Exploring North Shore

We’re supposed to attend a wedding in Canada this summer. Besides seeing relatives and friends we’ve planned to explore some places there as well. But COVID-19 changed our plans. US residents are not allowed to cross the border. Well, the wedding still happened, albeit without us in attendance.

Though I did not cancel my vacation altogether, for I needed to get away. The stress of this pandemic to us, healthcare workers, is wearing me down. I needed a break.

So my family and I drove up North.

View from our lodge

Since Canada is still close to visitors, we stayed within the US border for our vacation. Yet we ventured really close to the northern border. We explored Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive, which is Lake Superior’s rugged westside coastline through Highway 61.

Highway 61 stretches from Duluth, Minnesota up to the Canadian border. Photo below is the aerial lift bridge at the Canal Park in Duluth.

We passed some lighthouses along the scenic drive and went down to check them out. Lighthouses nowadays don’t serve the same importance as it used to, as ships and boats usually navigate now with the GPS instead of just relying on visual cues. Yet lighthouses are still of iconic beauty.

Since we don’t have a tight schedule we had time to stop at a beach on a whim and just enjoy the scenery. Or also skip some rocks.

Skipping rocks requires both skill and knowledge of basic physics. Having the right spin, speed, shape and angle is needed in order for the stone to “skip” on top of the water. It may seem impossible at first to have a stone jump on water, but it can be done. Maybe life is like skipping rocks. We need to have the right elements in order for us to have our heads stay above water.

Here’s my son skipping rocks: (How many skips did you count? It was about 10.)

Although we were near the water, we spent much of our time in the mountains. The mountain resort where we stayed is a known ski destination but it has a different appeal during the summer months.

We rode the gondola up to the mountain peak. The view on the top was something to die for.

Then we rode down the mountain via the Alpine slide. This was half a mile of exhilarating ride.

This was a first-time experience for us. You can control your speed with a brake as you slide down the track. You can go slow (if you’re cautious) and enjoy the view, or go really fast and everything is a blur. My wife was so slow that it spoiled the fun of the kid behind her on the slide. I overheard the dad asking the boy if he had fun after the ride and he vehemently said no. Poor kid.

We like it so much that we did a second run. I thought of offering that poor kid a free ride but I couldn’t find them anymore. My wife did much faster on her second run. Maybe we should try bobsledding for our next adventure.

We also did some not-so-serious 2-mile hike up the mountain. Most of our activities were staying away from crowds as we practiced social distancing. We chased water falls while we also chased our breaths.

We followed up the river where it has less turbulent rapids and rested there. We ate our pack lunch while watching the river flow.

The morning we did the hike I received a phone call from our office informing me that one of my partners died. It was sudden and unexpected. Our life is in such a precarious balance that it could topple any moment. We should always be thankful for every precious time we have. (I’ll write a tribute for him later.)

We drove further up towards the Canadian border which was a little more than an hour drive from where we were staying. Again stopping along the way to enjoy the road-side view.

There was a last rest stop just before the border. Since it was in a state park, there were hiking trails in that area. So we hiked again.

We followed the trail that leads to the Canadian border, where at the end of that specific trail, we found this marker stating, “International Boundary Commission.”

We can’t get any further so we headed back. While we were hiking to this international boundary marker, we were interrogated not by Customs agents but by insects. And all we took back as souvenirs from the border were bug bites from friendly Canadian insects. At least they were duty-free.

From the North Shore,

Pinoytransplant (with my signature jump shot).

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Harvesting Peony

About this time every year, our yard bursts with colors with these big fragrant blooms. These are peonies, and their flowers only last for only two weeks at the most.

Even though it’s not officially summer yet, we are having a “heat wave” for the next several days as Iowa weather is fickly. These flowers wilt fast and they don’t like the heat so we decided to harvest them early. This also provided a photo op.

My wife agreed to be my model for this photoshoot.

We will definitely appreciate their beauty, even for just a few days. I mean the flowers. The model, that’s timeless.

