Act on those positive thoughts

Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action. Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I’ll be walking through a store or looking at a website and I think, hmmm, I bet my friend would really like that. It’s a great thought and I move on and sometimes a few days later it hits me that I really should have gotten that for them. I feel bad, but there are no real consequences to opting not to do something nice for people and I go on about my life.

Recently I’ve decided that I need to start acting on these thoughts. What brought this idea about for me was being back in New Orleans at Mardi Gras a few weeks ago. You see one of the times that I acted on this type of thought was when I was at Mardi Gras about 5 years ago. I was at the parades and catching lots of beads and other throws and while I was giving a lot away to kids around me, it hit me that my nieces and nephews might enjoy some as well. So the next night at the parades I brought a bag and collected a ton of throws. The next day I hiked up to the post office and packed several boxes and sent them out. I was right, they were thrilled to get a bunch of Mardi Gras beads and nick-nacks. This past year I sent back boxes to them, as well as to my assistant at work for her kids.

The type of things I’m talking about don’t have to be large or expensive. It can be picking up a cup of coffee for someone, or as simple as grabbing a sticker for a little kid. So after coming back from Mardi Gras, I spent a lot of time thinking about my trip, I’m admittedly someone who spends time ruminating on the things I do and that happen in my life. And in that process I decided that I needed to change my ways and start acting on these type of thoughts more often.

Recently, I was in the office of a colleague and she’s a really wonderful and incredibly nice person. She mentioned that the week before she had her sixtieth birthday. I wished her a belated happy birthday, I had been in New Orleans at that time, and went on about my day. But it hit me I should do something, and this was exactly the type of thought I’m talking about. She has a couple of cats she dearly loves and so I went out a few days later and picked up a nice plant, a card and a couple of toys for the kitties. It was a small matter but it did exactly what these little types of actions do. It made her happy when she got the gifts, it made me happy to have done it for her.

That’s what giving to others does, it creates happiness on both sides, it makes both the giver and the receiver happier than they were before. And so deciding to act on these things is a way to bring more happiness into the world. In a way, it was my Granny that taught me this lesson. She was that person that always sent you a card. You got a card for your birthday, all the major holidays and sometimes even minor holidays, maybe not Arbor Day, but definitely Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. The thing she also did, almost psychically, was to randomly send a five or a ten dollar bill in the mail. I’ve told this story often, but when I was a grad student at the University of Tennessee, I was often broke. And it always seemed when I was broke, and it was still a week to payday, I’d find a ten dollar bill in the mail and a note saying get a burger and a beer on me. All of these cards, while small gestures, always made that day better.

So friends, when you have those thoughts, if you can, act, drop a small bit of happiness on someone you care about, or hell, even a perfect stranger, you’ll make everyone happier and of course, have a happier day my friend. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Happy Day in San Francisco

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. ~ Walter Winchell

So last week I took a day off of work to spend the day with a couple of friends in San Francisco. We all need a friend who is actually there when we are at a our worst. That’s my friend Kara. About twenty years ago, for the second time in my life I hit bottom. A relationship had blown up and it sort of just shattered everything for me. She called me one night and I fell apart on the phone, so she called again the next night, and the next, and the next… Honestly, she made it possible for me to hold it together, even as tentatively as I did at that time. The simple fact is, I probably trust her more than anyone I know, and I owe her a lot for what she did. She’s a great friend, the kind of friend who without hesitation will tell you if she thinks your wrong, question what you’re doing, or ask you heavy pointed questions. The thing is, no matter how direct the question, or how hard or deep the question, you always know it comes from a place of love. I endeavor to be this person for others, to live up to her example.

For your good friends, the people you’ve made your selective family, you want only good things for them. At one point Kara started dating a guy named Jimmy, it started to get serious and I hoped he was a good guy, I should have known better. When I met him, it was immediately obvious that my friend had found someone just like her. As such, Jimmy and I have also become very close and I consider him to be family as well. Even if he occasionally gives me ridiculously huge smiles in photographs.

