THE WEST IS THE BEST!

When last we met, (last Sunday) old Doc Yanoff was driving through the quaint town of Marathon, headed for the most western point of South Texas.  (And believe me, there are plenty of western points down yonder!)  Prior to our arrival in Lajitas, which is on the border, we stopped in Alpine, which is another one of those places with a name that doesn’t quite fit.  There was no snow, no ski trails, and only one or two people yodeling in public.  (Actually they were howling at the moon, but that’s almost the same thing.)

I think the name Alpine came from the town’s elevation (4,475 feet above sea level) and from the mountain peaks that surround the metropolis.  (By the way, the metropolis has about 6,000 full-time residents.)  There is also a university, a fine-looking campus known as Sul Ross State University.  (I thought it was named after Saul Ross, who owned a famous bagel shop in Brooklyn, but I was wrong.)  Mr. Ross was a Confederate States Army general during the Civil War, and also a former governor of the state.  The university is housed within 600 acres of prime real estate, and there are roughly 2,000 students, three herds of cattle, and a prairie dog.  (The unofficial school mascot)

Incidentally, Sul Ross U was the founding home of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association in 1949.  The student body reflects a great love of the rodeo life, and many of the students are bow-legged.  I didn’t see anybody with chaps, but I did spot a young coed applying chapstick.  All in all, folks seemed quite happy, if not downright giddy.  (They like to giddy-up on weekends!)

I suppose that the highlight of our adventure was a death-defying drive along the River Road, which offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the west.  The road starts in Terlingua and follows the Rio Grande River north, up to the bustling town of Presidio.  (The town wasn’t really bustling, but several cowboys were busting out of their jeans after too many plates of frijoles!)  The locals know the road as FM-170, and if you decide to take a drive, be prepared for some stunning viewpoints.

There are plenty of striking rock formations (a few of them in the road!) so drive slowly and bring a good camera.  (A first-aid kit and a Bible would also be helpful)  I’m not quite sure how to describe Presidio, but it did remind me of Roswell, New Mexico.  Very similar.  There were a few spots that looked like “Area 51,” surrounded by high, barbed wire fencing.  There were also some heavily armed military-looking individuals that supposedly worked for the Border Patrol.  (Patty thinks they were MIB agents.)  Come to think of it, she may have been right about the Men In Black.  I did hear them talking about aliens!

Well, in any case, the trip was a complete success and I will never forget the incredible beauty of West Texas.  If you travel west, have fun but NEVER answer the call of nature near a prickly cactus.  (I will explain, if you wish, through private correspondence!)

So what else is new?  Well, for those of you who crave brilliant lectures, I shall be appearing (or should I say, re-appearing) at the Lakeway Men’s Breakfast Club this coming Wednesday, September, 25.  My oration will entail a synopsis of my newest “Adam Gold Mystery,” which is titled, CAPONE ISLAND.  After a brief, but enlightening summation of the book, I will be answering some questions and then participating in a book signing.  Books will be available for purchase, or if you can distract my security detail, you can simply steal a copy.  (Stolen books will not be autographed!)

For those of you who enjoy great photography ….. try another blog.  My photos are a little lame (like my jokes) but I have nonetheless attached several shots from my recent outing.  Nobody will ever confuse me with Ansel Adams, or any other member of the Adams Family, but I have posted some of the best pictures of the trip.  (My photographic skills are still “developing.”)  So enjoy!

Have a wonderful week and smile as much as possible.  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

 

WAY OUT WEST! (CHAPTER 1) “The Rio Grande Was Truly Grand!”

Howdy, folks, this is old Doc Yanoff reporting from Lajitas, Texas, the last stop before you cross the big river.  (That would be the Rio Grande, not the Mighty Mississippi.)  Why on earth, you might ask, have I traveled 1,000 miles to come out here?  Good question.  I have to come to the Big Bend Country to spread the gospel of Adam Gold (i.e., sell some books) and see this marvelous area for myself.  (Believe it or not, this is my first trip to the Big Bend National Park!)  Well, it took a while to get here (50 years) but it was worth the trip.  This part of Texas is simply M-A-G-N-I-F-I-C-E-N-T!  Truly some of the most stunning scenery on earth.

