Sitting here on the outdoor balcony of a bar/restaurant in Ketchikan, Alaska. It has WiFi and a plug-in so I can bring you up to speed on this vacation we’re on that absolutely defies description because of the weather we’ve had. We boarded Holland/America’s Volendam cruise ship Saturday afternoon in Skagway and set sail that evening for our Sunday cruise through Glacier Bay. HollandAmerica is one of only a few cruise lines whose ships are allowed in the bay and to snuggle up close the glaciers..especially the Tidewater Glacier which put on quite a show for us. Well, take a look at a few of the pictures from the last few days.
Archive for July 2013
By: Doug Lund
Ufdah…no WiFi for three days. The wilderness and isolation up here in the Yukon is both exhilarating and frustrating but no worries other than being unable to post any of the pictures I’ve tried to capture of this incredible place and the people taking part in our Keloland/Holiday Vacations Alaska Adventure. Here are a few shots from earlier in the week.
I’m running out of battery on my laptop now so will post of few more pictures of the final leg of our land journey here in the Great White North when we get to Ketchikan.
We have completed most of the land journey now and are about to board our Holland America Cruise ship where we’ll sail into Glacier Bay and then down the Inside Passage to Vancouver..then motor coach our way to Seattle and fly home. Yes, it is going too fast..due in part to our excellent Tour Guide, Teresa, and our good humored driver, Todd but mostly thanks to a real fun bunch of travelers who have been extra special. Everybody’s having a ball.
By: Doug Lund
I’m going to quickly run out of adjectives in attempting to describe our first four days in Alaska because even though this is Linda and my fourth tour here, we’ve never seen it like this before; bright sunshine and mild..even warm..temperatures. Because the weather has been so beautiful, the state is showing off like never before; a proud peacock letting down here guard. There’s a saying up here that you take what Alaska gives you. More often than not, she chooses to be mighty but mysterious with overcast skies and mist shrouding the magnificent mountains allowing us only occasional glimpses of their enormity. But this time, Alaska is baring it all with colors and views that have even the locals saying “WOW.” I’m afraid my little Kodak can’t come close to capturing its splendor but I had to try.
One more view of Denali. Gotta run now to catch the bus. We’re going pannin’ for gold and a riverboat ride today. Wish you were here.
By: Doug Lund
I made a sort of half promise to myself before departing on this, our latest Keloland/Holiday Vacations tour to Alaska; quit complaining about the negative side of air travel these days. And, to be honest, the flights that brought us here to Anchorage, were just fine. We were an hour late leaving Denver because of mechanical issues but it was no biggie. I had a window seat this time which not only provides a place to lay my weary head as I try, without much success, to grab some sleep, but on this occasion I was able to watch a six hour sunset from 35 thousand feet. Through the miracle of a jetliner’s speed and the rotation of the earth, we left Denver at Dusk and arrived 5 and a half hours later at dusk in the land of the Midnight Sun.
Once again, we have a terrific group on the tour and have been paired up with a few familiar faces from Holiday Vacations. Our tour guide, Teresa, was our guide to Ireland last summer. Our motor coach driver, Todd was our Alaska driver two summers ago. He’s a real hoot and laughs at all my corny jokes. Another Holiday Vacations group..mostly made up of folks from Iowa, is making the same tour. Their guide, Dave, was our fearless leader last time in Alaska. It was really fun for Linda and me catching up with him too.
Saturday morning started out warm but rainy as we traveled South of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm. Suddenly the sun broke through revealing the ChugashMountain range in all its splendor. Our main stop for the day was Alaska’s premier ski area and a ride to the mountain tops aboard an aerial tramway that had my not-comfortable-with-heights wife more than a little nervous. But the ride was smooth and spectacular. Linda actually appeared to enjoy herself perhaps for no other reason than, once again, she has stood up to a major phobia and survived with her typical smile. No one could ask for a better travel companion.