You know when you are truly close to people, that when you get together the only plan needs to be, to be together. Our plan for the day in San Francisco was simple, walk, talk and eat. We spent nine hours walking around San Francisco, taking the occasional break to sit on benches with great views like in Mission Dolores Park, or comfortable chairs in places like Golden Gate Park and when the spirit moved us we ate. Kara had a list of place she wanted to try and we made visits to Nopalito, Lokma and Otra. Three fantastic places that I highly recommend. The beauty of the day was not just everything San Francisco had to show us, but the opportunity to just talk for hours and hours with two good friends and amazing people. It was without a doubt, the best day I’ve had in a long time.

Find time for these sorts of times and you’ll have happy days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

Just some sock monkeys having dinner in San Francisco
Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting back to a healthy even

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ~ Buddha

I have written often recently about the period of languishing I went through during the last couple of years. Like many of you, the height of the pandemic brought me too much tragedy, people who died, were diagnosed with cancer, suffered strokes or nearly died from COVID. As I wrote in my recent post on Mardi Gras, I recently feel like I’ve turned a corner and things are getting back to a new type of normal.

One of the things that I was happy about during this tough period was that I kept exercising pretty regularly, however there is one major place where I fell short, my blood sugar. This has been an ongoing struggle for me. The fact is, there are just too many things that I really love eating that are not good for me. Add to that, that I’m really kind of out of vices, no longer much of a womanizer, clean and sober I really only have two vices left, gambling and carbs. Let’s just say I’m a lot less exciting than I use to be. So, when things get tough I often turn to comforting foods. That is usually the things I grew up eating, pasta, potatoes and of course most of all pizza ad Coca-cola.

So, in trying to get this back under control I’ve started a 7 week program to get my numbers down. I’m currently in week 2. What I’m doing is my standard workouts each week with weights, I lift about 5 days a week, cycling through bicep, shoulder, chest/biceps workouts. I also do shoulder exercises about 4 nights a week that had been prescribed to me by my physical therapist. I also walk/run 20 miles a week, typically walking 3 miles a day with a couple of days where I run a mile, I really hate to run and so am just getting that back into my routine.

Most importantly I’m severely cutting carbs, basically going keto although it’s taken until later this week for me to get to the minimal level of carbs needed for this and now the fun part of making sure I’m consuming enough fat to get the macros right so I get into ketosis.

So far, so good, in the two weeks I’ve dropped by morning sugar numbers by about 80 points. I still need to bring them down another 60-80, yes, they were very high. But hopefully over the next 4 weeks I’ll be able to get there. One nice side effects of all of this is that I’m starting to drop some weight, I’ve lost 4 pounds in the last two weeks, which should also have a positive impact on my blood sugar.

The tie-in to happiness tonight is a very simple and old cliche, health and happiness are integrally linked. My blood sugar being high doesn’t drastically impact me a lot, when it’s real high, I get a little neuropathy in my feet, some blisters, and it increases my bathroom frequency which can disrupt my sleep a little. As those numbers decrease, those issues pretty quickly disappear and I can report they have already. So hopefully I can stay disciplined for another 4 weeks, get my numbers down and then reasonably maintain them, we’ll see. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My guide to New Orleans

New Orleans

In New Orleans, we celebrate everything. It’s probably the only place you’ll see people dancing in a funeral home. ~ Trombone Shorty


I love New Orleans, I have often said it’s the only city I’ve felt truly comfortable in. I’ve felt this way since the first time I set foot there. Every time I’ve been there I’ve had an incredible time and often they have been very different trips. Without a doubt thought, my favorite time there is during Mardi Gras season. I’ve written a lot about it in the piece I’ve linked to and will add some detail below about Mardi Gras.

A special note about Bourbon Street. For most people when they hear New Orleans the first thing they think about is drinking hurricanes and getting loaded on Bourbon Street while watching women flash their breasts for beads. And that all certainly happens, especially every weekend night, and most nights whenever the city is full of tourists. Also for this reason, a lot of people really come down negatively on the French Quarter as the world’s best crime infested tourist trap. This is not entirely a miscategorization. The French Quarter, especially Bourbon Street is full of tourist traps, and there certainly are a number of criminals looking for tourists who are drunk and out of control to take advantage of them.

But there are also amazing things to experience in the quarter. Lots of small quirky museums, fascinating shops, hole in the wall amazing places to eats and most importantly, always, yes always interesting things you could never expect to see. New Orleans is a huge and complex city, there are lots of areas and a myriad of things to do. I’m focusing on a small area and a small set of things I know and love well. Don’t miss the walking tours, the museums, the aquarium, the buskers, Preservation Hall, the million jazz clubs, I think you see the permutations are endless.

