins.  No shorts and t-shirts. Jackets, tights, warm boots. 
FOR A FEW months each winter, snow coaches are the only vehicles to traverse the park's inner roads.  "Oversnow" travel 
means snowmobiles and snow coaches, the only travel allowed.  The season ends in mid-March, when plowing crews begin clearing a winter's worth of snow. Down the road, as spring comes around mid-April, temperatures begin to climb, roads start re-opening and normal cars can begin touring. 
 Meanwhile, beginning around this time of year in mid-December, roads in Yellowstone open to limited snowmobile and snow coach travel. This means the only way to visit the park's iconic wonders -- including Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and other geysers, hot pots, steaming cauldrons and canyons -- is by guided snowmobile or snow coach, or through the non-commercially guided snowmobile access program. Most stores, restaurants, campgrounds, and lodges are closed during winter. 
Hiking, snowshoeing, nature viewing, 
bird watching await in a winter park experience. 
A series of warming huts are open for cross-country skiing, and ranger-led programs are offered periodically for winter guests at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. (Check the websites because the hotels are not scheduled to reopen until winter of 2021.) Park partners and other businesses offer guided activities and trips during winter, and there are "COVID" precautions in effect.
WE FOUND our winter snow coach tour through Yellowstone offered a remarkable connection with nature in a winter wonderland I'd not seen in my many trips through the park. We spotted wildlife at a relaxed pace and were warm, even cozy, inside our coach. It's a much different experience than the summer-autumn visits I've enjoyed all my life.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is a rustic get-away in winter.
It is closed because of Covid, but park officials say
the plan is to reopen later this spring.

Winter in Yellowstone does indeed deliver, as the brochures promise, "a more intimate experience" -- fascinating snowy landscapes, and frosty animals. We could see steam from the bisons' mouths as they grazed in a plain where snows had nearly vanished.
Keller and Nick enjoy R&R in 
Kelly Inn in West Yellowstone.





WE STAYED in two places, two different winter sojourns: Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. But COVID has thrown a wrench in in-the-park lodging. You can stay in West Yellowstone, where we recommend  Kelly Inn for its comfy, western inspired rooms, pet-friendly ambience and closeness to the wonders of the park.
When Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens again, it provides a rustic wintertime place to stay, and a 10-minute walk from Mammoth Hot Springs,
Geyser basins and hot pools take on an other-worldly look, induced by cold temperatures. One might call them canvases of fire and ice. The winter experience also offers opportunity for photography, skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching. Explore the winter experience through lodging, snowcoach tours, skiing and snowshoeing, packages, and snowcoach transportation.
yellowstonevacations.com/guided-tours/snowcoach-tours-wy; yellowstonekellyinn.com/

Alex Trebek's final "Jeopardy" show airs
Jan. 8, followed by a tribute package
celebrating the popular host's legacy.
UP NEXT:  
 Alex Trebek's final "Jeopardy" episode airs Friday, Jan. 8, so we celebrate the life and legacy of this master wordsmith, congenial host and compassionate, brave human being. We have some inside info on the future of the popular game show as well. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at the arts, nature, travel, family and more. Please share the link with like minded friends: whereiscookie.com






Friday, December 25, 2020

No place like home for the holidays; communicate, celebrate kindness


Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers are hunkered down, taking small domestic trips,
 keeping their passports at the ready as hope for international travel and a vaccine becomes a reality.

END THE YEAR IN STYLE, KINDNESS; 
CELEBRATE LIFE, LOOK FORWARD TO  HOPE

Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers enjoy a holiday
snuggle just the two, wishing they were with family.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


 —Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
For no matter how far away you roam
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home

