Archive for August 2013

Big Bend National Park   5 comments

Big Bend NP 00Where Is It: It’s the most remote NP in the lower 48. It’s not near anything … that’s part of the challenge to getting there. 329 miles southwest of El Paso and 406 miles west of San Antonio. It’s on the border with Mexico.

The Birth: From the Texas State Historical Association:

The legislative history of the park began in 1933, when the Texas legislature inaugurated Texas Canyons State Park on fifteen sections of land in the vicinity of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas canyons on the Rio Grande in southern Brewster County. Later that year the name was changed to Big Bend State Park and the Chisos Mountains were added to the park acreage. The National Park Service investigated the site in January 1934 and recommended establishment of both a Civilian Conservation Corps camp and a national park. The NPS regarded Big Bend as “decidedly the outstanding scenic area of Texas.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt took a personal interest in Big Bend because of a proposed international, or companion, park in Mexico (still being discussed decades later). The United States Congress passed the enabling legislation on June 20, 1935, stipulating that acquisition of the park acreage “shall be secured…only by public and private donations.” By 1942 most of the land was purchased with a $1.5 million appropriation from the Forty-seventh Texas Legislature. Although several thousand acres remained in private hands, the park opened to the public in 1944. In 1972 the Congress appropriated $300,375 for the last 8,561.75 acres, finally placing the entire original park area of 708,118.40 acres in federal ownership. Subsequent additions have increased the park acreage to 801,163.02 acres, of which 776,693.22 acres are federal land.

It Happened Here: National Park Service rangers were surveyed in 2002, and Big Bend NP was voted the 2nd most dangerous park in the system. Cited sources of violence included drug smuggling, illegal immigrant traffic and poachers of plants and animals … all taking advantage of more than 100 miles of border with Mexico.

Size: 801,163 acres

# Visitors: 292,055 in 2012. August is the least-attended month (average high temperature is 101*), and February the most-attended month (average high temperature is 62*).

Plants: The park is home to about 60 species of cacti.

Animals: 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, 450 species of birds (more than half of the species found in the US) and about 3,600 species of insects. The park has more types of birds and bats than any other US National Park. About 2 dozen mountain lions live in the park; two attacks on humans have happened since 1984.

Choices: The Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only alternative to camping in the park. The lodge makes available rooms in the lodge itself, as well as a the Casa Grande Hotel, Rio Grande Motel and additional, nearby rental cottages. Get information, here.

Fees: $15 for a 7 day pass per vehicle

Staying There: There are over 200 campsites available for $10 per night.

Contact Info:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX  79834-0129


Current Issues: Air pollution from coal-fired power plants has reduced visibility in the park from 180 miles to 30 miles.

Don’t Miss This: Here are the recommendations from the Friends of Big Bend National Park:

Families flock to the Rio Grande Village area for birding. There is a great boardwalk called the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail, and a small visitor center. Helpful rangers can tell you what birds are out and about.

Kids will be happy playing on the sand dunes along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Find them via a short hike at Boquillas Canyon.

After a long day, relax at the Hot Springs, an historic area of Big Bend where you can soak your bones.

Take a drive. Follow the Old Maverick Road, an improved dirt road that is wide and easy to navigate, into the mountains. There are great cultural stops along the way, such as Luna’s Jacal and Terlingua Abajo, as well as some historic overlooks.

Explore the Dorgan Sublett Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that offers panoramic views of Santa Elena Canyon, the Rio Grande River, Mexico, and cultural ruins.


National Park Service: Big Bend National Park

Trail Running in Big Bend National Park

Friends of Big Bend National Park

Up Around The Bend

Chookooloonks Wild West Road Trip

Steve’s National Park Blog: Big Bend NP

Buying A Car The Right Way   1 comment

As Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well!”

So, while we were having an unusually bad car buying experience (see link below), we were also having a very good experience in parallel.

Our bank referred us to Auto Nation Direct. That’s how I met Robbie.

Robbie carefully explained that he would help us find our car. Any make, new or used. We just needed to tell him what we wanted.


Oh, and it was one-quote pricing. He would do the paperwork before we got to the dealership; it would be complete when we walked in. Take a test drive, sign the papers, out the door.


I described the car that Velda wanted … he was back within hours with a used car option. Too quick, really … we weren’t ready to buy, which I told him. But his earnest recommendation propelled us forward.

We clarified what we wanted … he had some other options for us, and we eventually zeroed in on the Honda Accord. He listened and responded like a champ. Robbie made this happen through his excellent communication skills.