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Bonus: While we were harvesting the peonies and doing the photoshoot, someone else, uninvitedly though definitely welcomed, came in to the scene. Here’s the video:

(*photos and video taken with an iPhone)

Fallen Nest

Few days ago, we experienced a strong summer thunderstorm. After the storm, our yard was littered with fallen leaves and broken tree branches. Then we saw this on the ground under our front yard tree:

It is a bird’s nest. We picked it up and placed it at our front porch. We did not find any eggs around it nor birds that might had inhabit this nest. The strong winds must have knocked it off from the tree branch.

Looking at the intricacies of the nest, I felt bad for the birds that owned it. They may have woven it for a long time. They may have occupied it and was their home for a while. I hope they are safe and unharmed. They must have flown away and maybe are busy building another nest somewhere.

Maybe we also have worked for something for a long time. Maybe we have invested precious time and efforts to accomplish something special. But some strong storms in life knocked off our nest and it came crashing to the ground.

But you know what? It’s just a nest. We still have our lives. We can still rebuild. We can rise again. We again will fly.

“Only in the shattering can the rebuilding occur.” Barbara Marciniak

Bugging Critters

Since it’s summer, I have been spending some time outside sitting in our front porch. In fact, that’s where I prefer to read as I prepare for my Boards (read previous post). I am taking advantage of the warm season while it last.

But while I am studying, I have been distracted by some critters, and I cannot help but take photos of them.

One morning, I was bugged by this little bunny (above photo). I thought I heard it say, “Hey, what’s up doc?” Maybe it was only in my head as I was thinking of another famous “bugs” bunny.

Moments later, another rabbit passed by the driveway and he seems to be exchanging stories with the squirrel (photo below). Maybe they were discussing what they want for breakfast: “I crave for a 24-carrot delight,” said one. “I go wild for nuts!” said the other.

There were also lots of birds, and they were noisily chirping around as if they were intentionally disturbing me. It was alright by me for I can’t hush them anyway. “Ssshhh, this is a study area.”

Here’s a cardinal at the bird bath. He seems to be contemplating if the water is cold and if he should take a bath. “To bathe or not to bathe.” But he did eventually.

Below is a mother deer and her fawn. The fawn was taking a drink at the bird bath, “Mmmm, taste like a cardinal punch.” “Oh, don’t drink that!” warns her mother.

I took the photo before I got out to the front porch, but they scurried away the moment I opened the door.

Lastly, there were other critters that were buzzing around me, including bugs that bite. Bzzzzz….”Ooohh, happy meal!” They left their marks on my legs, which I am annoyingly scratching now.

Damn critters!

Unplugged

Last weekend we shed life’s conveniences and spent some time in the wild. We went camping.

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For three nights we slept in a tent. But before you think it was really miserable and uncomfortable, it was not. We have camping cots, so we did not have to sleep on the ground. We also have comfortable sleeping bags, blankets and pillows.

We did not go hungry as well, for we did not have to forage for something to eat in the forest or hunt for some wild game. We have canned goods and packed foods in our coolers. We even have propane powered stove and oven to cook our food. Though we build an open fire to keep us warm and for real “camping-feel.” In addition, we have to roast our marshmallows for the s’mores in the camp fire, of course.

Furthermore, we did not have to dig a latrine, for there was a modern bathroom facility with several toilet and shower stalls. And with heated running water!

You may argue that what we did was not really camping, but “glamping” – glamorous camping.

However, there’s one life’s convenience or some may even consider this a necessity nowadays, that was not available in the campsite. What is it?

There was no cellular phone signal there. It was a dead zone.

For three days, I have no use of my smart phone, except to take photos. No phone calls, no text messages, no e-mails, no Facebook, no news feed, no Google, no ability to check NBA scores, and no access to my blog. Nothing, nada, zilch.

In this current age, we are so wired up that we have connection with people around us and even people in the opposite side of the world. Phone call, texting, Facetime or Skype has been part of our everyday life now. I am finding out that nowadays courting has been reduced to video chat and sending text messages. What happened to the formal home visit, bringing flowers and asking the girl’s parents if they can meet?

I am not saying that this is bad, as it has made our world smaller. This technology has been a lifeline for families that have loved ones working overseas. Skype, Facetime, or any form of video chat is definitely a boon for them.

With the internet available almost anywhere whether thru Wi-Fi or cellular signal, we have access to any information we need. I remember the days we have to go to the library and search for the facts and data we want. Today, we have that instantly at our fingertips that I am not sure our present society will survive without this technology.

But I survive without a phone signal and internet for 3 long days. Proving we can live without it. The only connection I had there was with people around me in the “here and now.” You may say that we were isolated from the outside world, but there was plenty of interaction and connection in those days we were on the camp.

Where we went was a camporee. My wife and I volunteered to join my son’s club as supervising adults. There were 25 other youth clubs, and more than 300 people in that camp. So there’s a great deal of communicating and socializing. Though not by Facebooking or texting.

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some young people leading the worship service

Yet we did have some “long distance” interaction while we were in the camp. We witnessed the mighty sun as it sets by the lakeside and it was gorgeous. We marveled at the distant bright stars above us at night. Moreover, we had quiet communing with the Creator who surrounded us with these beautiful nature, who by the way, is really nearer than we think.

I believe we should be spending more time unplugged.

(*photos taken with an iPhone) 

 

Slow Run

It’s summer here in our place. Well, not quite officially, as the summer solstice is not until June 21 which marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Yet the mercury is rising, as our high temperature for the past few days and the coming week will be in the 90’s to even reaching 100 º F.

But this morning, it was a comfortable 74 º F, so I went out for a run. It is also about this time of year that I should start preparing for the half marathon, if I should decide to join again this coming fall.

As I was approaching the small pond in my running route, I have to stop and let the family of geese get off the road before I could pass. The mother goose was already hissing at me as I was approaching them. They can be very territorial you know. But that’s fine, I can share the road with them, and I have no plans on swimming in their pond.


When I came to the wooded areas, I also saw a deer. But it bounded quickly away before I could take out my phone out of my pocket to take a photo. It might be sneering at me that I am too slow.

Same thing happened when I came to an area where a couple of wild rabbits were on the side of the road foraging for food. They also scurried away at the sound of my slow feet, before I can get near them. They may also laughing at me for being slow.

I admit, I am getting slower. Maybe my age is catching up on me. I have no match for the swiftness of the deer and the hare. They seem to dash so effortlessly and yet so gracefully. While me, I push for every step of my way to get to a pace that runners would even consider “running.”

Maybe all of us can relate in one way or another, and in different endeavors, that we feel we are no match to the “competition” we are going against. Whether it be in sports, or in school, or in our work, and in life in general.

Then as I was fighting my way uphill, I saw this guy.


Yes, that is a snapping turtle. And I was “quick” enough to take a photo of him.

They are called snapping turtles not because they snap their fingers as they go, rather they have the ability to snap, as in bite an attacker. That’s why I kept my distance.

The pond, or any body of water that I know in this area, was hundreds of meters away. I don’t know how long it would take him to get there, if that was where he was heading. But I’m sure his slow pace does not stop him from continuing, for that’s who he is.

It gave me a good insight for the day.  Life they say could be like a race. But it is not always for the swift, but to those who kept on running.

 

Mile-High Adventure

I regularly attend conferences, so I can be updated on the latest practice trends, new researches and studies, breakthrough treatments, and recent technologies.

In these meetings, I have the chance to meet and listen to very smart people. But in the same time, it gives me the feeling of how inadequate and ignorant I am compared to them.

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ATS (American Thoracic Society)

This conventions also give me the opportunity to travel and see other places. This year brought me to Denver, Colorado.

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Denver is also known as the Mile-High City, for the obvious reason that it has an elevation of 5,278 feet above the sea level, or about 1 mile. It was the capital and the most populous municipality in the state of Colorado. It was founded in 1858 as a mining town during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush.

Since the school is out, I brought my whole family along with me. It was a business and a leisure trip, at the same time. We also have some really good friends that lives near Denver, so we had the chance to visit with them.

We stayed in an old hotel, and I mean really old. The hotel was built in 1892. Stepping inside is like going back in time.

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Atrium of the Brown Palace Hotel

This hotel also pride itself that every U.S. president has visited it since Teddy Roosevelt (1905), with the exception of Calvin Coolidge. Now they can add that Pinoytransplant was a guest of them too!

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Back to the conference, the meeting was a 6-day affair and was held in Colorado Convention Center. This center is unofficially known as the Big Blue Bear Convention Center. Why?

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Here’s why.

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This art piece is a 40-foot steel sculpture and officially called “I See What You Mean.”