New Orleans is a music and food city, both are everywhere and jazz is king, but jazz is a broad and complicated form of music. If you’re a jazz person I would actually point you toward evenings on Frenchman Street at the base of the quarter. I don’t like every form of jazz and I’m not well enough versed to know what types I like, but for me the one place I always spend at least part of one evening is Fritzels European Jazz Club on Bourbon Street, the jazz there seems to be the kind I like and it’s worth a visit.

bosom buddies, mardi gras

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is an amazing time in New Orleans, the season starts a full month before Fat Tuesday. The parades are the star of the show so if you go during Mardi Gras, don’t miss the parades. The big parades do not go into the French Quarter, don’t stay down on Canal Street, make your way up St. Charles and hang out with the locals and the families, I promise you an amazing time. St. Charles is also the main street car route when the parades aren’t happening. Finally, remember, Mardi Gras ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday and they literally clear the streets and shut the bars.

cochon food
rabbit and dumplings


All of the restaurants on this list I have, or close friends have personally eaten at. There are literally over 1000 restaurants in New Orleans, so this list is nowhere near comprehensive or even a good survey. The list is French Quarter focused and does not include high brow fancy restaurants. There are plenty in New Orleans and you can find them on the net. The restaurants on the list do not require fancy clothes and will not break the bank. Most do require sleeved shirts and at most a collared shirt.

Coterie – I am angry at myself, I have had Coterie on my list for awhile but hadn’t got there. I got there for the first time on my last trip several weeks ago. It was incredible, the best gumbo I’ve ever had, I ate there three times in two days, don’t miss Coterie.

Cochon/Cochon Butchery – The recent discovery of Coterie is the only reason Cochon was not at the top of this list, it is my favorite restaurant in New Orleans. They also have a fabulous sandwich shop around the corner which features Le Pig Mac, basically all of the ingredients of a Big Mac but with pork patties, it’s amazing. If you go to Cochon I will recommend my favorite dish, the Rabbit and Dumplings, it is simply transcendent.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House – Famous as having the best fried chicken in America, not fancy, it’s a simple place with simply fantastic food.

Dooky Chase – a really basic lunch cafe, you don’t go there for the food, but the history. It was a gathering place for leaders during the civil rights movement it’s like having lunch in a civil rights museum.

Mothers – Another place that you will think I was nuts for sending you too, it’s a modest brick building, and when you enter, after waiting in line, there is always a line, you will thiink you have entered back to your high school cafeteria. But order your food and find a table, the place is way bigger than you originally think and be ready to eat some quality southern fare for very reasonable prices.

Deanie’s Seafood – Deanie’s is not magnificent, but always solid. The meal always starts with some boiled potatoes, the service is quick and good, your food typically comes quick, the servings are big and you’ll be full and satisfied.

Ruby Slipper – I typically stay near this breakfast/brunch place and there is always and insane line for this place every morning during Mardi Gras and every other weekend. Finally, on my last trip, up early on a Monday morning I was able to walk in and get a seat at the bar. The biscuits and gravy I had were really good, the woman next to me had the pancakes and I was instantly jealous. The mimosas were flowing even on a Monday morning and it seems like a fantastic place to have brunch, they don’t do reservations.

Neyows – is the one mid-city place on my list. Great traditional New Orleans restaurant, reasonable prices and most of all, super generous portions. Haven’t been there myself in a few years but the online reviews are still really strong for this place.

The lobby at the International House


All four of the following hotels are situated within a block of each other. They are all within 2 blocks of the Mardi Gras parade route on St. Charles. They are all within three blocks of the French Quarter, within a minute walk to Ruby Slippers, 5 minutes to Mothers, 7 minutes Coteri, 12-15 minutes to Cochon.

Voco Hotel St. James – Nice hotel, not a ton of amenities but really nice rooms, some actually witih couches and chairs. Great location and a good price.

Eliza Jane – Basically the same as the Voco Hotel St. James, right across the street in fact, slightly cooler feel to the hotel, nice bar, about the same level of rooms and price.