--Allen and Stillman from a 1954 hit tune

'THERE'S NO place like home for the holidays,” as the classic tune says. And there's no year that compares to the amount of time we spent at home in 2020.
Who knew, a year ago, that we'd be isolating, distancing, quarantining this year? That we'd be spending days on end in the confines of our homes. We've spent months in sweat pants, house coats and gym clothes, or as one friend put it, "Our most crucial fashion decision was when to change from our nighttime pajamas to our daytime pajamas."
AFTER MONTHS of isolation, economic anxiety, and pandemic fatigue, there is good news, though.
The vaccines we've awaited are testing now both abroad and at home; we should all be vaccinated by spring, and ready to hit the travel decks again.
With some modifications, we can still have a happy holiday. We can even venture
Gran Canaria, Cookie and Keller enjoy truchas, coffee, royal headware.
to select,  hygienically proper hotels, with care and caution. In our case, here in San Diego, we're able to stay in hotels in our own state. Out-of-state travelers will be welcome once the latest three-week ban lifts, which is Dec. 28.
 A FUN pastime for us this year has been to sort through photos of Christmases spent in other lands. We've ushered in the Yule in San Juan, with giant sculptures of the wise men and "Feliz Navidad" banners hung throughout the Old Town.
We've eaten splendid holiday fare in restaurants and private homes. One of our favorite culinary memories is of sweet potato turnovers, or truchas de navidad. It's the Canany Islands' answer to beignets. Try making them. Fairly easy and we're sharing our favorite recipe. 
A San Juan street scene celebrates the holiday.
Remember how short our time on earth is.  Call a loved one you haven't spoken to recently. Do something nice for a stranger.
OUR BELOVED "Jeopardy" host, Alex Trebek, passed away in early November.  His last taped show airs Jan. 8 and his farewell to a faithful audience is rumored to be a touching one. Put that on the docket to watch. Meanwhile, some of his best shows are airing, and Ken Jennings is in the wings to host during transition.
Alex Trebek's final show will
air early January, a swansong.
We recommend dressing for a TV movie, or a celebratory dinner.
 We're doing it, just the two of us!
NOW, WE 'VE all spent nearly 10 months isolating, masking, distancing, playing it safe. So the world is  faced with a holiday without the usual family and friend parties, celebrations, dances and general merry making. Try to be introspective. Be kind, imagine a better world.
  So indeed there might be no place like home for the holidays, but we're not all able to be home.
I like to "click my heels" and imagine I'm in Kansas -- or back in Montana.
After all this angst, fear, exhaustion, fatigue and separation, we'll never view our "old life" the same. If we have hope in our hearts, and a generous spirit, we can make the most of a rotten year -- and embrace the future with renewed appreciation of family, friends, our lucky lives!

Thermal pools of Yellowstone beckon for a fresh start in 2021. 

 
UP NEXT: Yellowstone in winter for the New Year! Do something fun, do something outdoors, keep the faith that we'll be beyond this COVID scourge soon. We bring you an idea for an amazing nature connected trip in the New Year. How about a trip to our nation's first national park, Yellowstone! Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel approach to nature, the arts, travel, family and more at: www.whereiscookie.com

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

LOCKDOWN! California reels, hotels, restaurants close as virus rises

With hotels closing throughout southern California, this beautiful Westin north of San Diego is empty.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
The lovely outdoor reception areas and bars of many southern
California hotels (here the Westin Carlsbad)

WE WERE WARNED that there would be another COVID spike in winter.
Today -- nine months after the first lock down -- we are locked down again for the third time in southern California.
People continue to gather, spewing germs, disregarding distancing edicts, hosting parties, endangering us all.
The post-Thanksgiving surge of cases predicted before the holiday has arrived.
The United States confirms more than 16 million COVID-19 cases and 300,000 deaths since the pandemic began.  Worldwide, nearly 72 million cases and 1.6 million deaths. 
Masks dangling from their ears for the photo,
Keller and Cookie take a stroll with Nick.
 Nevada is making national news, turning parking garages into an ICU. New York, California, Texas, Vermont are all high, with numbers in Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana and South Carolina rising, too. Here in California, our numbers are at a record high on top with 21,000 deaths. New cases reached 140,843 this past week, an increase of 41 percent over last week.
THE NEWS IS not good and we're due for another spike after the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.
Many of our favorite California, hotels and restaurants are closing.  The small mom-and-pop cafes we frequented are folding. So sad. We received notice from two hotels this week warning that travel will be restricted and we might not be able to take our planned holiday trips (to safe, distancing, masking, thoroughly cleaned Hilton brand resorts.) While our holiday hotel reservations are in jeopardy, we are assured that our deposits will be refunded. 
That's the least of our worries.
We tip our hats to those in service and on the
front lines, here at Scripps Green, where 
Bruce Keller has his regular bloodwork.
WE WOULD be happy if our fellow dwellers on planet Earth would help us through this international health crisis as the surge continues with no end in sight. Vaccines for the masses are still months away so until then, please, let's all be careful, considerate and cautious. 
The New York Times reports the daily average of new COVID-19 cases this past week was 211,199. That’s 28 percent higher than the average recorded 2 weeks ago.These few simple steps would make everyone safer:
We found a busker wearing a busker mask










* Get out in fresh air.  Clean hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
* Avoid close contact with sick people. Put distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet).
* Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
Hilton has been in the foreground
with its excellent hygiene policies,
here a sealer on a pristine room. 
* COVER your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
* Wear masks in public settings and when around people outside of your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Masks are important; they help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, and protect you from their germs.
We add these suggestions: avoid shock news, seek facts not gossip or politically motivated opinion.  Follow science.  This is not political. It's a matter of being responsible citizens, of being considerate of one another.
We are sad that so many are suffering. It would help us all if we'd mind these few simple suggestions.
How about it, folks? Can we all give it a shot?
 