We left Austin on a Sunday and traveled northwest, through the charming city of Fredericksburg, which is now surrounded by an assortment of Hill Country wineries.  (Yeah, we were forced to do a couple of “taste-testings.”)  Then it was due west (via Interstate 10) to Fort Stockton, where we participated in another round of wine tasting and enjoyed a gourmet picnic with some distinguished local authors.  I might have consumed a tad too much vino, but you know what they say…  good judgment comes from experience.  And experience?  Well, that comes from poor judgment!

After we sobered up (and had a good night’s sleep) we turned south and drove on a VERY deserted road to the quaint western town of Marathon.  (The name doesn’t quite fit, since nobody runs down there.  Too hot.)  After lunch we toured the famous Gage Hotel, the gem of Brewster County.  (Brewster is the largest county in Texas, which is still the largest state.  If you don’t count ice and snow.)

This grand hotel (see photos below) was built by Alfred Gage, a young man from Vermont, who at the age of 18, arrived in Texas with little more than a twenty-dollar gold piece in his pocket to become a rancher.  (In 1878)  Over the span of several decades, Mr. Gage amassed a ranching empire of over 500,000 acres, and almost died mowing the lawn on Sundays.  (Just kidding about the lawn)  I am the most famous writer to have ever visited the hotel, but another guy named Zane Grey also stayed there.  As did Gutzon Borglum, the Mount Rushmore sculptor.

After touring the semi-deserted town of Marathon, we drove further south, spending several hours on Highway 385, which leads to Big Bend National Park and then to Terlingua, which bills itself as “The Chili Capital of the World.”   (Another strange name, since it is NEVER chilly in Terlingua!)  Naturally we had to visit the ghost town, which was really an old mining camp, and we were also compelled to dine at the Starlight Theatre, the town’s most famous dining venue.  (The Starlight was fun to visit, and they make a fine bowl of chili and a marvelous prickly pear margarita.)  Beware of drinking too many margaritas, or you might become a little prickly yourself!

The remainder of our adventure was spent at a lovely place called the Lajitas Golf Resort, which is further west.  (On the border of the Rio Grande.)  The golf course is known as “Blackjack’s Crossing,” because this is the very spot where General “Black Jack” Pershing crossed the river to pursue Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula, better known as “Pancho” Villa.  Mr. P, as his comrades called him, was never caught by the U.S. Army, which chased him and his band of outlaws for nine months.  Thus, I thought I would try to find the illusive bandido!

With the help of my trusted companion, Mr. Shawn Dunham, a rather famous cowboy-veteran, we rode into the Chihuahuan Desert to pick up the outlaw’s trail.  (Shawn was also a professional rodeo bull-rider, so he was used to being around my type of bull!)  We did not pick up the desperado’s trail, but we did pick up some garbage left by inconsiderate campers.  I was also shown the natural rock pen where Pancho Villa kept a string of reserve horses.  (He would change his mount then make a mad dash to Mexico when he was being pursued by the U.S. cavalry.)

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the morning, and as many of you know, I am an accomplished equestrian.  (My main accomplishment is not falling off!)  Shawn Dunham was a great guide (and a fascinating man) so if you’re ever down in Lajitas you should look him up and book a trail ride.  You will learn a lot and have a memorable experience.  (You can check him out @ http://www.shawndunham.com)  Oh, and one other thing, don’t forget to thank him for his service to our country.  (As in two tours of Iraq!)

Just between you and me, I wanted to ride bare back, but Shawn asked me to keep my shirt on.  (I guess he didn’t want to scare the coyotes!)