International House – I have never stayed here, but I’ve had a drink in it’s bar on a couple of occasions and they have by far the funkiest lobby I’ve ever seen, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Website seems like simple but unique rooms, definitely not your standard hotel.

Magnolia – Very nice hotel, rooms only have one bed, but it’s a nice big bed. I haven’t stayed here since it’s changed owners but still seems to be a great place to stay.

Posted in Happiness on the Road, Happy Travel Stories, personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ode to a pair of shoes

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~ Marilyn Monroe

Recently I decided to buy a new pair of Merrell hiking shoes. And when I finally unboxed the new shoes I took a look at my old shoes and felt and emotional response to the idea of donating or tossing them. After a little thought it made a lot of sense, this pair of shoes has been on a hell of a journey with me. I bought these Merrells when I was preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail seven years ago. I bought two pairs right before I started the trail. My first pair went belly up after my first 800 miles on the trail. That meant that my first pair ended up doing over a 1000 miles of walking. This pair did the last 200 miles of the trail with me. But they did so much more. These shoes have been with me for the last seven years, they started on the AT, they walked the streets of Pensacola with me while I wrote my book Appalachian Trail Happiness. The were on my feet for three Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and one in Mobile, Alabama. The strolled across the playa at Burning Man. They’ve hiked across parts of the Mojave Desert, as well as Spain, Portugal, Morocco and all the way across Scotland. The life of these shoes has been a story of adventure and while I’ll be sad to let them go, they’re being replaced by a pair that I hope will be what I’m wearing on the first steps of my next hike on the AT. Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Happy Mardi Gras

You should celebrate the end of a love affair as they celebrate death in New Orleans, with songs, laughter, dancing and a lot of wine. ~ Francoise Sagan

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not just Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras is not a holiday, it’s a season. The first Mardi Gras parade happens a month before Fat Tuesday. Officially, Mardi Gras starts 12 days before Fat Tuesday, but in New Orleans, Mardi Gras (Carnival) starts with that first parade. The city embraces the season, hell it revels in the season. Work schedules change around parade days and on the final weekend, which starts on Thursday and ends on Fat Tuesday, the city is fully on holiday.

I did my first Mardi Gras around 15 years ago. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I’d been to New Orleans before and I really loved being there. There is absolutely something about that city that touches my soul. I have often said, New Orleans is the only city that from the first minute I set foot in it, felt like I have always been there, like it was home.

So I knew I would have a good time, like a lot of folks though, the images I had about Mardi Gras were the drunken debauchery that is Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Imagine a mile long drunken frat party that is hosting an episode of Girls Gone Wild. That is Bourbon Street on the last weekend of Mardi Gras, but that is NOT Mardi Gras. The central part of Mardi Gras are the parades. As a kid I hated parades. In my hometown a parade meant a couple of poorly designed floats, a couple of mediocre marching bands, cop cars, fire trucks and clumsy cub scouts and old dudes in uniforms. The only thing I ever found exciting was the time they actually had a tank in the parade and the cleats tore up main street.

So I wasn’t all that excited about Mardi Gras parades but I figured I’d give them a chance. So for my first parade I found my way up Charles Street on the parade route looking for a place to watch. The first surprise was that the route was full of families, they had ladders for the kids to sit on and people were picnicking before the parade. It became immediately obvious, this was not going to be like the frat party on Bourbon Street. The second thing that became obvious was that people were super happy, they were social and friendly and it was easy to meet people.

The parades themselves were amazing, incredible floats including some that were very political and funny. The marching bands were incredibly skilled, there were dance crews, riders on horse, walkers carrying torches. The parades were huge and went on for hours. Then there were the throws, as most people know, the riders throw beads, stuffed animals, toys, signature throws that are unique to each crew and often hand crafted. They also throw doubloons, fake metal coins stamped for each krewe, I love these. I have collected a doubloon at every parade I’ve ever attended. I give away almost everything I collect either to kids at the parades, cute women, and I mail a bunch back to my nieces and nephews. The only things I keep are signature throws, the occasional quirky or interesting throw and of course the doubloons.

This year, in addition to the doubloons, I caught three grail from the Krewe of King Arthur (their signature throw) and a really nice winter hat emblazoned with the krewe’s name on it. And I usually keep a couple of strings of the nicest beads.

