Toklat River, Denali National Park

The interior of Alaska is stunningly beautiful.  This is a photo of the Toklat River in Denali National Park.  The Toklat is a braided river, which is created by an excess of sediment.  Over time the river fills with sediment, in this case from glaciers, and the sediment creates little islands or bars that the river must work its way around.

I really like the monochromatic feel of the photograph, with grays of the mountains, the sky and the river and just a touch of green from the trees.

Tundra Tour Landscape Detail Extractor

Avenida dos Aliados, Porto

Avenida dos Aliados is a beautiful avenue in the heart of Porto and is a great place to use as a starting point for exploring the city.  Lined with fine old Beaux Artes buildings, it’s been compared to Paris’s Champs-Élysées.  This is the view from Praça General Humberto Delgado, just in front of the Municipal Building, looking towards the Praça da Liberdade and the Hotel Intercontinental.

Located just a five minute bus ride from our hotel,  Avenida dos Aliados served as the hub for our explorations.   The avenue is just a few minutes walk from the Majestic Cafe, Livraria Lello, São Bento Railway Station, Mercado do Bolhão, the Church of São Francisco and many other tourist destinations.  It was also a great place to sit in one of the many restaurants to relax and plan our move.  We had breakfast at the famous Cafe Guarany and experienced Porto’s famous francesinha at an outdoor restaurant in the shadow of beautiful statue of Dom Pedro IV in the Praça da Liberdade.

Interestingly, until 2006 there was a tree-lined park in the center of the avenue.  When the metro station was built under the avenue, the park gave way to a paved square.  It would have been nice to experience it as a park, but Porto makes great use of the open space, using it as the chosen spot for concerts, festivals and other big events.

Avenida dos Aliados

Bairro Alto at night

On our last night in Portugal we had the pleasure of dining at Flor da Laranja, a Moroccan restaurant in the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon.

Ann Marie and I have lived in and around several large cities, including New York and Atlanta.  Usually, it’s not a good thing to wander the streets of these cities after dark.  Bairro Alto was different.  The neighborhood seems to come alive after dark and the streets are full of people.  We actually felt safer after dark in Bairro Alto than during the day.

I think this street scene captures the vibrant feel of Bairro Alto after dark.

Night Scene

Fire Pink, Kennesaw, Georgia

This beautiful little flower is a Fire Pink and was growing at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  Fire Pinks are one of my favorite wildflowers.  Despite being a relatively small flower, it’s hard to miss.  The bright red color stands out against the dappled shade of the woods behind the flowers. A member of the carnation family, the Fire Pink is a favorite of the ruby-throated hummingbird, which feeds off the flower’s sugary nectar.

Fire Pink

Grizzly Bear, Denali

During our stay at Denali, we took a Tundra Wilderness Tour.  The tour lasted about seven hours and went deep into one of the wildest of our National Parks.  The views were stunning and we were fortunate enough to see a great number of animals, including this grizzly, who was just a few yards away from our bus.  He’s quite an impressive creature and doesn’t seem to be too worried about the bus that’s sitting in front of him.

Denali Grizzly

 

Southern Tech Bathtub Racing

Most bathtub racing is either on water, which makes sense because they’re usually associated with water, or turned into modified wheel barrows and pushed for the race.  Southern Tech, in Marietta, Georgia, had a different take on bathtub racing, turning the tubs into little rockets.

Bathtub racing at Southern Tech began in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1980s before taking a 20 year hiatus.  Racing did return to Southern Tech during the early 2000s but seems to have once more stopped when Southern Tech was consolidated into nearby Kennesaw State University.

I attended the races, I think, in 1981.  I was surprised at the speed these things could achieve.  The bodies were bathtubs but the rest was pure racing machines.  You can see from the photo that speeds were considerable and the racers took this sport seriously.

Bathtub Race Sensia 100

Trams, Lisbon

A popular mode of transportation in Lisbon, particularly with visitors, are the trams.  Four of the five tram routes are serviced by the historic “remodelado” trams.  These trams date from the 1930s and were upgraded in the 1990s, with new brakes, engines and electronics.  Because of Lisbon’s steep hills and narrow streets, modern trams are too large and cannot make the tight turns needed to navigate the city.  Only Route E15 uses the newer “articulado” trams.

The most famous of the remodelado trams is Tram 28.  Because it’s the longest route and circles through much of the tourist areas, it’s almost always standing room only.  Be prepared to wait to board the tram as well.  It took us over an hour before we were able to work our way through the queue and board the tram.