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The big blue bear peeks at the lobby of the convention center. Now I see what they mean!

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Besides very smart people, I also met this fellow.

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This is what they do to you if you sleep in the meeting. Just kidding!

It is not a real cadaver but a synthetic one. It is called “syndaver.” I met him in the post-graduate course I attended, where we placed catheters on him to learn ECMO*.

I walked from the hotel to the convention center, as it was just a few blocks away. Here are some photos I took on my daily walk.

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There are even pianos in the middle of the street that anybody can play. My daughter found it irresistible not to tinker with.

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Our friends brought us to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This is where I met big creatures.

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Their current special exhibition is about mythic creatures. So I encountered a dragon…..

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And a unicorn. For real!

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The only downside on our visit to Denver was that during our stay there the weather was not so cooperative. It was raining 5 out of the 7 days we were there. It was even snowing in the mountains.

But on the day it was not raining, we escaped into the mountains.

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We drove to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was about an hour and a half drive from Denver.

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Since it still has deep snow on the top of the mountain, we were not able to reach the peak, due to road closure.

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But the trip was worth it. We even spotted a young grizzly bear.

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For sure, it was a mile-high experience for us. I hope you enjoy the photos of our trip. And speaking of photos, though I am not fond of taking selfie, I cannot resist this.

Here’s my very hot selfie!

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Infrared photo (thermal imaging). Taken at Denver museum.

From Denver,

Pinoytransplant.

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* ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation): a technique to deliver both cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate amount of gas exchange to sustain life.

Live, Pray, Run

Many runners regard their endeavor as a religion. They are so devoted that they may be members of the Nike’s Witness, or the Church of Later-day (and Early-day) Runners, or the Cross-Country Faithful, or the 7-day Joggers. Maybe I am a member of this creed.

Then there are other people who treat other things as their religion. Like eating. They perform this as if it is their sole God-given duty. Well, I will not divulge on this subject any further, at least for now.

But why shouldn’t we treat running as spiritual exercise? I mean, literally.

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My training for the half-marathon for this fall is in full swing. I have been doing the short runs (3 miles) at least twice or thrice during the week, and one long run (5 miles and increasing by a mile every week) on the weekend. I am currently on 8-mile long run.

That is a lot of time dedicated (or wasted?) on running, you might say. What else can you do with that time?

For me, I use that time to clear my head. Or do some serious thinking too. With the beautiful scenery around me, my creative moments (due to relative lack of oxygen?) come during those runs. I have even composed in my head, snippets or even whole article blogs during those period, and I just have to download it into the computer when I sit down.

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But more recently, I have used those times running alone, as my meditation hour – communing with nature and its Creator. We certainly need those quiet moments. Not much talking, but listening.

Not too long ago, during a heat wave in our area, it was so hot that we had a string of 100-degree F days. It was so dry too that we had no rain for weeks, and we were in a drought-like condition, much to the demise of corn and soybean fields here.

Then one morning, as I went out for my run, the surrounding was all wet from the rain the night before. The parched land was soaked with water. It was breezy, cool and refreshing. I was grateful for the rain, as the farmers in our area were as well.

As I was running, I encountered a deer who perhaps was also thankful for the rain. She stood motionless as I passed by, just staring at me.

A thought was impressed on me. “As a deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.” What a good reminder. To this I add: as a runner panteth for air, so my soul longeth after Thee.

May we all have a blessed week.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone during my morning runs)

Rock Surfing

During our recent trip through South Dakota, we passed over Badlands and Black Hills. Mount Rushmore, which is part of the Black Hills, is perhaps the most popular National Park in this region.

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Faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore

Though the Badlands National Park, has its different appeal and beauty as well.

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Badlands

Native to this mountainous terrain is the mountain goat. This creature is agile and sure-footed, and able to climb on steep rocks with grace of a ballerina and steadiness of an experienced rock climber.

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We were fortunate to see one. I mean the mountain goat in above’s photo, not the one below.

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rock surfer dudes

Not to be outdone, and getting inspiration from the mountain goat, my son and I, strutted this “rock-surfing” pose for posterity.

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Sorry, the camera did not capture a photo when we dove off the cliff.

Just kidding. Our photographer did not allow us.

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