His partner at the dealership was Kelley. When we arrived for our test drive, Kelley was prompt. He listened to what Velda wanted, and talked about how the different cars would work for her … or not. He stayed focused on Velda … not me.

Which was a very good thing. After all, we were buying her car. What she needed and wanted from the car should be the primary focus. Kelley understood that.

Is there any surprise we bought a Honda?

Together, they delivered one of the best car buying experiences we’ve had. Why? Because they listened to the customer. They knew who the customer was, and talked to her.

Quality sales skills are not a mystery, really. The mystery is why so few people practice them!

And, yes, I’m happy to get you Robbie’s phone number if you would like to buy a car the right way.


The color is Obsidian Blue. It’s sparkly.


AutoNation Direct

That Horrible Need To Talk To Salespeople

Creating an Eagle Court of Honor   1 comment

Roy Rogers, appearing at an Eagle Court of Honor in Pennsylvania in a1950.

Roy Rogers, appearing at an Eagle Court of Honor in Pennsylvania in 1950.

The Eagle Badge is the highest award in Scouting. It is the fulfillment of years of preparation, countless events and activities, and affirmation by adults that the Scout is worthy of this great honor. When a young man achieves something that important, they deserve special recognition.

That recognition is typically done at an Eagle Court of Honor (ECOH). These are often hosted by the Eagle’s family, though they are also hosted by the Scout’s troop – especially if multiple boys are receiving the award. There is no requirement that an Eagle have a special presentation at an ECOH. It is traditional, though.

Another tradition is that the ECOH is often personalized for the boy. That can strike fear into the hearts of parents, that are often not active Scouters and don’t know where to begin. So, start here!

There is no “official” ECOH. There are no elements that must be included, though many troops and even councils have traditions that most will want to be included. That’s fine … there is still a lot of room for personalization.

I had the pleasure of creating 2 ECOHs for my 2 sons (well, 3 sons, as you shall see). When I developed the scripts, here were my priorities:

  • It’s about the boy, and the event must reflect his interests. He must approve the script.
  • It should be a Scouting event with maximum attendance of family, Scouts and friends (in that order).
  • It’s an entertainment event, so it should be something the audience enjoys.

I recently emcee’d an ECOH for the Kasman family. Marty Kasman is an Eagle Scout, as well as a recipient of the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope. He wrote the script for his son Daniel’s ECOH with these priorities:

  • Inspire younger boys
  • Demonstrate the good that Scouts do

There are many resources below that will guide you in preparing for the ceremony.  Here are a few observations and tips that I encourage you to consider:

1. Schedule the event when it’s most convenient for the people you want to be there. If the ECOH is scheduled at the regular troop meeting time, you’ll probably get a lot of boys … but weeknights are difficult for family and friends to travel any distance to attend. Weekends are always best for them (and worst for the boys).

2. Don’t do the same old tired ceremony that the boys have seen many times. A little creativity goes a long way. Remember, it’s an entertainment event.

3. The boy(s) being honored should be as involved in the creation of the event as they want to be. Some boys will want to be very involved, though few are really capable of writing a complete script.

4. The ceremony should reflect the boy. In Christopher’s case, he was the Senior Patrol Leader (the boy leader of the troop) at the time, and had been helping do Scout campfires since he was in Cub Scouts. It was perfectly natural that his ECOH should be a campfire event, complete with singing, storytelling and S’Mores. Michael, on the other hand, teamed up with his buddy Lyle (my honorary 3rd son), and they wanted their event to be a party. Their ECOH had a “normal” ceremony … and was followed by a dance with actual girls in attendance (go to a few ECOHs and you’ll see how unusual that is!). I haven’t seen either of those ideas done as an ECOH since.

5. If you have non-Scouters attending that don’t know what an ECOH is, make sure you have a friendly emcee that will explain what’s going on as it happens.

6. Special appearances by treasured Scouters are very popular with the guys in khaki. At Christopher’s event, I was able to present a district award to a Scouter who had coordinated Christopher’s Eagle project for a local park (where Christopher now works!). This Scouter happened to be celebrating his 60th year as an Eagle Scout, and the ovation when he was introduced brought tears to his eyes. Make memories.

7. Have a good photographer on hand that is not an immediate family member. You know how much I love photography. I failed at capturing ECOH memories in photographs. Twice.

8. One traditional element that makes very little sense to me is gathering letters of congratulation from VIPs. If you request a congratulatory letter far in advance, you can generally get them from mayors, senators, celebrities – even Presidents. Here’s my question: does your son really care if he has a form letter from a congressman in a notebook on a shelf that he’ll never look at again? If so, great. If not … put your efforts into more productive pursuits.