UP NEXT:
Keller, Cookie in a festive pose with the twins, Nick and Nora,
on last Christmas, for a holiday greeting.
Home for the holidays! This photo was taken "at home on the range," for our card last holiday season, before our beloved Nora passed away from a chronic kidney infection.  We like it because we treasure the Montana memory, and it brings home the beauty of home sweet home. We'll share favorite holiday memories and consider how to make the best of the holiday in these strange, isolating times.  So haul out the holly, the mistletoe, the memories, and make it a safe and healthy holiday season. Catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on family, art, music, travel, health and happiness. Please share the links: whereiscookie.com

 




Friday, December 11, 2020

Hummingbird hurrah! Let's hear it for this tiny, tenacious bird

This tiny hummingbird weighs less than a penny. We found him wounded on our patio and helped
him fly again this week. He's returned to his box to visit a couple times. Happy news! 

This hummingbird is probably a broad-tailed variety;
Keller caught him in flight near one of our Montana feeders
.
 
.

 
 

BIRD RESCUE PROMPTS RESEARCH OF THIS TWO MILLION-YEAR OLD SURVIVOR'S HISTORY


Editor's Note: Our rescue this week of an injured hummingbird found on our patio prompted several hundred replies to our Facebook post and a request for more on the hummingbird. Here's to this beautiful bird!


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER 

This hummingbird in flight was outside our
San Diego townhouse in the courtyard garden.
I'VE LONG loved the hummingbird, that tiny, delicate, but tenacious creature.  When I was a child, my grandmother let me help her boil sugar water then fill the feeders. (Four parts water to one part sugar, a pinch more sugar; boil gently for three minutes and change the water every few days.)

I've rescued hummingbirds from cats' paws and   Yorkies' jaws. I gently directed one from the rear of the garage when he flew in then couldn't find his way out. (I used a large red silk scarf to guide him.) This week, we helped a hummer recover from a fall on our patio. We fixed his dislocated wing, fed him, nursed him until he could fly. He's been back twice that we know of.
I'VE WATCHED with fascination as hummingbirds compete for the feeder.  I've been dive-bombed by hummers while gardening with a red or pink scarf on my red hair. "Why do they like red?" I asked my grandmother.  She explained that the bird's sense of color has to do with its dense concentration of cones in its retina. 
This hummingbird was enjoying geraniums
at the Montana place, in early July.

Amazing to me is the fact that the cones contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow to red. Scientists say those drops act like filters, serving to heighten color sensitivity in red, yellow and orange, while muting colors such as blue, brown and green.
I TIP MY hat to hummers; they are small but mighty. They've also been around millions of years. The first hummingbirds developed 22 million years ago, arriving in South America from Asia.  They spread through that continent, then migrated to  Central America, the Caribbean and eventually North America. We've admired them on several continents, always marveling at their endurance and beautiful colors. We've logged five varieties in California, four in Montana. 
This little guy was at rest
at an Idaho rest stop.
To make a day's rounds of 25 miles, the hummer must beat its wings two million times. They must carry enough "fuel" to make a 24-hour flight and can travel as much as 645 miles in a single haul. (That's about twice our car trip driving limit of 325 miles a day.) They've been known to migrate several thousand miles with only a few stops.
Our little friend has been back twice to the box in which
he recovered from his accident earlier this week. 
HUMMERS HAVE predators, particularly free-roaming domestic cats. Their other enemies are windows, buildings, stationary objects. Sometimes, they're hit by cars, and they can encounter problems during migration and lousy weather. Like all of us, they also succumb to disease. 
Hummingbirds do return to a favorite feeder year after year, and can live three to five seasons. A few live long enough to die of old age.
 I WAS DISHEARTENED to discover that the male has little to do with the female or the young, once he mates. But no species is perfect. Keller defends the male hummer's actions, saying, "He's doing a lot.  He's carrying on the species."
We hope our little visitor lives long and prospers, and that he continues to visit us again and again.
He worked his way into our hearts in these few days, and we treasure the gift of his magical presence.


Many hotels in southern California are empty this week.