My last Mardi Gras was 2020, yup, right at the beginning of the pandemic. Returning home the first headline that I saw was Mardi Gras – Super Spreader Event! Fortunately, I didn’t get COVID somehow, although I had a small cold. Which of course led to my staff joking I was patient zero for COVID in California.

As I’ve written about before, I went into a bit of what they’ve termed languishing, during COVID. I wasn’t depressed, I was functioning at work, working out but I was really void of motivation. A book project didn’t get finished, my writing dropped off significantly. And while socializing wasn’t a good idea for health reasons, and I’m a bit antisocial to start with, I definitely withdrew a bit more than usual. Of course, my joy is travel and that was pretty solidly curtailed as well. I found myself spending a lot of time just watching TV after work and exercise.

The last couple of months I’ve turned the corner, started writing a bit more, and then the message popped in. It was my buddy Rich, it was a simple message, Mardi Gras 2023? I immediately said yes. It felt like this trip was a fitting end to the COVID period and my languishing. Now, don’t jump all over me, I’m a trained biologist and I know the pandemic is not over. I’m still very careful and masking actually far more than most people. But there’s a shift for me as COVID and COVID protocols have just become part of life, and I’ve adapted to that new way of life.

So this trip to Mardi Gras was going to be significant for that reason if nothing else. But this was the best trip I’ve ever had to Mardi Gras. First, it was a great balance of time in town with a good friend as well as a few days on my own. This was my first time attending the next to last weekend of Mardi Gras and it was wonderful. All of the things you want from a Mardi Gras weekend but the crowds were much smaller and I got to see parades I’ve never seen before. Rich and I met some great people at the parades, we hung out with some great folks from Alabama, and as it always seems to happen, met some New Yorkers.

The trip started with an error on my part. I thought I had booked the last place I stayed. I got to the hotel and everything was different. At first I thought they’d done a big remodel but it didn’t make sense. I was happy when I got to my room because it was huge and well furnished. When I first left the hotel it immediately hit me. I had booked the Hotel St. James, but in fact I had meant to book the Eliza Jane, also nice, but in fact the rooms at the Hotel St. James were nicer.

The one downside to this trip, it was really cold for Lousiana, in the 40’s one night at the parade, low 50’s during the day. We did a swamp tour which was great, our captain Zander was a hoot. But it was too cold for alligators to be out and about, and of course they are usually the stars of the tours.

The one thing of course that never lets you down in New Orleans is the food. I’ll be doing a post later this week just on my food and other recommendations for New Orleans but I want to mention two places. The first is Cochon, my favorite restaurant in New Orleans. This time I got my favorite dish there, the rabbit and dumplings and it was and always is absolutely transcendentally good.

The second restaurant was one that had been on my list for some time, but I had not made it to, and that was Coteri. Coincidentally it was recommended to me twice while in the city on this trip. I made it the day before I left and ate there three times before leaving, they have the best gumbo I’ve ever had. I also added another to do off of my list, a Sazerac at The Old Absinthe House. It’s become a tourist trap in the French Quarter but how often can you drink an Absinthe drink in a nearly 200 year-old pirate bar. One other restaurant that has always intrigued me is the Ruby Slipper. I stay near there and walk by it every morning, and every morning it’s packed with a huge line out of front. On my last morning I finally got there early and in without a line. I had a plate of very good biscuits and gravy, I’m not sure it was wait 30 minutes to get in good, but it was very good and from what I saw on other plates, the food is very well done.

When I woke the last morning, I got an email upgrading me to first class for my first flight home a really great way to wrap up the trip. Below are some pictures from the trip, enjoy. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in Happiness is Adventure, Happy Travel Stories, personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Roller Coaster of Life

The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed. ~ Eminem

Life is like standing in the surf. One minute your there, your feet solidly on the ground, the next thing you know, you’re sky high and floating, a minute later you can be tumbling out of control about to drown. It’s a roller coaster ride, you’re up, you’re down and rarely, at least in my experience, to consistent periods of calm last. Mark Knopfler probably said it most poetically, “some times you’re the windshield, some time you’re the bug.” Within the last week I went from cruising along in my job, to being prepared to quit and go hike the Appalachian Trail, to back to cruising along.