Tomorrow we depart early for the journey to Denali National Park where on Monday we hope see lots of bears and moose and other wildlife that call this wilderness home. We’re especially hopeful that the sunshine will continue to follow our path allowing us a full view of the mighty MountMcKinley which tends to be enveloped in clouds about two thirds of the time.
Following are a few photos from the day with more to follow as our adventure continues.
By: Doug Lund
Thursday evening and I can hear the frustrated voice of Linda in the bedroom muttering under her breath; “These suitcases too damn full. We’ll probably be over the 50 pound limit and have to pay extra.”
It’s the same song she sings every time we’re about to leave on another Keloland/Holiday Vacations tour..which we do on Friday and we’ve always weighed in under the limit. The bed is piled high with a wide variety of clothing and we must decide what we’re going to absolutely need over the next two weeks. I toss a few things on the pile and in the “to-be-washed” basket figuring I’m good to go. Before long, though, she reminds me that temperatures swing big time in Alaska and the Yukon. I might need more than a couple of Polo shirts and a jacket. Thank God she does fret because, although I’m getting better, I tend to assume that, by now, she knows what we need and it’s no big deal to pack it all up. Of course that’s wrong but, like I said, I’m getting better at realizing it.
Yup, Alaska. This will be our fourth trip to the great white north and we’re looking forward to the adventure of once again trekking into this amazing country with its majestic mountains and unspoiled wilderness..then boarding a Holland America Cruise Ship and sail South through the Inside Passage.
Holiday Vacations keeps booking these tours because so many Keloland viewers keep requesting and signing up for them. We have another full group this time including several repeat travelers..for which we’re so grateful.
As always, I’ll have the computer along and be sharing stories and photos on Keloland.com “Lund at Large” so you can vicariously travel along and, maybe consider going with us next time.
Now, I just hope the airline has enough seat belt extenders.
By: Doug Lund
First off, apologies for being so tardy this week. I finally went to a couple favorite places that usually clear my head and provide inspiration; the outside deck at Brandon Golf Course and Dunn Bros. Coffee. For some reason, though, my laptop wouldn’t connect to the WiFi networks at either place. After making doubly sure that it was my machine and not their signal, I concluded that in my zeal to speed up my computer, I clicked a wrong button and disabled its ability to hook up to all wireless networks except for the one at home. I know just enough about computers to be dangerous. I figured that I’d go to Youtube and follow the instructions provided by geeks in their basements demonstrating ways to delete certain functions that may be slowing my machine down. I try to be wary of those evil geniuses who also lurk there in hopes of planting viruses just for the fun of it. In the past, I’ve used Youtube videos for instruction on how to properly carve a turkey, improve my putting, shuck corn and, just last week, how to recharge the air conditioning system on our Camaro. (Which, by the way, worked great.) But some internet nerd has done it to me this time which I need to undo before our tour leaves for Alaska on the 19th. I can’t go without a working computer so there might be a new one in the budget if I can’t get mine fixed by then.
A few things in the news caught my attention recently including two incidents that involve the media. One was an ad distributed by AAA called “Great American Vacations” which was distributed across the East Coast. Notice anything amiss?
Of course an apologetic AAA says it’s embarrassed at the faux pas. North Dakota’s Attorney General has capitalized on the error posting an ad on his Facebook page thanking South Dakota for the generous gift.
Speaking of major screw-ups, this one strikes close to home and makes me embarrassed for some in my profession. San Francisco television station KTVU was first on the air to announce the names of pilots at the helm of last week’s Asiana Airliner that crash landed killing two passengers and injuring several others. Trouble is, the information came from a Bart Simpson-like crank caller using racist Asian references including “Captain Sum Ting Wong.” Apparently somebody at the station did have the common sense to double check their validity and received confirmation from a kid at the National Transportation and Safety Bureau. Eventually, a KTVU staffer realized what was going on and had the anchor apologize for the erroneous report later in the same newscast. Now, the NTSB is also apologizing for confirming the fake pilot names to KTVU, citing the handiwork of an overzealous summer intern. Good Lord. Journalism 101; never let being first take precidence over the importance of being right. Just ask the Chicago Tribune editor who okayed the 1948 headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” or those TV stations who reported, prematurely, the deaths of presidential press secretary, Jim Brady in the 1981 Reagan Assassination attempt and Congresswoman, Gabby Gifford who also survived a Tucson assassination attempt two years ago.