9. Every ECOH these days seems to include a slide show of photos from the Eagle’s Scouting career. Those can be fun … for a few minutes. Three minutes, great. Five minutes … uncomfortable. Anything longer than that really doesn’t matter, because you will have lost most of your audience.

10. Use your resources … other adults from you son’s patrol and troop will be happy to help you pull this event off. Non-immediate family members, too. Don’t try and do it all yourself, because you will make yourself crazy. And why would you do that on a day made for celebration with your son?


Christopher Mowry’s ECOH Script

Eagle Court of Honor Handbook

MacScouter’s ECOH Handbook’s Court of Honor

Eagle Scout Mike Rowe’s Speech At The 2013 National Jamboree

Hiking To Ouzel Lake: Rocky Mountain National Park   7 comments

Wish you had time for one more hike this summer? That’s how I was feeling … but Jason Hussong wrote about his hike, and it’s pretty spectacular. I enjoyed tagging along through his words and pictures, posted on Jason’s Travels. Hope you will, as well!

Go to his blog post, here.

Ouzel Falls, in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Jason Hussong.




Redwood National Park   Leave a comment

Redwood National Park 00Where Is It: This Park isn’t hard to find, but it is hard to know if you’re in it or not. Three state parks are co-managed with the National Park, and the public land is adjacent to private land … and a significant public highway, California 101, is the main road traveling through the park. When we first visited, I missed the visitor’s centers. I’ve shown some signage clues for you, below.

The parks stretch from about 25 miles north of Eureka, CA to within about 15 miles of the Oregon border. It’s about 300 miles north of San Francisco and 330 miles south of Portland.

The Birth: In 1964, President Johnson asked Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall to prepare a report on the need and feasibility for creating a National Park dedicated to preserving redwood trees. At the time, less that 2.5% of all virgin redwood forests were preserved, and it was estimated that the rest of the forest would be cleared by the year 2000. When logging companies were asked to cease logging in the areas projected to be a part of the National Park, they refused. After years of consensus building, President Johnson signed the bill creating this park on October 2, 1968. At the time of its creation, the Park included 10,900 acres of old growth redwood forest … together with the 50,000 acres already preserved in the adjacent State Parks.

It Happened Here: The Endor scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed here. Yes, Ewoks live among the redwoods.

Size: 139,043 acres, including 3 California state parks

# Visitors: 352,517 in 2012. May had the lowest attendance; July had the highest. It’s the 142nd ranked attraction according to visitation in the National Park Service’s universe.

Plants: Redwoods can live to be 1800 years old or more, and can top 300′. Redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet. The tallest known redwood is called Hyperion, and was found to be 379.1′ tall when it was first discovered in 2006. Hyperion is in a remote part of the park, and its location is not widely publicized in an effort to protect it from ne’er-do-wells.

Animals: Threatened animal species protected by this park include the brown pelican, tidewater goby, chinook salmon, northern spotted owl and Stellar’s sea lion. In March, you can watch migrating whales from the shoreline of the Park.

Choices: You can drive the park north to south or south to north. It’s a meandering kind of experience. Some sights are right off of the main highway; others you need to go exploring to find. It’s important to have at least some wanderlust when you visit the park, because if you simply drive on the main highway you’ll miss it.

There are 4 visitor’s centers. We missed the southern-most one near Orick on our way north (see the horrible signage below). We then did visit the main office and northern-most visitor’s center in Crescent City … and that unique building, straddling a street in the city, looked nothing like I expected the visitor’s center to look like. Here’s an article on that bit of odd.

We eventually did visit the southern-most visitor’s center, called the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor’s Center. It’s not visible from the highway. The signage is pictured below in the hopes it will help you find it, if you are driving north from San Francisco on your way to the park, as we were.

Fees: None. Yes, it’s all free!

Staying There: Camp sites are available in the state parks and nearby National Forest. Redwood Hostel offers lodging within Redwood National and State Parks. Primitive camping while backpacking is available in the National Park.

Contact Info:

1111 Second St
Crescent City, CA  95531

Current Issues: From the National Geographic article on Redwood National Park:

In 1978 Congress added 48,000 acres to the national park’s 58,000 acres, including about 36,000 that had been logged. The raw, clear-cut land, a park official wrote, had “the look of an active war zone.” Today, in an epic earth-moving project—a redwood renaissance—crews are beginning to reclaim vast stretches of logged-over lands. Hillsides, carved away for logging roads, are being restored. Most of the 400 miles of roads are being erased. It will take at least 50 years for the scars of logging to disappear and another 250 or so years for the replanted redwood seedlings to grow to modest size.

Don’t Miss This:

  • Lady Bird Johnson Grove is a spectacular, easy access loop trail in the southern part of the park. It’s a definite must see, and just about everybody will be able to do the easy 1 mile hike.
  • Fern Canyon was featured in Jurassic Park II. It’s a one mile chasm near the beach with 50′ walls carpeted with ferns and moss.
  • Elk Meadow is a picnic area with trailheads; it’s one of the best places to see a herd of Roosevelt Elk.


Redwood National & State Parks (pictures)

Lady Bird Johnson Grove (pictures)

National Park Service: Redwood National and State Parks

Posted August 27, 2013 by henrymowry in National Parks

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At A Minimum   Leave a comment

Chicago recently saw protests aimed at McDonald's and promoting a $15 minimum wage.

Chicago recently saw protests aimed at McDonald’s and promoting a $15 minimum wage.

What are you worth?

That’s a humbling question for most, and one that our government does answer every day for wage earners at the bottom of the food chain.

Well, legally at the bottom anyway. And the answer for those workers earning minimum wage?

You’re not worth much.

This Thursday, there will be protests in Los Angeles at fast food chains. People are upset about the compensation received by workers that feed much of our society on a regular basis. Management of those fast food chains is trying to confront the reason for the protest with their PR muscle. Read the LA Times article (link below) for some perspective here.

After years of thinking that minimum wage rates should be kept low, I’ve begun to rethink my position. I believe the compensation rates should be raised, and here’s why:

McDonald's recently moved to pay their employees with high-fee debit cards, igniting a firestorm of protest. Click on the image to visit one site helping to prepare a class action lawsuit.

McDonald’s recently moved to pay their employees with high-fee debit cards, igniting a firestorm of protest. Click on the image to visit one site helping to prepare a class action lawsuit.

1. Compensation at the minimum wage is not a living wage. $290 each week … assuming that you can get 40 hours of work in the week. The reality is the vast majority of minimum wage workers do not receive 40 hours in a week, because that violates many company policies requiring entry-level workers to never receive enough hours to be considered full time and qualify for benefits. So, it’s not just that minimum wage workers receive little hourly compensation … they don’t receive many hours of work, either. Stitching together multiple part time jobs in order to get more hours of work is very common. Bottom line: minimum wage workers don’t make enough to support themselves, much less their families.

2. Benefits for minimum wage workers are even lower than their wages. Part of the need to keep minimum wage workers from being full time workers is that they would then qualify for more employee benefits. No matter, US workers at the bottom of the wage ladder are given very few benefits, even when they do qualify for them. The United States is 30th among 30 industrialized countries in paying benefits to their workers as a percent of their compensation (check it out in the Business Insider link, below). The US is below Singapore, Brazil and Estonia. Bottom line: low wage workers get very few benefits.

3. The pay gap is widening between line workers and senior management. It’s well documented that senior management compensation is rising dramatically when compared to entry-level workers. The Huffington Post reports that the CEO of Walmart makes $11,000 per hour. Further:

American CEO’s are the highest paid in the world. As of 2011, Corporate CEO’s in America make 340 times what the average worker makes. As a comparison, in 1980, CEO pay was only 42 times more than the average worker. For decades now, the compensation packages of the top one percent have been steadily increasing — income inequality is a runaway train, with the divide between the corporate oligarchy and the average citizen growing larger and larger every year.

I reject the Wall Street perspective that the CEO is running the company and should richly benefit from his position, while line workers should be paid as little as possible without significant benefits.

Costco is an exception to that trend … their average hourly wage is over $20/hour, and 88% of their employees have company-paid health insurance. Does the Costco CEO get Wall Street pressure to lower the compensation his company pays to hourly workers? Absolutely.

Will he do it? No. He believes that if you pay people a decent wage, you get happy employees that perform better for the company and its customers.

Wouldn’t it be great if McDonald’s and Taco Bell believed that?

Minimum Wage


LA Times: Fast Food Wage Protest

Forbes: Meet The McDonald’s Employees Fighting For Fair Wages

New York Times: Raise That Wage

Washington Post: Minimum Wage Comparison

Business Insider: What The Minimum Wage Debate In The United States Is Missing

Huffington Post: The Cruel Gap

Incomes Are Going Down

BusinessWeek: Costco

Posted August 26, 2013 by henrymowry in Living Life

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That Horrible Need To Talk to Salespeople   6 comments

Car LotMaking Velda angry? A very bad idea.

But then, who likes buying a car? After all, you have to deal with that universally despised type of person: car salesmen.

We need a new car. The Toyota is 11 years old, has 155,000 miles on it and hasn’t worked right for quite a while … it has served us well. It’s falling apart, though, so it is time to move on.

And that means we have to deal with car salesmen. Or saleswomen … but in the dealership, only two women were in sight. One was Velda, and the other was the receptionist/cashier. Perhaps we should have taken a clue from that.

I’m the best prospect in the world for a salesman. I’ve sold my whole professional life, and I’ve managed a sales team for a very long time. I will be very helpful to a salesperson, as I respect what they do. I know what salespeople need. I want to help them get their job done. I’m polite. I’m earnest. I want to be quick … and I give them the proper priorities quickly. The problem comes when the sales rep makes mistakes. I’m a professional; I expect to be treated like one.

I. Have. No. Patience. With. Idiot. Salespeople.

We made an appointment through Velda’s work website, which has a program that offers one price shopping for employees. That’s a wonderful thing: no haggling. You pay X-price (it’s even called X-price), and you’re done. All you have to do is pick out the car and the options you want … and you can sign the paperwork. When Velda went through the website, she had to register, and the salesperson at the local dealership emailed to help us. No problem; we wanted help.

Strike 1: We arrived at the dealership exactly on time. He kept us waiting for more than 10 minutes. We had to page him twice before he deigned to appear. That’s a cardinal sin in any sales situation.

Strike 2: After spending about 2 minutes describing what Velda wanted (as this was to be her car), we walked out to the first car we were going to test drive … he found the right car, and then left us standing in the hot parking lot while he went to go get the keys … back inside the dealership. It was a hot afternoon, and we were annoyed.

Velda got in the driver’s seat. Her car, her test drive.

Car - CathyThis guy – this guy! – was a real Chatty Cathy. Talk, talk, talk. We heard about his previous business (he lost it in the divorce). He’s got a 6 year old girl. He got a great deal on the house he bought. He likes tech. He buys a lot of cellphones. Talk, talk, talk. Oh, and he made bad jokes. Not a marriage made in heaven with us. That’s OK … you can’t like everybody, and you certainly don’t have to like every sales rep you deal with. But, this guy! He couldn’t get out of his own way. Talk, talk, talk. Not much listening here. He never learned about our kids. He never learned one of our kids owned one of the models we were looking at. He never learned what we didn’t like about his ownership experience.

I’m in the back seat … it’s Velda’s test drive. But this guy still asked me what I did for a living before he asked Velda what she did. He never got that she’s a Nurse Practitioner. He didn’t ask why she wanted the features she wanted for her car. He never sold the car based on her priorities. He never learned that when he said something she disagreed with, she would be annoyed and tell him so. One exchange:

It’s got great trunk access.

No it doesn’t. It’s hard to get to.

Well, why do you need good trunk access?

It’s where I keep the bodies.

We test drove two models, so we were with our sales rep for quite some time. We were very interested in the car … and Velda agreed to go back inside the dealership so he could consult inventory and color selection (and I’m going MISTAKE! MISTAKE! Don’t go back inside!!!).

He looked for the model with the color & the features that we were interested in, and printed out a price for us to take home. And then it happened.

Strike 3: Sales rep said he wanted us to meet the boss, so he went to get him. He had time to brief the boss on what we were doing. We were introduced to the sales manager. And, my goodness, this so-called “manager” actually looked Velda in the eye, and said, “Are you a stay-at-home Mom?”

I was proud of Velda.

She didn’t hit him.

And, guess what? We’re not buying a Ford.


History of the Chatty Cathy Doll

Steering Clear of Bad Customer Service

Car Buying Horror Stories For Women

Before The Transistor….   Leave a comment

June 1924. Washington, D.C. "Radio nut -- this set with everything necessary for receiving music and speech by radio has been put into a coconut shell. It was built by H. Zamora, a native of Manila, Philippine Islands." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. Shorpy Historical Photos.

June 1924. Washington, D.C. “Radio nut — this set with everything necessary for receiving music and speech by radio has been put into a coconut shell. It was built by H. Zamora, a native of Manila, Philippine Islands.” Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. Shorpy Historical Photos.


Shorpy Historical Photos

Posted August 24, 2013 by henrymowry in Media, Photography

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Friendship   Leave a comment

Jefferson, Thomas

Posted August 23, 2013 by henrymowry in Living Life, POTUS

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Truth   1 comment



Posted August 22, 2013 by henrymowry in Media

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