Sometimes the hills and valleys of life cycle over a week, a month or longer, sometimes it swings between the two in a single day. Today was one such day and in fact the swings came fast and furious all day. But I want to talk about a specific swing.

I have worked the last couple of years with a really great young man. He’s dedicated, hard working, responsible and all around just a really solid human being. He’s the kind of person who does what he says, stays out of the workplace gossip and works hard on behalf of our students. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He popped over to my office today to ask if I had a few minutes to talk and of course I did. He seemed a little distressed and we talked about a small issue we had been working on and then he paused.

He first off gave me a very nice compliment, he said that he felt we’d always connected on deeper than a colleague level and I agreed. He referenced that we both share complicated realities in the way we grew up. He then said, “life is lonely for men like us.” This young man it turns out is struggling and his struggle is one I understand. He’s always been a responsible man, he grew up early in life because he had to, he’s the person who people turn to when they need advice or help, he’s the person who’s responsible for taking care of everyone else. The fact is, he’s just tired of being where the buck stops, and of not having anyone to go to and that’s why he’s so lonely.

I understand this position very much, it’s exactly the position I’m in, that I’ve been in most of my life. In that position you’re not allowed to be weak, you’re not allowed to be down, there isn’t anyone to turn to when you don’t have an answer, so you always carry all of the weight of everything and it’s exhausting. At this point in my life, I’ve learned to cope with this weight, it doesn’t mean it’s easy or comfortable or that it isn’t incredibly lonely at times. So I understood what he was saying and I did my best to comfort him, to let him know I understand and that I in fact am there for him. My most sincere hope is that I can at least in some way take some of the pressure off of his shoulders, erase some of the feelings of loneliness. I remember being his age, I remember how unrelenting and massive that pressure can feel.

These types of moments are when I’m truly in my role as a minister. I don’t have a physical church, I don’t preach a gospel but I take the mission of the Ministry of Happiness and the Church of Abnormal Acceptance seriously. I’ve had a couple of people in my life who have been there for me when I needed it and this is my way to pay it forward and it makes me happy to do so. But that first statement he made about the world being lonely for men like us, also hit really close to home. And while I was happy to help him out today, it was that moment where you go from floating high to tumbling around in the surf feeling like you’re drowning. But I’ve regained vertical status, my head is back above water, the mechanisms I’ve developed to right myself are getting me through tonight. Hell, I even resisted, pounding a huge plate full of carbs and a drinking a lot of Coke tonight.

So why am I telling you this tonight? I’m hoping that you’ll do the same thing I’m trying to do and pay it forward. There was a time when the world went south on you, when you need an anchor, a helping hand. And I know you’re busy and your life is hard too, but if you see someone struggling, reach out, lend a hand if you can, it will make you feel better and might really be something significant for them.

Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Happy week in the Nevada Desert

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exuper

I spent Christmas this year in the Mojave Desert like I often do. However this year, instead of going to my usual haunt, Anza Borrego State Park in California, I ventured out to the Nevada Desert. Two old friends were celebrating their 35th Wedding Anniversary in Las Vegas and I was planning to attend the affair. So I was looking for somewhere to camp, hike and explore closer to Las Vegas. My research led me to try and get an open camping spot in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

I believe that they are starting campsite reservations, but as of December, camp sites were first come first served. I figured since I was going in on Friday around noon, a couple of days before Christmas I’d be ok. As I approached the gate for the park my heart dropped, there were a line of cars for the park that was easily 30 or 40 cars long. I couldn’t believe it! Sitting in the line and looking at the cars, and it was mostly cars, I didn’t see what looked like packed cars for camping trips. The park is only about a 45 minute drive outside of Vegas so I started hoping that these were people off work, or tourists looking for a pretty afternoon of sightseeing, it also convinced me that I would certainly be heading for Arches, the more primitive and least popular of the two campgrounds.

A half-hour later when I finally got to the gate I asked the ranger if there were still campsites available, his answer was, “I think there are a few primitive sites available.” That absolutely sealed I’d be heading for the Arches campground. Happily, I think what the ranger meant was there were only a few spots in the more modern campground with electrical and RV sites. Because when I pulled into the Arches campground the lower campground was nearly empty and the upper sites were only about half full. I picked a site overlooking the lower campground but still close to the comfort station. The campground was nice and simple, surrounding by fabulous rock formations and a lovely view of the valley. The rock formations, much like fluffy clouds, are perfect for seeing different types of shapes in the rocks. Around my site I could see turtles, gorillas and crazy lizard faces in the rocks. For all but the last night, I had no neighbors so it was incredibly peaceful. There were afternoons lying in my hammock where I didn’t hear a man-made noise for an hour or more and nights were incredibly quiet.