UP NEXT: With the first COVID vaccines being tested, and COVID deaths rising at an alarming rate, California is once again in lockdown. We look at the effect the pandemic is having on the travel and hotel industry.  A photographic foray through southern California this week documents the sad fact that many of our hotels are closing, with staff put on furlough, and beautiful rooms, pools, conference halls and restaurants empty. We explore these challenging times with a nod to science and the good that may come of it. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays at: whereiscookie.com. Please share the link with like minded people.


Friday, December 4, 2020

Motorcycle madness: Evel Knievel's fame lives on in Idaho Visitor Center

Butte, Montana, native Evel Knievel tried a jump in this spectacular canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Jumpers enjoy a tamer form of entertainment --
 still with an element of danger. This is 
a popular adventure at the bridge.

TWIN FALLS MUSEUM PAYS HOMAGE TO PIONEERS, PROGRESS AND A MONTANA BORN DAREDEVIL

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THERE'S SOMETHING attractive about a daredevil. Even when we know know there's danger involved in his recklessness, we watch -- fascinated, if a little afraid.  And so it was for millions of us watching Evel Knievel 46 years ago -- on Sept. 8, 1974. 
That's the date when, with much media fanfare, the famous daredevil attempted his most ambitious feat.
He failed to leap the mile-wide chasm of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on his specially engineered rocket motorcycle. Gravity and a malfunctioning parachute cut his death-defying jump from 1,600 feet to 500 feet but Knievel still made $6 million from the stunt.

The Twin Falls Visitor Center is worth a visit.



HE ATTEMPTED his leap employing a unique "skycycle" which he helped design.  The stunt made him a household name around the world -- he was already a star in my native Montana.  Although few knew his birth name -- Robert Craig Knievel -- everyone knew "Evel" Knievel and we were proud of our Treasure State's most famous daredevil.  In his life he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
 Some of the more famous include flying over the fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, jumping over busses at London's Wembley Stadium, and that abortive trip across the Snake River Canyon in his wild, steam-powered vehicle. 
Now,  just past 13 years since his death on Nov. 30, 2007, in his Florida home, we celebrate this Butte, Montana, native, for his guts,  daring and his sense of showmanship.
A bronze statue pays tribute to
Idaho Falls champion and
founder Ira Burton Perrine.


Thoughtfully planned walking and viewing areas lure
tourists to enjoy the Snake River from on high near
the well designed and modern Idaho Visitor Center.












Butte born, Knievel came full circle. His grave site is in his hometown of Butte, south of town in a grove of trees. His tombstone, with its cartoon rocket car, was chiseled in 1974 and ready in the event that he perished duringn his much publicized jump attempt over the Snake River Canyon. Evel lived through many broken bones acquired in his crazy stunts. His last leap was a gentle one, s to his rocket car tombstone in 2007 at age 69.
 Knievel's Idaho jump
 WHILE KNIEVEL is a star at the Visitor Center, Twin Falls is equally proud of its founder, Ira Burton Perrine, who is immortalized in a lovely bronze and gave the bridge its name. The
center also has an artfully displayed souvenir and gift shop featuring locally-sourced products. There are also a variety of exhibits showcasing the natural features and history of the region. An interpretive center includes a display of settler and civic booster Perrine stagecoach, exhibits about the agricultural history and geology of the Snake River Canyon, and a pleasing array of photos
Although he was born in Montana, Evel
Knievel is immortalized in Idaho, near
the site of one of his few failed jumps.
His Butte tombstone also carries
his famous "rocket cycle" logo.


 and information about the abundant recreational opportunities in the area.
A tribute to Evel
Knievel is one of the
  interesting displays
.
The Center also serves as a centralized location for exhibits about the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Minidoka National Historic Site, Craters of the Moon National Monument and City of Rocks National Reserve. 
DURING OUR visit, folks were relaxing on the center grounds, and hiking a well developed trail system. We wandered up to a scenic overlook along the Snake's canyon and watched as jumper parachute from the 486-foot-tall Perrine Bridge.
Evel Knievel pulled off a lot of crazy stunts during his lifetime — so many in fact, that some fans actually were disappointed when he and his motorcycle easily jumped over a pyramid of more than 50 smashed cars on the Coliseum floor in 1973.




This tiny hummingbird had a dislocated wing which
prevented his flying from our patio.  We nursed him back.
 
UP NEXT:  We saved this tiny hummingbird this week, rescuing him after he landed on his back on our patio.  We had no idea there was such hunger for a good-news story, so next column, we salute the hummingbird, our favorite tiny fellow traveler. Its tenacity, prodigious flying talents and attention to its young make it a worthy subject, not to mention its ability to endure swings in the winds and weather. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, family and more. Please share the link with like-minded friends: whereiscookie.com