We rode Tram 28 because tourist guidebooks all tout it as an inexpensive way to see the sights.  I would advise against it and recommend, instead, any of the other trams, which are less crowded and more relaxed than Tram 28. We rode Trams 18 and 25 and had much more enjoyable rides.

Lisbon Trams

 

Red Boathouse

This photo was taken many years ago, with a film camera, at a small lake in North Georgia.  I was lucky enough to be the only person visiting that particular spot that day and was able to enjoy the quiet peace and beauty of the lake and woods.  I was taken by the way the man made object looked so at home in the natural setting.  I also like the faded red of the boathouse is complemented by the reddish tint in some of the foliage.

Red Boathouse

Me and My (Cancerous) Shadow

There comes a time when we begin to realize we’re not immortal. For me, that was when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the blood where a certain protein becomes cancerous and then clones itself over and over, eventually forming tumors in the bone marrow. There have been several new drugs and treatments introduced over the last few years which have extended the life expectancy of patients, but there is no cure.

I had known for years that I could eventually develop the disease. I’d had smouldering myeloma, it’s precursor, for a decade. There’s about a fifty percent chance that the cancer would progress from the smouldering phase to the active phase within the first ten years, so I was right on schedule. I was still shocked by the diagnosis, though. After ten years of nothing I figured I was in the clear.

The average life expectancy of someone with multiple myeloma is three to five years, although with recent advances many people are now expected to live many years longer. I’m nearing six and my protein levels are still pretty low, although lately they’ve begun to climb again. I consider that pretty good.

I’ve been lucky. As the disease progresses, tumors develop in your bones and spontaneous fractures can occur. So far the disease has not damaged my bones.

I underwent a stem cell transplant in 2013.  Sometimes the stem cell transplant doesn’t work. Mine did, and I was home two weeks after my stem cell transplant. There were a couple guys who’s first stem cell transplant didn’t take and were into their second transplant.  I was out of work for six weeks, post-transplant, the minimum required, then returned to work full time. A work acquaintance who had the same disease, underwent a stem cell transplant one week before me and even had the same oncologist returned to work part time and then retired a year later. So, yes, I’ve been lucky.

There have been some positives. I’ve lost a little weight, so I’m right where I should be as far as BMI. My wife and I eat a lot better than before, with a lot of vegetables and organic foods. I’ve cut out sodas and most processed sugars. We’re working on staying healthy.

Don’t get me wrong.  Having cancer sucks.  I’m always tired. I can’t spend a lot of time in the sun because skin cancer is a real possibility. The chemotherapy drugs have some pretty maddening side effects, and that’s always a concern.

Then there are the costs associated with monitoring the disease. So far, I’ve had three bone marrow biopsies, a stem cell transplant and I’ve been on chemotherapy of one sort or another for six years. The chemo drugs are around $200,000 per year.  Doctor’s appointments and full blood panels have to be done every three months, and they aren’t cheap, either.  I blew past the million dollar lifetime insurance cap that existed before Obamacare within four years of my transplant.

These days depression is an issue.  Multiple myeloma is never cured; the best you can hope for is a reduction in the protein levels to keep the disease at bay.  You live in constant fear that the disease will suddenly start growing again, that the chemotherapy drugs will stop working or that the treatment will become too expensive.

For years I worried about insurance because I now had a pre-existing condition.  After Obamacare I had to worry that the GOP would repeal the law. Now I worry that they’ll simply roll back the lifetime cap or the pre-existing condition protection and I’ll have no insurance.  There’s plenty to be depressed about.  ABMT Clinic 2

Because my protein levels are once again climbing, I had an appointment with my oncologist to discuss future treatment.  There are several new drug therapies that we can use, but before we can decide on which one to go with I have to undergo another bone marrow biopsy.  I’m not looking forward to it.  I’ve had three already and I can honestly say it’s probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.  But it is what it is.

So for now, I’m kind of up in the air, waiting to see what the future holds for me.

Alaska Wilderness

Sometimes I’m left with the feeling of awe at the beauty of nature.  Alaska’s wilderness left me feeling that way over and over.  Even now, two years later, the places that left the deepest impressions were not the tourist locations, but the natural places we saw in passing.

I don’t know exactly where this mountain and valley are located in Alaska.  I can only tell you that I took the photo as we passed by on our Alaska Railroad journey from Denali to Anchorage.  It leaves me with an appreciation of the power and majesty of nature.

Alaska Landscape