Well, except for the first night. The campground had gravel roads, the kind of crunchy gravel roads where every step goes, crunch, crunch, crunch. So you could hear someone walking from a long way off. The first night I fell asleep blissfully and about four in the morning I was suddenly woken up by what sounded like a truck driving into my campsite and coming to run me over. I woke up with a shout and suddenly everything was quiet. As I gathered my wits it suddenly hit me what it might have been, what was so loud and was now silent. So I rolled over and slowly unzipped the flap of my tent and right in front of me was a one-hundred and fifty pound big horn sheep and several of its friends. I said hello and it bleated and they thundered off out of my campsite. I love bighorn sheep and have seen many in Anza Borrego over the years. And I’ve always wanted to get a photo of them standing up on the ridgeline, thank you Valley of Fire for making my desire a reality.

The pattern that happens in Valley of Fire State Park at least during the Christmas holiday works perfectly with the way I camp. The park, being so close to Vegas, starts to fill up at about 11AM and gets crowded around 3 or 4 PM. Typically when camping I’m up early, I like to get out and hike early and so most days I was coming off trails about the time the crowds started coming in. After lunch I like to chill out and read, lay in my hammock and just chill out before making dinner and setting a fire for the night to sit by and look at the stars.

The one complaint that I have about Valley of Fire is that the hiking trails are terribly marked. I’m a very experienced hiker who has hiked literally all over the world. I got lost twice on very short tourist trails. There was never any danger, the trails were short and I could dead reckon my way back to the parking lots, but even when I was pretty far off trail there were lots of footprints. I wonder how many tourists with little experience end up badly sunburned, dehydrated or worse in the hotter months of the year.

My five days in the park were wonderful. I’d bought a new camp stove as a Christmas present to myself so I did some wonderful camp meals. I’ve typically been a minimalist on this front so it was a bit of a luxury for me. The weather was wonderful, 60 degree sunny days and warmer than expected nights with temps in the 40’s instead of the 20’s I’d been expecting. It was incredibly relaxing and just what I needed, and yes there are photos, enjoy! ~ Rev Kane

Posted in Happiness on the Road, Happy Travel Stories, personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Make a Little Happiness

There is no sincerer love, than the love of food. ~ George Bernard Shaw

It’s been raining in Northern California pretty much constantly since December 24th. I happily avoided a week of the rain by being in the Mojave Desert for a week, a post on that will be up in the next week with lots of pretty pictures. So it’s been difficult to do my daily walk, I’m just not willing to put on all of my rain gear and walk in cold and windy rain storms every day. Plus, it seems I picked up a case of COVID, not confirmed since I didn’t have a fever so I didn’t test. But I’ve had no energy for two weeks and still have a nagging cough. However, whenever there’s been a break in the rain I’ve gotten outside to walk.

One of the things I’ve always done more in the winter than in the summer, is grill outside. My new apartment has a patio so I can once again utilize my small propane grill and today’s six hour break in the rain opened up an opportunity to grill up some really delicious pork chops, the ones pictured above.

I’ve taken quite a journey in my life where pork chops are concerned. My mom was generally a very good cook when I was a child, but she had a few things she just missed on. One of those was pork chops. I think falling prey to the idea that you don’t dare cook pork anyway other than well done, you know, to avoid trichinosis. So she would turn pork chops into dried out hockey pucks. Now I still liked pork chop night because she often made them with potato pancakes and Spanish rice which were both quite tasty. We always ate the pork chops with copious amounts of apple sauce to both give them some moisture and flavor. As such, once I was out on my own I didn’t bother to buy pork chops nor order them in a restaurant. Then in 2010 I was fortunate enough to spend three months at my aunt’s cabin in Utah while training for my Everest Trek. The nearest town to the cabin is in Panguitch, Utah and it’s a one-horse kind of town and certainly a one grocery store town. The store was seriously lacking in a lot of ways but it had the most incredible meat department. All of their meat was from local farms, super fresh and reasonably priced. The girl that worked the meat counter most days was also really cute and one day she tried to sell me some pork chops, I declined. But if I have a weakness in life…., I told her about my mom’s pork chops and the deal she made me was this. Marinate the chops, put them on the grill and cook them medium rare, if they weren’t absolutely delicious, she’d refund my money. So I did and they were, and my whole relationship to pork chops was permanently changed and I’m so happy it was.