And, finally, let’s talk about smoking, shall we?
I must say it was refreshing to read something by Argus Leader managing editor, Patrick Lalley, that didn’t directly have something to do with his obsession about riding bicycles. No, this time his weekly column was a call to arms to close a perceived loophole in state law banning smoking in public establishments. In order to accommodate customers who smoke, many restaurants and bars have constructed outdoor patios for them to enjoy during the short summer season. In his typical snarky fashion, Mr. Lalley recounts a recent unpleasant experience he and his wife had while opting to dine on one of those patios and occasional wisps of tobacco drifted into their nostrels.
I haven’t smoked cigarettes for years and really wish others could quit but I reject the notion that they be shunned like a rebellious Amish teenager or painted with a stereotypically wide brush that suggests all smokers are knuckle dragging insensitive clods who, along with restaurants and bars that accommodate them, must be forced into conforming to more acceptable behavior.
There was a time, during his days with the irreverently funny “Tempest” magazine;(in which Keloland TV and me personally were skewered on a regular basis) Mr. Lalley would have made a mockery of such pomposity. No more.
I wonder what’s next. Maybe an Argus Leader campaign to force business places to provide more bicycle parking space?
By: Doug Lund
Received some sad news this week.
Phillip James Ehret has died at his home in Las Vegas.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, I’m not surprised. It’s been well over twenty years since “Phil James” was synonymous with big band music and ballroom dancing throughout South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
Our paths first crossed in 1968 after I piled my wife and two young daughters into our old Pontiac and headed east from Pierre where I’d spent two years working at the Red Owl grocery store during the day and three nights a week playing drums with organist Grace Lex at the Lariat Lounge.
My wife and I were just kids ourselves at the time and it really didn’t make financial sense to leave a steady job for a bunch of blue sky..but we were homesick as hell. I was about broke and the 70 bucks a week Urvig Bootery in Brookings paid me for selling shoes was barely enough to keep is in groceries.
That’s when I got the call from Phil who was just back from a stint in the Navy and looking to start a musical combo. Phil had acquired a brand new Hammond X77 organ and looking for a drummer to work some gigs he’d already booked. Somehow he’d heard that I’d played with Grace whose style was not unlike his own. (Think Lawrence Welk, Jimmy Darrel or Lenny Dee”
Well, I wasn’t about to commit to anything on the phone so he invited me over to his folks’ house in Elkton for an audition. I’ll never forget the sound I heard coming from inside as I walked up to the door. It was as if JoAnn Castle or Big Tiny Little Jr. had also stopped by to play a little ragtime piano. The door was open so I went on through the house into a parlor area where I saw Phil sitting at the keyboard of an old upright piano banging out a wonderful rendition of “Music, Music, Music.” When the song ended, we exchanged greetings and I begged him to do another. It was amazing to watch his left hand swing back and forth attacking just the right lower notes with such confidence and authority while the fingers of his right had were a blur pounding out the up tempo melody Honky Tonk style. “Baby face..you’ve got the cutest little baby face..”
“Did you bring your drums along?” Phil asked. “You bet, they’re in the trunk.” “Well, set ‘em up in the living room, let’s try a few tunes.” There sat his beautiful instrument humming away with two Leslie Speaker cabinets parked behind. No sooner had I put the last cymbal on the stand than Phil asked if I knew the Jimmy Darrel version of “Party Doll.” I said I thought so and thus began a three hour concert right there in the house which, by this time, had filled with family members and neighbors all wanting to hear these two young guys performing THEIR kind of music; foxtrots, polkas and waltzes. Phil’s parents, Charlie and Erma, had literally rolled back the carpet for dancing and the living room was filled with laughter and the aroma of cigarette smoke and cocktails. Charlie had invited the owner of the Knotty Pine just outside of Elkton to come over and listen which led to our being booked at the steakhouse once a month. I only made about 30 bucks..but it sure helped pay the bills. Phil and I played together for about a year when I had the chance to move to Sioux Falls and took it. I found music gigs throughout the 70’s; first working with county bands, then forming my own group which played 6 nights a week for years at the “Red Lantern” located just South of KELO. Phil, meanwhile, had also moved to Sioux Falls and teamed up with big band drummer, Johnny Soyer.
When Johnny and Phil split up he gave me a call wondering if I could fill in on drums for a while. “For a while” turned out to be 8 years performing together at every antler club(Elks/ Moose lodges) and ballroom in the area. That period was, for me, both wonderful and not so great. On the plus side; I’d never known audiences more passionate about dancing and how much they appreciated our musical style. Linda and I made lifelong friends with many of those who followed “Phil James” wherever we played. On the downside, that big Hammond organ was built for the home..not to be hauled around in a bumpy trailer through all kinds of weather or carried up and down stairs at various clubs. The Watertown Elks was the worst. The ballroom was on the fourth floor and while Elks officials always promised to have help available to carry our equipment more often than not we ended up toting it all ourselves. One night after the job while we were tearing down, the decorative but spindly chrome legs on the organ started to lean over and with a sickening crack the whole thing collapsed like a cheap lawn chair and we ended up loading the rest of the instrument into the trailer like a casket. Eventually, he just left the dolly carts permanently strapped to each end of the organ.
Phil and I drove thousands of miles through all kinds of climates in his 1976 Cadillac Coupe Deville pulling that trailer; then thousands more in a later model Caddie he bought after the first one pooped out.
I missed playing rock and roll, pop and jazz songs but always said the style of music didn’t matter as long as the crowd was having a good time and, boy, did they ever with Phil at the organ especially when he’d make that Hammond deliver like a full orchestra on numbers such as “Moonlight Serenade” where he’d slide the palm of his left hand up the lower keyboard creating a resounding beautiful arpeggio meeting up with the right hand on the upper register for a dramatic Liberace flourish. Then we’d slip into a bouncy fox trot as he’d dazzle the folks even more with a rendition of “Alley Cat” or “Elmer’s Tune” in which he’d play bass pedals with his feet, harmony with his left hand and bang out the melody with his right on a piano which we put a microphone on and slid up close to the organ. We were always at the mercy of the house pianos being in tune and some were not.. but it only gave a more “Honky Tonk” sound.
Phil was not only a fine musician but an excellent cook. In fact, one of the reasons we played in Mitchell so often was because he went to culinary school there and eventually became head chef at the Mitchell Elks.
But, as gifted as Phil was, he had one demon that held him back; alcohol. I’m no teetotaler, but Phil could be hard core and it affected his playing. One night, after we’d played the same song three times in a row, I’d had enough and, instead of putting my drums and sound system back in the trailer; I squeezed it all into the trunk of my car and said adios. A few weeks later, he called to tell me he’d been to Hazelden treatment center in Minnesota and asked me to come back which I did and we never sounded better…for a few months. The monkey found its way back to his back and I never knew which Phil was going to show up. Finally, in 1988 we parted for good. Our final gig was at the country club in Huron. It was one of our best ever. That was the last time I saw Phil James. He eventually moved to Las Vegas where I’d heard he was working in the food industry. I don’t know if he ever played another dance or not. I sure hope so ..just as I wish he could have been as happy himself as he made so many thousands of people who just couldn’t keep off the dance floor whenever he’d crank that big old X77 up for a rousing version of “Bubbles In The Wine.”
R.I.P. My Friend.