I will share the remainder of my great western adventure next Sunday, so please set your clocks accordingly.  In the meantime, what else is new?  Well, I am happy to report that my new mystery novel, CAPONE ISLAND, will be prominently featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in October.  The book was recently chosen as one of the “Outstanding Mysteries of the Year,” and I’m quite excited to receive so much exposure.  (The Frankfurt fair attracts about 300,000 visitors each year!)  Dankeschon, my friends and supporters!

Well, that’s all for now…  my strudel is getting cold.  Have a safe and successful week and please remember to roll with the punches… Some days you’re the pigeon;  other days you’re the statue.  (There’s a lovely thought!)

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff                      *******PHOTOGRAPHS ATTACHED*******

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOW THE WEST WAS WON…

Frankly, I didn’t know it had been lost, but I’m happy to report that the lovely states of South Dakota and Wyoming have decided to remain in the Union.  (After my recent visit, I wasn’t so sure.  Too many bad buffalo jokes!)  Nevertheless, I am now back in Austin and enjoying my recollections of my great Yellowstone adventure.  Our Western Book Tour/National Monument Trip was a huge success, and we met a large number of wonderful folks from across the country.  (And gained some great new blog followers!)  As I’ve frequently said, you meet the nicest people while traveling.

Our particular guided tour was called “Legends of the American West,” and was sponsored by Tauck Tours.  When I first read the name of our tour, I assumed it was referring to me, but they were actually referring to some of the national monuments we visited.  (Oh well)  We began our western trek in Rapid City, South Dakota… and then went to Mt. Rushmore.  Those names scared me a little,  being the type of fellow who likes to take it slow and easy.  (Fortunately nobody in South Dakota moved rapidly and nobody rushed more either.)

The slowest gent in the state is the poor guy that’s been carving the Crazy Horse sculpture for the last two thousand years.  (Or so it seems)  The poor chief is barely recognizable, but the sculptors are determined to finish the monument some time this century.  The project began under a chisler named Korczak Ziolkowski (real name) but has since been taken over by his son, “Korczak the Magnificent,” who is a “chip off the old block.”

Like everything else in America, the project, though well-intentioned, has produced some heated controversy.  Apparently, Crazy Horse was never photographed and deliberately buried where his grave would never be found…  consequently nobody knows what the old boy actually looked like!  (Thus, carving his image becomes pure speculation, and subject to cultural interpretation.  See where this is going?)  Some folks have, dare I say, “reservations,” about the entire project, but that’s life.

Incidentally, I posted a short video of our group being surrounded by a herd of bison a while back.  (Have you herd of bison?)  All right, no more buffalo jokes.  In any case, there were two other bison “charges” in the last few weeks, and you can watch them by Googling “Bison Attacks in Yellowstone Park.”  Luckily, nobody has been injured or killed.  (But one of the poor tourists sustained some major damage to his rental car.)  The poor tourist should have rented a Mustang, then he could have out-run the buffalo!  (All right, now I’m really through with those buffalo jokes!)

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mount Rushmore contains the stone images of four American presidents…  Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln.  The main sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, chose these gents based upon their importance to American history and the great outdoors.  If you study the photographs at the bottom of this post, you will notice that there is actually room for two more images….. so, let’s have some fun…. send me an email and let me know which two American presidents you would add to the mountain.  (Let’s assume that we are required by law to add two more images.  Who would you choose?)  I shall publish the results of this stimulating poll on a future blog…. so vote early and vote often, as they say in Chicago!

So what on earth is new besides the American West?  Well, for those of you who have been following my brilliant literary career, you might have seen the most recent review of my last “Adam Gold Mystery,” which is titled, CAPONE ISLAND.  If you haven’t read this review, don’t fret.  I shall attach the complete review at the end of this blog.  Please memorize the salient points of this glowing synopsis, and share with a few hundred of your closest friends.  (My accountant, Jesse James Lipschitz, will be very happy if we increase book sales.)

By the way, CAPONE ISLAND has recently been nominated for several prominent book awards, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!  If I win any loot, I will give you a cut.  (No money, just a cut)

Well, time to leave, as today happens to be my daughter’s birthday (Miss Rebecca) and we are having a pool party in her honor.  It’s sort of a surprise party.  (We don’t have a pool)  But seriously folks, there is much to do, and I am running far behind schedule.  (I really need to stop sampling the tequila punch!)  I do hope that you all have a safe and superb week, and we shall meet again in the near future.

Until then, love to all…..

Doc Yanoff

 

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH!

“He was born in the summer of his 70th year…  Coming home to a place he’d never been before…  He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again…  You might say he found a key for every door… ”    Yep, those are the opening lyrics to John Denver’s most famous song, ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH.  By wonderful coincidence, I recently flew up to Denver (and then further north to Aspen, Colorado) to attend the wedding of my beloved nephew, Jarrett Yanoff.  (Who had the good fortune of marrying the brilliant and beautiful Miss Caitlyn!)  OMG, are those mountains gorgeous!  (But not as pretty as the bride!)

The lovesick couple got married on the very top of Aspen Mountain, which is about 14,000 feet ABOVE sea level.  (They should call it “see level,” because you can see forever from the top!)  The wedding party took a 20-minute gondola ride up to the top, witnessed a lovely ceremony, drank too much champagne, and then headed downhill to a spectacular reception at the Little Nell Resort Hotel.  (I have attached some photos taken at the top of the mountain.)

I told my nephew that marriage is a wonderful institution.  (Similar to other institutions…  like Alcatraz and Sing Sing!)  My goal was alway to find a woman who looked at me the way I look at pizza.  I also offered the newlyweds some sage advice.  (Even though basil is my favorite herb.)  I reminded them that despite the high cost of living, it remains quite popular.  Also, that arguing with your wife is like being arrested.  Everything you say can and will be used against you!

The rehearsal dinner, held the night before the wedding, was hosted by the incredible Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass, another charming ski town a few miles from Aspen.  Following an elaborate dinner, guests were treated to an assortment of activities.  (After they had a chance to sober up)  The Aspen area is famous not only for skiing, but also for mountain hiking, trout fishing, golf, tennis, white water rafting, and horseback riding.

In accordance with my Texas roots, I saddled-up my pony (actually a full-grown horse) and went on a L-O-N-G ride into the mountains with a group of other suckers.  I wanted to ride bare-back, but our guide asked me to keep my shirt on.  In any case, up the mountain and down the steep terrain we went, observing some of the most beautiful land I have ever seen.  Words cannot begin to capture the sheer beauty of northern Colorado.  (Nor the sheer drop of the ledges we were riding across!)  The highlight of our ride was spotting a bear in the wild.  Fortunately, he (or she) kept his distance and did not spook the horses.  (However, one young lady from back east was a little spooked until I told her that her nag could easily outrun the brute that was staring us down.)

Naturally, I was a little, how shall I say this, “saddle sore” from my lengthy trek up Grizzly Mountain.  (In other words, my butt was killing me!)  Nevertheless, I would not have traded the experience for anything but a deep-tissue massage.  Ah, the foolishness of youth!  Oh well, if you don’t look back on your younger days and say, “I was so stupid back then,” you’re probably still stupid!

So what else is new?  Well, it took 3 or 4 months, but my newest “Adam Gold Mystery,” titled, CAPONE ISLAND has now become one of the best-selling books in Florida!  (Thanks to my loyal Floridian fan club and some great advertising by Barnes & Noble.  If sales keep up, we just might grab the number one spot, which would be nothing short of celebratory!  (Where did I put that bottle of expensive tequila?)

Well, I must leave you now, as I am packing for another adventure.  Tomorrow morning, I shall be joining my two daughters (Rachel & Rebecca) for a swimming adventure down at Barton Springs Pool, which is fed by an underground spring and produces a cool pool filled with very chilly water.  (A constant water temperature of 68 degrees!)  We have had one full week of 100 degree days down here in Austin, so now is the time to take the plunge!)  (Where did I put that bottle of expensive tequila… and my diving wet-suit?)

Adios, dear friends, until we meet again… whence you will be treated to an engaging tale of my recent trip to South Dakota and Wyoming!  Until our paths cross once more, please remember to treat everyone with politeness and kindness, not because they are nice, but because you are!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

***** PHOTOGRAPHS ATTACHED, FREE OF CHARGE! *****

 

 

 

BACK IN THE SADDLE!

Howdy, buckeroos!  Old Scamp Yanoff is back in town and back in the saddle, too.  By the way, do you remember that great western song?  It goes something like this…..  “I’m back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend.  Where the longhorn cattle feed, on the lowly jimsyn weed, I’m back in the saddle again.”  In case you’re curious, the song was written by the great Gene Autry way back in 1939.  Ah, but why am I leading off today’s blog with an old western tune?  I’m glad you asked…..

Well, mainly because I recently returned from a long trip out west, an amazing tour of South Dakota and Wyoming!  (Two of the most BEAUTIFUL states in our wonderful country.)  I spent most of my time in Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, and all I can say is WOW!  Talk about scenic, these incredible parks were simply beyond belief.

We  began our grand tour in Rapid City, South Dakota, which is a clean, charming, and fascinating city in the western part of the state.  From there we headed west, toward Custer State Park, where we were engulfed by a herd of buffalo.  (See attached photos!)  Incidentally, do you know what a mama buffalo says to her calf each morning?  Bye son.  (Bison)  You may think that’s a lot of bull, but you should see a real buffalo!

After Custer State Park, we drove to the Crazy Horse memorial, which is slowly being carved on top of a majestic mountain peak.  The Crazy Man (as he is locally known) will not be completed this century, but it’s still an impressive site to visit.  The great Sioux chief is a “chip off the old block,” and responsible for planning and leading the charge against the 7th Calvary at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Right around the corner is Mt. Rushmore, which was also quite impressive, and bears the likeness of four American Presidents.  (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Hillary Clinton.  Just kidding, Theodore Roosevelt is the fourth.)

On day three, or maybe four, I lost track, we drove up and over the Bighorn Mountains, which seem to be a few inches below heaven.  Yikes, talk about getting up in the world!  The Bighorn National Forest is one of those places that don’t seem real.  So magnificent and huge, loaded with all sorts of game.  (Deer, elk, moose, and Monopoly.)  Our final destination that day was Cody, Wyoming, which was truly one of the coolest stops we made.  (We toured the Buffalo Bill Museum, ate some more bison burgers, and then attended an evening rodeo.)  I told the local cowboys that I never met a horse that could throw me.  (After all, they don’t have hands, only hooves.)  However, I have been known to throw a little bull now and then!

When I was finished busting broncs, we drove into Yellowstone Park (8,000 feet above sea level) and then down to Grand Teton National Park.  (7,000 feet above sea level.)  Both places were beyond stunning, and I will elaborate further next Sunday.  (Once my nose stops bleeding!)

Our ten-day adventure ended in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is also one of those “must-see” venues.  What a pretty town.  A little expensive, but quite charming.  Jackson Hole is surrounded by the National Elk Preserve, which offers sleigh rides during the winter, and provides the local restaurants with some interesting cuts of meat.  We, of course, have been to an Elks Club, but never to an actual preserve.  Very enlightening.  (I’ll skip my jokes about being “horny!”)

As fate would have it, my nephew is soon to be married, and he’s taking the plunge (bad word choice!) atop a mountain in Aspen, Colorado.  Sooooo, it’s back to Denver next week.  I’m thinking about becoming a park ranger, but I only want to work during July and August.  (Warm-weather months)  I think I’d be a good ranger.  I loved most of the animals we saw, especially the moose herds.  (And chocolate moose is one of my favorite desserts)  I wonder how much a ranger makes?

By the way, I realize that I have yet to finish the last 3 chapters of my last adventure book, PIRATES OF PERCHANCE.  In the weeks ahead, I shall present amusing tales of our shenanigans on the “saintly” islands of St. Kitts, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the attached photos of South Dakota and Wyoming.  Nice to be home!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

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PIRATES OF PERCHANCE. (Chapter 6) “Mangrove Monday!”

Well, look, since today is Father’s Day, it seems logical that I should begin this post with a word or two about “Man-groves.”  (As opposed to “Two-lips,” which are female… in most cases.)  My Monday (last voyage in February) began with a charming paddle trip down the Indian River in Roseau, Dominica.  (Which, I might add, is a COMPLETELY different country from the Dominican Republic…  and a lot safer, too!)  Dominica is often called the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean, due to its abundance of flora and fauna.  There are actually nine volcanoes on the island (all still active) and they add quite a bit of heat to the island’s boiling lakes and sulfur springs.

Roseau, the Capital City, is known locally as the “City of Vernadas,” and it’s a good thing too, since shade is often required to survive.  Our trip got very interesting just outside of town, when we visited a tribe of Kalinago Indians, the indigenous people of the island.  None of them knew how to use a computer or iPhone, but they did make lovely straw baskets.  The Kalinago tribe arrived on Dominica around 1,000 A.D. — roughly 500 years before they were finally discovered by Columbus, an explorer from Ohio.

The folks who live on the enchanting island of Dominica were very nice, welcoming, and extremely proud of their work ethic and overall existence.  It was a real pleasure meeting so many wonderful folks, and I would definitely recommend a stop if you happen to be cruising by.  (Please note:  Unfortunately, the hurricanes of  2018 caused a LOT of damage, so repairs are still underway.  Watch your step!)

And speaking of Father’s Day, (Huh?) allow me to wish all you daddies a marvelous holiday!  Did you know that Father’s Day is observed in over 111 different countries?  We can thank Sonora Smart Dood, (a woman!) for encouraging this special day, which started in June, 1910.  (President Nixon made it an officially recognized event in 1972)  I always made breakfast in bed for my Dad, and being a good sport, he actually ate what I made.  (Now that’s love!)

I remember the first time I became a Dad.  I was waiting near the delivery room when a nurse came out and spoke to the other “soon-to-be-Dads.”  She told the first guy that he was the father of twins.  He was shocked, since he worked for the Minnesota Twins!  She told the next guy that he was the father of triplets, and believe it or not, he was an executive at the 3M Company!  She then told the next gent that he was the father of quadruplets, and lo and behold, he worked at the Four Seasons!  The last guy fainted, but only because he work for 7-Up!

So what else is new?  Well, one of my most brilliant students (when I was teaching at Miami-Dade Community College) was a wonderful woman named Nola Firestone.  Nola’s grandson, Mr. Adam Avin, has also become a brilliant scholar, and he recently recorded a marvelous “Ted Talk.”  If you want to listen to a smart, educational, and informative video, then check out his website.  (You will really enjoy this young man’s speech):  https://youtu.be/2r6TWTqr8FM     (Or you could just “Google” him and look for his performance!  A very impressive lad!)

Our first pool party was a huge success.  (Nobody drowned!)  Judge Susan and Baron Lee drank a lot of beer, but what the heck, that’s why they were there!  Before I forget, I must thank the Princess of Portugal for making her universally adored dessert, “Azorian Lemon Squares.”  (She was going to bring some tarts, but we already had enough of them hanging around the bar!)  In any case, she concocted an amazing treat.  (Considering that she was sporting an eye injury, which she claimed was the result of a collision with a flowering plant!  Yeah, right.)

Finally, a word of welcome back to Chief Maxamundo and Queen Smoochie-Gucci, who have finally returned from the Big Island.  (That would be Hawaii, not South Padre Island.)  The honeymooners are back in the great state of Texas, just in time for some blazing hot weather next week.  (It’s already hot.  Yesterday I saw a couple of fire ants carrying canteens!)

Well, that’s about it for me.  If you would like to see a few photos from the remarkable isle of Dominica, just scroll down.  In the meantime, have yourselves a happy and healthy week!    Love to all,

Doc Yanoff