My message tonight is short and simple. Even when the weather is bad and you’ve been caged in side for three weeks, don’t let your mood crash, find little ways to bring a little joy and happiness into your life even if it’s in small ways like a couple of well marinated, medium rare pork chops. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kindness and Instant Karma

I believe in Karma. If the good is sown, the good is collected. When positive things are made, that returns well. ~ Yannik Noah

I am a believer in Karma, to me it’s simple physics. Like the proverbial pebble into the pond the energy pushes ripples of water out until they hit a barrier, then they reflect and return. I believe that’s exactly how Karma operates. You put energy out there, positive or negative and it flows and then rebounds and comes back to you. What we don’t ever know is how far away the reflecting barrier is from the start. So, consequently, we never know how quickly Karma (the return) will show up. Sometimes the barrier is very close and the return almost instantaneous, hence, instant Karma. Most of us appreciate the type of instant Karma where someone does something bad and moments later something bad happens to them. Like in the image below, you get immediately what you give and I think this is often how people think of instant Karma.

But there is also positive instant Karma and so tonight a quick little story about the Endymion Dragon in the picture at the top of the post.

It was my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and it was absolutely magical. Most people when they think of Mardi Gras think about drunken crowds on Bourbon Street and women lifting their shirts so that people will rain beads down on upon. And while Bourbon Street absolutely represents a drunken debaucherous side of Mardi Gras, it is such a tiny part of the month long celebration in New Orleans.

The real center piece to Mardi Gras are the parades, the societies that sponsor them and the balls and parties that they throw to celebrate the season. I’ve never been someone who has enjoyed parades. Even as a kid I really didn’t enjoy them, a bunch of fire trucks, old people and kids marching and some poorly playing bands never got me all that excited. And the crappy balloons and toys they sold, I never got them and honestly had no interest in them.

But Mardi Gras parades are a completely different animal. There is a complete culture around the parades. Families show up on places like Charles Street hours before the parade. They bring picnic dinners and folding ladders with seats on them for the children. The parades are extravagant events, the floats are amazing as some are artistic, some comical, some political. The krewes on the floats spend thousands of dollars of their own money to provide “throws” for the parades. Throws are the things the krewes toss into the crowd from the floats, mostly beads,dubloons, small toys and plastic cups. But every krewe has at least one signature throw, the really nice throw they provide but only a small number of them. For the Endymion Krewe, it’s the dragon.

So at my first parade, I was intermixed in the crowd with people from NOLA as well as other tourists. While hanging out with families, who more often that not offer you something to eat and drink after talking for just a few minutes, I was super excited. As the floats came by, some parades have nearly 100, along with horse riders and the best marching bands from all over the southeast, I was catching and collecting throws and there was a little boy from the family I’d been hanging with next to me. So we fell into a pattern and anytime I caught a toy or a big string of beads I’d hand them over to him. He would get so excited and it was a total blast for me as well.

So at one point, the parade was paused, this is always crazy as now all of the throws are happening right in front of you and beads and other throws fall like rain from the sky. At one point, one of the riders pulls up a dragon and is teasing the crowd and people are going nuts. Suddenly, we make eye contact and he kind of smirks, like please dude, I’m not throwing this to you. But in that moment I gesture to the little guy below me and the rider got what I was saying. So he tosses me the dragon and I give it to the little guy and he goes completely nuts he’s so excited. The rider whistles, and as I look up the dragon in the picture above is flying at me. Instant Karma! My good act led to an instant and amazing gift, one of the best throws I’ve ever gotten and absolutely my favorite.

The point to this is be kind my friends, wherever possible. Don’t make yourself a door mat, don’t let people take advantage of you but be kind and I promise it will lead to happier days. ~ Rev Kane

Posted in personal happiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment