My Lopez Island Vacation

A quick recap, with photos.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a full month since Penny and I got back from our week-long vacation to a friend’s home on Lopez Island. Time seems to zoom by these days.

I thought I’d take a moment to document the trip, mostly to help me remember it in the years to come. It was a great vacation — laid back but with enough activities to not only keep me entertained but to prevent me from gaining a pound despite all the wine and cheese I consumed with my friend.

Lopez Island

Lopez Island
Lopez Island is one of the San Juan Islands in the northwest corner of Washington state.

Steve and I had gone wine tasting in Napa Valley, CA in March and Woodinville, WA in May. It was at dinner after four Woodinville wineries that he’d invited me to stay at his Lopez Island place in August. That’s when my responsibilities for cherry season were finished and he would be taking his vacation. It was too good an offer to pass up.

Lopez Island is one of the San Juan Islands in the northwest corner of Washington State. It’s less than 30 square miles in size with a population of fewer than 3000 people.

Lopez Island can only be reached two ways: by boat or air — there’s no bridge. Ferry service is available from the mainland at Anacortes with stops at other San Juan Island ports such as Friday Harbor and Shaw Island. According to Google Maps, the 200-mile trip from my home would take just over five hours — assuming I reached the ferry terminal in time to drive right onto the ferry. Six hours is probably more accurate.

Needless to say, I wasn’t very excited about the prospect of driving there. So I treated myself to a helicopter flight. That was only about 90 minutes.

The Trip Out

Of course, before Penny and I departed that Saturday we had things to do. I put two racks of baby back ribs on the smoker at 9 AM and spent much of the day packing and running errands. I wanted to bring some goodies from Wenatchee, including Quincy corn, two kinds of fresh-baked bread, and buckboard bacon from Pybus Market’s Saturday Farmer’s Market, as well as fresh blueberries that still needed picking at a friend’s house. The ribs would pair perfectly with some “Singed Cat” Cab Franc wine from Malaga Springs Winery just down the street from my home. The wine was sort of smoke infused due to the smoke from wildfires in the area back in September 2012 when the grapes were picked. I packed two bottles of that, along with another four bottles of local wine for sharing with my host. I also had five different cheeses that I’d picked up from Beecher’s in Seattle on my way home from Phoenix earlier in the week. I never go to anyone’s home empty handed, but I think I took things to extremes on this trip.

By 1 PM, I’d loaded my big cooler with veggies from my garden and all the other perishables that I’d bought or picked. The wine had its own cooler. Both of these went into the back of the helicopter. My luggage went on the other back seat with my camera bag on the floor. I laid the ribs, wrapped in thick foil, on the floor beneath the coolers. I put Penny’s bed on the front passenger seat, but after a moment sitting there in the sun while I ran up the engine, she wanted to sit in back. The only place to put her bed was on top of the cooler, which was about level with my head. She seemed comfortable enough there. I lifted off around 1:15 PM. After a quick stop at Pangborn Airport to top off both fuel tanks, I pointed the helicopter northwest.

Leaving Wenatchee
It was a beautiful day in Wenatchee, warm with scattered clouds that seemed to thicken to the west.

The flight was mostly uneventful. I tried to keep my route as straight as possible, but there were TFRs (temporary flight restrictions) in the area due to the wildfires we’d been having. One of them was in my path just west of Leavenworth. I kept south of it, flying up Icicle Creek and hugging the base of Cashmere Mountain so as not to stray into it. It was an extremely pleasant flight, cradled at the base of the mountains over the creek, to the end of the paved and then dirt road and beyond.

Icicle Creek
A flight up Icicle Creek.

The farther up the creek I got, the thicker the clouds ahead of me got. The higher I climbed up the drainage, the closer I got to all those thick clouds. I dropped down closer and closer to the trees to stay under the clouds. I slowed down as the path ahead began to look more and more iffy.

A quick look at my location on a sectional chart in Foreflight told me I was just south of Stevens Pass, the highest point on my trip west. If I could just get over the pass, I would probably be okay. Probably.

I started getting hopeful at 35 seconds into this GoPro nosecam clip from my flight. If you listen closely to the audio, you’ll hear the blade flap when I slowed way down before crossing over the ridge.

Finally, I was within about 50 feet of the Ponderosa pine trees, moving ahead cautiously at about 60 knots. Wisps of clouds were tangled in the treetops on either side of me. I looked ahead anxiously at the gap I’d have to pass through. All I saw were clouds — at first. Then an opening with trees beyond it. Could I get through?

I could, but barely. I squeezed through the pass under the low clouds and wound my way between clouds at my elevation, descending over Route 2 just west of Stevens Pass.

Whew.

The rest of the trip was under overcast skies. I beelined it for the coast, flying over Arlington Airport along the way. I detoured north around the surface airspace for Whidbey Island NAS, not really interested in talking to the tower there. That’s when I started noticing a light fog over the water up ahead. Dang!

Fog Over Puget
Fog drifted about 50 feet over the surface of the water west of Anacortes.

I called my host to see what conditions were like at his home. It went right to voicemail. I left a message and pointed the helicopter across the Rosario Strait. The fog below me was light — I could see an occasional boat down there — but I wasn’t sure what lay ahead.

I was over Decatur Island when Steve called back. It was clear, he reported. By that time, I’d gotten the feeling it would be. The fog seemed localized between Decatur Island and Anacortes. I told him I was five minutes out. Five minutes later, I flew over Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island. I scanned the shoreline and saw Steve and his sister waving. I circled around and came in for a landing, touching down lightly on the sea grass between the shore and his home.

Sure beats driving.

A Week of Fun and Relaxation

Seagull on Log
The rocky beach was full of driftwood logs that made perfect perches for seagulls.

Steve greeted me with a hug and introduced me to his sister, Kathi. Then we offloaded the helicopter and brought everything up to the house. (The ribs were still warm.) I brought my luggage up to the guest room and then set up an area in the corner of the kitchen for Penny’s food and water. Then we unloaded my groceries and stowed everything in his already packed refrigerator.

After we were settled in, Steve, Penny, and I went for a walk to the beach and walked the length of the causeway that separates Fisherman’s Bay from Griffin Bay and San Juan Island beyond it. Penny ran ahead of us, sniffing at the kelp washed up on shore and chasing seagulls and killdeer.

Helicopter at Lopez Island
I shot this photo of Steve’s back yard from the guest room balcony not long after arriving. I had to admit that my helicopter looked even better in Steve’s backyard than it does in my front yard.

Later, we sat on an upstairs deck to munch on wine and cheese and watch the sun set. Then we came downstairs and fixed up a dinner of Quincy corn on the cob, sliced cucumbers from my garden, sea asparagus Steve had harvested from his yard, and smoked ribs from my Traeger, finished off with some homemade barbecue sauce on Steve’s grill. Steve and Kathi seemed to like the Singed Cat as much as I did — the three of us polished off both bottles. We talked until well after dark and turned in for the night.

More Fog
In the morning the bay was shrouded in a thick fog that took some time to lift.

After breakfast, Steve, Penny, and I headed out on Steve’s little boat to drop the crab traps. We both had fishing licenses that allowed us to catch dungeness crabs and wanted to get the traps in the water as quickly as possible because they needed to be pulled on Monday per fishing rules.

Later in the day, we headed out to Shark Reef, with a great hiking trail that wound through woods before emerging at the shore where giant elephant seals sunned themselves on the rocks and bull kelp floated on the water.

Shark Reef
Panoramic view of the poorly named Shark Reef, which has elephant seals instead of sharks.

Elephant Seal
Does this look like a shark to you?

We spent a lot of time just talking and walking and taking photos. Steve is into photography even more than I am and I enjoyed seeing his 6’4″ frame folded up to get a closeup shot of a flower or interesting rock. It’s refreshing to go on a photo walk with someone who understands the importance of light in photography; we did almost all of our photo walks late in the afternoon when the sun was low in the horizon, casting a golden light.

For dinner back at the house, we had salmon that Steve marinated and then grilled. More wine, this time some Chardonay from Steve’s collection.

Sunrise
Sunrise varied from one day to the next; this one, shot from my window on Monday morning, was especially colorful.

Monday morning’s activity included a drive out to Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve at the entrance to Fisherman Bay. That’s where I got my introduction to sea glass — broken glass pieces that have been ground down by the sand and motion of the water. I eagerly joined in the hunt, although I only seemed able to find very small pieces of the stuff while Steve managed to find lots of large ones.

We also visited the local transfer station and a spot the locals call Neil’s Mall — a place where people leave possessions they no longer want and take possessions others have left behind. Steve was looking for a new coffee maker or a carafe for the one he’d broken on the coffee maker he had. Neil’s had both. We wound up taking a gently used Braun drip coffee maker that seemed to have all the parts. Later, we cleaned it up, set the clock, and even programmed it for the next morning’s coffee.

Kathi left around midday and Steve, Penny, and I went out in the boat again to try some salmon fishing. Steve piloted the boat up the bay and out the mouth of it, then back down the shoreline to a point not far (as the crow flies, anyway) from his house. We tried various places, spending a total of about 2 hours without any luck at all.

Crabs for Dinner
We caught three good-sized dungeness crabs on Monday and enjoyed them for dinner that night.

On the way back, however, we stopped to pull in the crab traps we’d set the day before and were rewarded with three keepers. Guess what we had for dinner that evening with the champagne I’d brought along to go with a shellfish dinner?

Kathi’s husband John arrived that evening, too. He’d be with us for the rest of the week, attending a golf tournament on the island and doing work with his computer when he wasn’t out golfing.

I think it was Monday night that Steve and I ventured out onto the back lawn after nightfall for some star photography. I’d come without a tripod, but Steve had his. He said he didn’t have much experience doing star photography, but he certainly had a good helping of beginner’s luck — almost every one of his shots included an amazing star field.

After breakfast on Tuesday, we headed out in the helicopter for pie. A friend of mine had told me that the best airport pie could be found at Port Townsend Airport. Although Steve had been flying with me before — I’d taken him and his sister Kriss on an aerial tour of Napa Valley back in March — neither he nor I had been flying around the San Juan Islands. Airport pie seemed like a pretty good excuse to get airborne.

I pulled both front doors off the helicopter for airflow and so Steve could use his camera without worrying about window reflections in his shots. I loaded Penny in the back seat on her bed. Then we took off from Steve’s backyard.

We flew east over Decatur Island and Anacortes, then followed the shoreline of the mainland south before crossing Skagit Bay to the east side of Whidbey Island. We flew just south of Oak Harbor and over San de Fuca, then crossed the bay to Port Townsend. The airport was south of town. We landed at the end of the parking area and walked to the Spruce Goose restaurant.

Spruce Goose Restaurant
The Spruce Goose does indeed have the best pie at any airport I’ve ever been to.

Although the restaurant had an outdoor eating area, Penny wasn’t allowed to sit with us there. So I tied her up nearby while Steve and I sat down for some pie. I had rhubarb (my favorite) with a glass of milk. I honestly can’t remember what Steve had. But I do remember that both were excellent.

After our pie, we fetched Penny and walked around the airport ramp area, looking at the planes. I told Steve what I knew about each model we saw — which wasn’t much. Steve isn’t a pilot but was interested in the planes. Actually, like me, he seems to be interested in most everything.

When we left, I decided on a more direct route back. Not the direct route — that would have had us flying over water for about 15 miles — but a route that took us up the west coast of Whidbey Island, past the navy airbase. That meant talking to the tower. I was pleasantly surprised when they cleared us to fly per my request. (I think Steve was impressed.) Later, as we neared the airbase, they amended our instructions to fly at 1500 feet over the field. As we did, we watched two F18s (in formation) and an air tanker take off below us. Very cool.

Whidbey Island
Overflying the airbase at Whidbey Island.

We crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the southeast corner of Lopez Island. But rather than go in for landing, we continued west to the west coast of San Juan Island. That’s where the orcas travel and we were interested in seeing them from the air. We flew up the coast and saw plenty of boats on the water and tourists at Lime Kiln Point State Park, a primary orca viewing area. But no whales.

San Juan West
The west coast of San Juan Island. I was about 10 miles from Canada here.

Low on fuel, I headed over to Friday Harbor Airport. I landed near the pumps and topped off the main tank; I knew I’d get more fuel in Bellingham or Arlington on the way home later in the week. Again, we decided to take a quick flight along the coast to look for whales. This time, we scored. There was an orca pod of at least six whales traveling south along the coast. Steve took a few pictures, but I didn’t dare fly any lower than the 500 feet I was at — the area was full of boats and spectators. I didn’t want to be blamed for “scaring off” the whales. We went past and I cruised away from the scene to give Steve time to change his lens. But when we returned, the whales were gone and the spectator boats were breaking up and going their separate ways. The show was over. We headed back to Steve’s place on Fisherman’s Bay.

Fisherman's Bay
Fisherman’s Bay from the air.

Later that day we headed out for yet another seashore hike. This time, we went to Iceberg Point on the southern tip of the island. (No, there weren’t any icebergs, either.) After a pleasant mile or so walk through cool forest, we emerged on a rocky, grassy point overlooking the mouth of Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was clear and I was able to point out the Whidbey Island air base, mostly because its tower made a good landmark. We spent some time walking on pathways that wound among the rocks. Steve showed me some cacti that grew there — yes, cacti do grow in the Pacific Northwest. At first, I thought they were some form of cholla, which we have in Arizona, but they’re apparently brittle prickly pear, which is likely the same variety my neighbor gave me last year to plant in my garden. I realize now that I didn’t even take a picture of them, although I do have a picture of Steve taking a picture of them. (Don’t worry, Steve, I won’t share it here!)

Thistle Ladybug
I played around a bit with depth of field and focus on my Nikon with this view of a thistle and ladybug.

We spent hours there, walking, talking, exploring, taking photos. After a while, we found a quiet spot sheltered from the wind and just stretched out on the grass among the late summer wildflowers, listening to the sound of the waves on the shore and the gulls that flew by. Penny stretched out nearby in the tiny shade cast by my camera bag. It was nice to be unplugged and to go back to the basics of a more simple time. I thought about the countless trips I’d made to the shore on the east coast, alone or with a companion, and how I’d just soak in the scenery and the world around me. What happened to those times? It was good to get a chance to remember them, especially with a companion who seemed to feel the way I did about the experience.

Iceberg Point View
At one point, I sat up to take this photo of the view from where we lounged just listening to the sound of the waves and the birds.

The sun got ever closer to the horizon. When the temperature started to drop, we headed back out.

Near Iceberg Point
Here’s a look at Outer Bay on the walk back to where the car was parked t Agate Beach County Park.

Watmough Bay
A sailboat spied through the trees along the trail at Watmough Bay.

On Wednesday morning, after a search and rescue for Steve’s boat — I hadn’t tied it quite securely enough on Monday afternoon and the wind and tide took it for a short cruise without us — we did some work around Steve’s house, helping John set up some badly needed storage shelves in the garage.

Afterwards, we took another hike, this time along the south side of Watmough Bay, a sheltered cove surrounded by tall cliffs that’s apparently popular with sailors — there were three sailboats anchored there. The trail wound through thick, lush forest that offered glimpses of the bay beneath us as we climbed. Soon, the trail dropped us down into a tiny gravel beach where we spent some time looking for sea glass. Penny wandered off and found something super stinky to roll in. We hiked back to the head of the cove and walked along the beach there for a while.

Pebbles
It’s not easy to find sea glass when the beach is full of pebbles like this.

Back at the car, I had to wrap Penny in a tablecloth that Steve happened to have to prevent her from stinking up his car. A bath for her outside with the hose was the first order of business when we got back to Steve’s house.

Cabernet Sauvignon
I brought along these two Cabs specifically for a taste test.

That evening, we did a side-by-side taste test with the two Malaga Springs cabernets I’d brought along. They both went very well with the steak Steve grilled up for us. I think we both preferred the 2009 over the 2011, although Steve’s blend of the two was probably best of all.

On Thursday, we spent some time setting up a satellite dish antenna in Steve’s side yard. That meant digging a hole and planting a post, then mixing up some concrete and using it to secure the post in place. (We’d put the antenna on the post the next day, once the cement had cured.)

Steve put the crab traps back out that afternoon. Afterwards, we went for a bike ride out to Fisherman’s Bay Spit Preserve again. That’s when I realized how completely out of shape I was. I hadn’t ridden my bike in about two years and it really showed. The ride was short — only about 2 miles each way — and on relatively flat terrain. Steve loaned me a 21-speed bike quite similar to mine while he handicapped himself (so to speak) with a one-speed. Clearly I’d need to get more time in the saddle if I expected to go riding with him again.

Out at the point we spent some time just overlooking the entrance to the bay while boats came and went. A couple on a road trip from Maryland (if I recall correctly) stopped and chatted with us for a while. The air was warm and comfortable on yet another beautiful day. There’s something to be said about the rain shadow east of the Olympic Mountains and Lopez Island is definitely in it.

Fisherman's Bay Entrance
The bench we sat on at the point overlooked the mouth of the bay and this disused dock with the village of Lopez Island directly across from us.

We went out for dinner that night — my treat — at restaurant just up the road: The Galley. We had seafood (of course) and shared a bottle of wine. The food was excellent; the portions were huge. Outside the window, the sun set over the bay. I realized that my vacation was quickly coming to an end.

On Friday, after fiddling around a bit with the satellite dish, we each did our own thing. Steve went for a real bike ride and since we both knew that I’d just hold him back, he did it solo. Penny and I walked into town, a distance of about two miles. Along the way, I took photos of some of the flowers that were growing alongside the road and took a moment to check out the library, which is located in the original schoolhouse.

Flowers
I don’t know what these are but they were all over the place alongside the road.

Lopez Island Library
A panoramic shot of the Lopez Island Library, which is in an historic schoolhouse. I highly recommend stopping in if you’re ever out that way. It’s a really wonderful place.

While we were in town, I picked up some gifts for my host and a few small pieces of jewelry for myself; chatted with a gallery owner about glass work, helicopters, and the recent flash floods in the Twisp area; tasted some wine; and bought a whole salmon for dinner. The walk home wasn’t exactly fun — the bags were heavy! I refreshed myself with a quick shower before Steve returned, then faced the challenge of filleting the salmon. (Let’s just say I need practice.) Steve grilled up the salmon for dinner and we all feasted on it with some white wine from Steve’s collection.

The next day was Saturday, the day I had a good weather window for my flight home. It certainly didn’t start that way, though: the morning fog was accompanied by the sound of fog horns off in the distance. It took a while to burn off and when it did, we had yet another beautiful day.

Fog at Fishermans Bay
Saturday started with fog, but soon cleared up again.

While I waited for the fog to clear, I packed and did some laundry, then restored the guest room to the way it had been before I arrived, all ready for the next guest. We finished up the last of the blueberries with some yogurt and cereal — we’d actually eaten most of the food I’d brought, although a few pesky cucumbers and zucchini remained. Steve and I lounged in the living room together one last time and Penny curled up to nap on Steve’s lap.

I’d made plans to meet some friends of mine from Wickenburg in Bellingham; when the fog cleared, I texted them to give them an ETA. Then we packed up the helicopter, I put Penny on her perch atop the big cooler, and I said goodbye to my host. A while later, I was lifting off as Steve and his neighbors waved goodbye.

Bellingham and Beyond

The flight to Bellingham was quick — only about 15 minutes — and took me between Blakely and Obstruction Islands, up the coast of Orcas Island, and over Lummi and Portage Islands. I had become accustomed to flying longer than usual distances over water, but still kept higher than I normally would fly, watching out for the seaplanes I kept hearing on the radio.

Blakely Island
Most of the islands have airports; this is the one on Blakely Island.

The tower cleared me to land near the FBO. I shut down, put Penny on a leash, and went inside. My friends Stan and Rosemarie were waiting for me. We shared hugs and went out to their car. A while later, we were sitting on the patio at Anthony’s on the harbor. I had fried oysters — my favorite and not easy to come by in Wenatchee. We talked about all kinds of things, from what was going on in Wickenburg to how we’d spent our summers to the progress I was making on my new home. I hadn’t seen them since I moved out of Arizona in May 2013, although we’d spoken and texted several times since then and it was really good to catch up.

They had me back at the airport by 3 PM for my flight home. The flight was mostly direct, taking me right past or over more than a few very tall, rugged mountains. At least twice I found myself looking at the blue ice of small glaciers on north facing mountain tops. I spied hidden valleys and lakes and dozens of waterfalls. It was a really amazing flight, only slightly marred by the haziness caused by forest fires in the area.

Cascade Mountains
The North Cascades offer a rugged landscape with patches of snow in August.

Glacier View
I don’t know why I was so surprised to see glaciers, but there were at least two along my way.

Mountain Lake
Lakes like this one were hidden away up in high valleys, seldom seen by anyone other than pilots and adventurers on foot.

I did detour a bit to the north to avoid the TFR near Leavenworth. This time, I made a point of flying over Lake Wenatchee, which I’d never flown over. It looked smaller than I remembered it.

Then I was in familiar terrain, passing Cashmere, flying along the Wenatchee River, popping out at the confluence with the city of Wenatchee spread out before me.

Wenatchee from the Air
Wenatchee awaited me with yet another beautiful day.

I overflew my friend Bob’s house in East Wenatchee before turning toward home. As I touched down in my front yard, I thought about what a great vacation I’d had — including my trip there and back — and reminded myself how fortunate I am to have such great friends.

A Party in Two Parts: It’s All about Friends

Many hands make quick work.

About three weeks ago, in early June, it looked pretty certain that my building shell would be finished by June month-end — a full month before I’d expected. I realized, with a great sense of pleasure, that I could get all of my things out of storage and into my own building. That meant not only finally getting all of my possessions under one roof — a dream of mine for years — but saving a month of rent for the hangar everything was currently stored in.

Win-win.

I thought about hiring movers. I really did. But then I realized that if I could get a few friends to help me move the furniture — sofas, bedroom set, dining table, TV, shelves, desks — I could handle the boxes on my own. After all, I’d gotten the boxes from my Wickenburg house into my Wickenburg hangar on my own.

Full Hangar
This is apparently the best photo I have that shows everything stored in my hangar. Shot this past winter, along the left wall was my boat, truck, Honda, countless boxes, and flatbed trailer. Near the side door was all of my furniture. I left the middle aisle clear for my helicopter, pulled by my ATV. My RV might have been in here, too, if I hadn’t gotten the house sitting gig that kept me from freezing my ass off in the RV.

And then I thought about how neat it would be to have a party at my home, to finally be able to show it off to all my friends after telling them so much about it.

And then I thought maybe a few of those friends might have trucks and be willing to bring them to the airport to help me move that furniture.

And that’s how the idea of the Moving Forward Party was born.

Moving Forward: A Party in Two Parts

I made up the invitations one Monday morning and sent them out via email and Facebook message to dozens of people I knew. Most of them were local, but others were as far away as New Jersey, New Mexico, Arizona, and even Alaska.

Invitation
The digital version of the invitation looked like this.

I sent a special version of the invitation to Staples for printing. It would be half page, with one side showing the top half of this and the other side showing the bottom. I picked them up and began carrying them around with me so I could hand them out to people I know when I ran into them in town. I also left them in mailboxes and rolled up in driveway gates for the friends I had no digital contact method for. I even dropped a few off at friends’ workplaces.

The RSVPs started coming in. I was surprised by the percentage that seemed interested in helping out at the airport. Maybe I’d be able to move more than just the furniture that day.

The week of the party arrived. The builders stopped work. They were waiting for the concrete to be poured inside and the concrete guys were backed up with other work. First, it looked like it might be Wednesday. Then Thursday or Friday. And finally Friday. Definitely Friday.

I was stressed. The party was Saturday afternoon. Would we be able to walk on the concrete then? Store things on it? Would we damage it? Cause cracks and scratches? Prevent it from curing properly?

Some people advised me to stay clear, but the concrete guy, who showed up on Thursday to look over the site, told me I’d be able to walk on it the same day. “Just don’t drive on it,” he advised. “We recommend a week, but wait at least five days.”

The moving part of the party was on.

Prep

I spent most of Friday morning picking up coolers loaned by friends and shopping for party supplies like ribs (for smoking), soft drinks, and beer. That afternoon, it rained and I had to fly. It actually turned out to be a pretty crappy day, with some bad news from friends that was sad and/or stressful on several levels. I remember texting with one friend late that evening, assuring him that everything would work out while wondering if it really would.

I woke up early on Saturday and got right to work on party prep. I needed to get the beverages into the coolers and cover them with ice. That meant a trip down to Fred Meyer, which ate up an hour of my morning. I didn’t need to set up any tables; there were enough tables and desks among my furniture to spread out food and supplies. I needed to organize the refreshments for the hangar part of the party. The whole time, I was watching the sky and the radar for any sign of rain. My biggest fear was that the rain would start while I was at the hangar, 30 minutes from my helicopter, and would have to leave my guests to go to work. But the weather held, despite the cloud activity.

And at 2:45 PM, I rolled into the airport parking lot beside my hangar and prepared to greet whoever turned up to help.

Many Hands

People started arriving almost immediately. I had just walked around the hangar to open the side door when my neighbor, Mike, arrived with a pickup truck. He helped me move my old desk to a spot beside the doorway, then kept me company while I put out various chips and dips and set a small cooler full of beverages nearby. Then Melanie and Al in a pickup truck, followed closely by Jill and her husband. They’d brought a very large horse trailer behind their pickup truck. More people began to arrive, all of them in pickup trucks. The party started right in the doorway with everyone chatting and making new friends.

Loading the Horse Trailer
Tim shot this image of us loading the horse trailer early on in the packing process.

Someone suggested getting started and I suggested filling the horse trailer first. Jill’s husband backed it up to the hangar door. And that’s when the “controlled chaos” of my move began.

My friend Tim had brought along his camera and took lots of photos. Most of the ones you see here were taken by him.

There were at least 30 people on hand and my furniture and boxes quickly began shifting from their storage positions to the side door of the hangar. They loaded that horse trailer quickly, but not quickly enough for the crew. A bottleneck formed. People began to ask whether they could move a truck around to the other door, the one inside the airport fence. I didn’t see any reason not to, so I opened that door while someone moved a truck around. From that point forward, they were loading trailers and trucks from two points. At one point, we had two pickups in the hangar while a third was being loaded at the side door.

Front Door Moving
I spent more time answering questions that actually moving things. I couldn’t keep up with what was going on. Photo by Tim.

One of my friends, who lives in the Seattle area, asked, “How you do you know so many people with pickup trucks?” I didn’t have an answer for him.

Penny and Sofa
Penny stayed clear of the movers. Here she is, hiding by my red sofa, which is still shrink-wrapped from its original move out of Phoenix. Photo by Tim.

Other people commented about the sheer quantity of stuff I owned. I responded the same way to each of them: “Blame my ex-husband. If he would have settled with me instead of dragging me into court, I would have left most of this stuff behind. The longer he made me wait, the more I packed.

Empty Hangar
I shot this photo of my nearly empty hangar as I locked up the front door. I’ll fetch these later in the week when the concrete is safe to park on.

After about 90 minutes, most of the trucks were loaded and there were still a few things left. My guests were getting antsy. I was ready to leave the rest behind, but with a sudden burst of energy, we got the last three empty pickups into position and loaded the rest of my things into it. As I locked up the hangar, I looked back to see just three things left, all of which I could move myself: my Honda, my cargo trailer (with helicopter landing pad still strapped down on it), and my boat.

Trucks Lined Up
I never did get a final count of the trucks that helped out for the move. Maybe 12? 15? Tim took this shot from his place in line after about half of them had been unloaded.

More than half the trucks had already left when I pulled out with another five trucks. I was very concerned about my friends off-loading without some idea of where I actually wanted the stuff. When I arrived, I found myself at the end of a long line of pickups going down the hill behind my house. I parked and got out with Penny and the remaining moving party supplies and walked the rest of the way.

Everyone was surprisingly cheerful and upbeat. I think the weather helped — it was sunny but cool and the wind hadn’t kicked up to full speed yet. One by one the trucks (and the trailer) backed into the driveway. My friends offloaded everything, placing boxes in one area and furniture in another, just as I directed.

I wanted to help them, but didn’t have time. I needed to tend to the ribs, which were done, and organize a food area. With the help of some friends, I moved my old desks into position in the first garage bay and then began putting out food and plates. Every time I came back out, there was more food on the tables, placed there by my guests. I organized the drinks and the wine, brushed the ribs with sauce and finished them off, helped my friend Cheryl get the chicken and salad out. I didn’t stop moving.

Meanwhile, my moving crew worked hard to unpack every truck that appeared at one of my garage doors. When a truck was empty, it pulled out of the way and another took its place. It was amazing. I had the construction time-lapse camera going and extracted 90-minutes worth of images; here they are in a video slowed down to 6 frames per second:

Everyone just did their part and the work went quickly. Someone even went up to fetch my truck, bring it down, and unload it. We’d arrived at my place by 5:15 and were done unloading everything less than an hour later.

And that’s when the second party began.

The Celebration

As I’d said on the invitation, I wanted to celebrate the construction of my new home and the beginning of my new life.

I had plenty to celebrate. After living in limbo in a dead-end marriage and the aftermath of a cruel divorce, I was finally back on track to move forward with my life. And I was moving forward quickly. The 4,000-square foot building I’d designed and had built on my property was proof.

I wasn’t rebuilding my life; I was leapfrogging around it and building a better life. And that was something to celebrate.

I knew that this would be the first of many gatherings here, the first of many parties and celebrations.

Party on the Ground
Tim took this shot during the party. In the background are all my things. In the middle of the shot are Forrest and Sharon, the couple who sold me my property. They’re very happy with what I’d done with it.

More guests arrived with more food. People mingled and ate and drank. People who hadn’t known each other met and discovered people or places or schools in common. People wandered around my property, out to Lookout Point, around the helicopter parked on its temporary landing zone. They checked out my chickens and my garden. Their dogs and kids ran and played.

Party Panorama
Here’s the party in full swing. The rest of the guest were outside.

Going Up?
Going up? Tim took this shot as I made several trips upstairs with guests. Can’t wait for the stairs to go in!

The builder had been kind enough to leave the man-lift behind so I could use it at the party. I made a few trips up to the second floor with guests. They commented on the view and the floor plan. Another local helicopter owner and his wife said they were considering building a place just like mine on some vacation property they owned.

Sunset Bagpiper
Tim took this photo of Mike piping out over the valley as the last rays of sunlight struck the hills across the river.

The sun began to sink lower in the sky and it got chilly out. One by one, my guests said their goodbyes and left. Soon, only a handful were left. My friend Mike pulled out his bagpipes and treated us all to a sunset concert.

It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

It’s All About Friends

I learned something yesterday, something I hadn’t really thought about.

Kriss and Tim
Two local teachers, Kriss and Tim. Not sure if they knew each other before this party, but they look like good friends here.

I realized as I watched my friends enjoy the food and drinks and company under my roof that what I really had to celebrate most about my new life was my friends.

To understand why, you need to know a little about my past in Arizona.

I made quite a few friends in Arizona after moving there in 1997, but over the years, they began to abandon the area, following their dreams to places that appealed to them more than the fading retirement town we lived in. In the end, I had few friends there and didn’t seem able to make any new ones. My wasband’s few friends disliked me and often made that clear in no uncertain terms.

For a while, my wasband tried to convince me that my minimal social life was my fault, that people simply didn’t like me. That added to the self-esteem problems I was having near the end of our marriage. But I know now that he was dead wrong.

Yesterday’s party is proof of that.

I’ve been living full-time in Washington state for only a year. Yet yesterday, at least 30 people showed up at my hangar to help me move and another 20 or so showed up for the second part of the party. They didn’t come empty-handed; they weren’t takers out for a free meal. They didn’t whine or complain — they made it happen without coaxing. They are friends, real friends, the kind of people who make my life full.

I make friends easily here and I’m not sure why. I suspect it has to do with the kind of people living here — people who are good and want to help members of their community. People who do the right thing because it’s the right thing and don’t even think about doing something that isn’t right. People who are open and friendly and sharing because they’re not hung up in petty jealousies or suspicions. People who love more than they hate and give more than they take.

Oddly, a friend and client who attended yesterday’s party told me about the release of a video we’d worked on together earlier this year. I’d flown him around to get some aerial footage of two of the local dams on the Columbia River and the waterfront. He told me that he’d linked to the video on his Facebook page. This morning, I followed that link and found a video that talked about the people of the area as being what makes it special.

That video is right on target. It’s all about the people, it’s all about friends.

Boating with Friends

Another nice day out on the river.

On Thursday, I took my boat out for the first time this season. It was a girls day out: me, Stephanie, Megan, and Penny the Tiny Dog.

My BoatMy little boat in a photo from 2012. It’s a 1995 SeaRay Sea Rayder F-16. It’s a fun little boat, but it definitely looks faster than it is.

I admit I wasn’t very responsible about winterizing the boat. I was supposed to disconnect the battery and I didn’t. I did, however, remember to put fuel stabilizer in the half-empty fuel tank. Then I parked it in my hangar and pretty much forgot about it.

About a week ago, I pulled the battery and brought it to Les Schwab. The previous owner, Ron, had bought the battery there years ago. One of the benefits of having a Les Schwab battery is that they’ll test and charge it for you for free. A friend of mine dropped it off there for me and I picked it up a few days later. It took a charge and tested good. On Thursday morning, I reinstalled it, closed the engine lid, and crossed my fingers.

The Boat’s Role in my Divorce Saga

Oddly, my little boat played a role in my divorce trial drama last year.

My wasband apparently believed it was worth more than I’d paid for it. He, or more likely, his mommy, decided to try to trick me into admitting it was worth more by offering me $1,000 for it in court. Because I’d only paid $1,500 for it and had since had a mishap that reduced its value, I accepted the offer.

But when he learned that he’d have to get it from Washington to Arizona and pay for storage until he could do so, he took back the offer and I got to keep it.

The exchange between his lawyer, my lawyer, and me must have made a nice show for the judge. My friends and family certainly laughed about it afterwards

His loss. But then again, I suspect his mommy isn’t the kind of person who likes to have fun outdoors. She’d rather spend her time living life vicariously by reading my tweets and blog posts. Are you enjoying this one?

I towed the boat behind my Jeep to the gas station where I topped off the tank with premium fuel. I always do that for vehicles that have been left sitting too long. Then I crossed the bridge to Wenatchee, drove to the boat ramp behind Pybus Market, and launched it. I got there 30 minutes early so it would be in the water when my friends arrived and, with luck, I’d be able to get it running. I didn’t want my friends to have to wait while I launched it and cranked it and possibly couldn’t start it. I figured that if it wouldn’t start, they wouldn’t have to waste too much of their time.

Stephanie showed up just after I parked the Jeep and was climbing on board. She admitted to a certain fear of water and I handed over my old jet ski vest, which I’d brought along. She climbed aboard and took a seat while I crossed my fingers again and began cranking the engine.

It caught on the second try. I don’t know why I was so worried about it.

I left the engine idle while securely tied to the dock. Being a weekday morning, there weren’t any other boats coming or going. That’s one of the things that amazes me about the Columbia River. It’s a huge river — really a chain of dam-formed lakes — and the water is usually calm and blue and very inviting. Yet there are relatively few boats on it. Even on weekends, the boat ramp parking lot is seldom full.

I let the engine run for 10 minutes, then shut it down. No sense wasting fuel or talking over its sound. I opened the Bimini top and Stephanie and I sat in the shade. The temperature was perfect — in the high 70s, I think — and there was a gentle breeze. Beyond the boat ramp, the river, which was running high with spring thaw in the mountains, rushed by at what I’d later clock at 5-1/2 miles per hour.

In the Boat
Megan took this photo of me and Stephanie with Penny as we headed upriver.

Megan showed up with a big cooler full of food a while later. We loaded it on board. Megan grabbed the bow rope while I started the engine. We cast off. I backed up gingerly, then shifted into forward and steered us out of the little lagoon.

We headed upriver, as I always do, at about 25 miles per hour. It was very cool out on the water and I was glad I’d brought along a long-sleeved shirt. I pointed out a few points of interest along the way, including the swimming lagoon at Walla Walla Point Park, where they also rent kayaks and paddle boards, and the estuary where I’ll be paddling with other friends later today.

Along the RiverAnother one of Megan’s photos. It was a really beautiful day with light wind and few clouds in a clear blue sky.

We headed up the Wenatchee River a bit. The water was high and moving quickly — quite a difference from when I’d been there with my friend Janet the previous summer. I went as far as the second bridge before turning around and heading back out to the Columbia. We continued upriver, past the north end bridge. After a while, the water began to get turbulent from the water release at the Rocky Reach Dam. Because I didn’t want to spook Stephanie — and I know how crazy the water gets closer to the dam — I decided to stop there. I pulled the power back to idle and cut the engine.

Wonderful silence.

That’s the trouble with motor boats. When you’re moving they make a lot of noise. So what I typically do on a boat outing is drive the boat upriver to a certain point, then cut the engine and drift back.

Megan Selflie
Megan captured this selfie as we drifted downriver. The water was glassy smooth in many places.

Stephanie opened her picnic cooler and produced a bottle of pinot gris and glasses. She pours wine at Kestrel Vintners‘ tasting room in Leavenworth. I couldn’t drink — I’m on call during daylight hours for cherry season — but both Stephanie and Megan had some. Then Megan started pulling food out of her cooler. Soon we were sitting in the drifting boat as it gentle spun its way down the river, eating and talking and enjoying the scenery.

The river was moving pretty quickly — 5-1/2 miles per hour according to a GPS app on my phone — and it took about an hour for us to drift back past the boat launch. Since we weren’t ready to go in and there was still a lot of river between us and the next dam, we kept drifting. Megan and Stephanie took pictures. I lounged in my seat in the shade or on the engine compartment lid out in the sun. I’d worn short shorts with the hope of getting some sun on my legs. I’ve got a great tan on my arms and upper chest — hell, I live in tank tops this time of year — but my legs are terribly white.

South End Bridges
Stephanie’s shot looking back at the south end bridges.

Soon we passed under the south end bridges. Megan wanted to know if we could see my home from the River. I knew that I could see that part of the river from my home so I figured I should be able to see my home from the river. I looked up and spotted it — the building under construction is visible from literally miles away — and gave them landmarks on the top of the cliff and then below it. I’m not sure if they saw it, but they said they did. I know my friend Judy has been monitoring construction from her home right across the river from me.

We got as far as the Billingsley Hydro Park, which is another local boat launch facility on the East Wenatchee side of the river, and I figured we’d gone far enough. It was nearly 1 PM and I had to put the boat away, buy a concrete box (long story), and meet with an HVAC contractor at 3. We stowed the dishes and glasses and napkins and I started the engine. Five minutes later, we were pulling up to the boat launch lagoon and I was easing the boat alongside the dock. Fifteen minutes later, the boat was out of the water and we were snapping on the cover and bungeeing it to the trailer.

It had been a great day out. We all agreed that we needed to do it again soon.

Bad Advice Ruins Lives

Sad to see the dreams of a good man destroyed by taking bad advice.

I got some sad news not long ago. A very close former friend of mine sold his airplane.

He’d owned the plane for more than 10 years and had often told me of the role it would play in his retirement: he planned to become a CFI (certified flight instructor) and use the plane to do biennial flight reviews and some flight training. It was a goal I thought suited him and I supported it to the best of my ability — although there was nothing I could do beyond offering moral support and advice to help him achieve it. My advice: fly as often as you can, build time, build experience.

He didn’t take that advice.

I thought he was serious about that dream — like so many of the others he shared with me. But he never moved forward with any of them beyond making some notes on paper and buying domain names he’d never use. Maybe he wasn’t as serious as he led me to believe. I thought aviation, which we’d discovered around the same time, meant something to him. But apparently, it didn’t.

When he pissed off a friend whose hangar he was sharing and got the plane kicked out, the hangar he got in Scottsdale cost him far more each month, making the plane suddenly very costly to keep. (Some people just don’t know a good deal when they have one.) I suspect that was a factor in the plane’s sale in November 2013.

Not long afterward, he sold a condo he’d bought in Phoenix back in 2008. He’d bought as the housing market was falling but hadn’t quite hit bottom. He got what he thought was a good price, but the thing came with outrageous monthly maintenance fees that, when coupled with the mortgage, was a real financial burden on him. And, in all honesty, the place wasn’t very pleasant — its windows looked out onto a courtyard so there was no privacy unless the blinds were closed — which only made it darker and drearier than it already was. Most of the other units were owned by speculators and either empty or inhabited by renters. I’d advised him to buy the other condo he’d been looking at, a bright and airy second floor unit not far away.

He didn’t take that advice.

When he lost his job and got stuck in one he grew to hate, it seemed to me that he was working primarily to make payments on that condo. He was miserable most of the time, living in the condo part-time instead of the house he owned half of and used as his primary address. The house was completely paid off and far more comfortable, and it had a heck of a lot more light and privacy.

In 2011 and early 2012, I advised him to sell the condo, despite the fact that he owed a bit more than the market value. The loss would help on his tax returns and the sale would stop the bleeding of money for mortgage payments and maintenance fees. It would relieve his financial burden so he could live within his means and wouldn’t be a slave to the job he hated.

He didn’t take that advice.

I even offered to buy the place for what he owed. I’d take the loss. (I was a very good friend.)

He didn’t want to do that, either. Instead, he claimed he wanted to keep it as an investment and rent it out. And he expected me to help him.

But I’d already gone through the nightmarish experience of being a landlord and wanted no part of it. My refusal to get involved was one of the things that began the destruction of our friendship.

When I learned in March that he’d sold the condo in December, it made me sad. I knew that if he’d sold it when I advised, before he turned his back on our friendship, we’d still be friends. I don’t think he ever put a tenant in there, but I really don’t know. I can imagine him stubbornly paying the mortgage and taxes and maintenance fees on the place, month after month, before finally giving up.

The sell-off of his assets doesn’t really come as a big surprise. Nearly two years ago, he initiated a costly legal battle to end a long-term partnership and take possession of assets that weren’t his. He misunderstood the law governing the case. The very last time I had a chance to speak to him directly, back in December 2012, I tried to reason with him. I tried to make him understand how the law would be applied. His angry and defiant response proved that he had no idea what the law was. I urged him to talk to his lawyer, to have his lawyer explain it. I urged him to take the counteroffer he’d received from the other party — a counteroffer I know that party’s lawyers thought was far too generous.

But he didn’t take that advice.

It frustrated me. He’d always been so reasonable. He’d always understood the difference between right and wrong. He’d always had morals and principals that I could respect and look up to. But now he was acting unreasonably, doing something stupid and hurtful that was so obviously wrong. What had happened to him?

It didn’t really matter. By that time he was no longer my friend and never would be again.

AdviceInstead, he listened to other, newer friends — including one he’d only recently met — friends who apparently either didn’t know the law or didn’t know the facts of the case. They told him he could get so much more if he just kept fighting. They fed him lies about the other party, convincing him that the other party had been using and manipulating him for years, convincing him that the other party was now an enemy and couldn’t be trusted.

So he kept feeding his lawyers money — tens of thousands of dollars, month after month. (I don’t know why the lawyers didn’t set him straight; maybe he wouldn’t listen to them, either?) And he kept harassing the other party with legal action, hoping that other party would give in to his outrageous demands.

And while all this was going on, my old friend began to take on the financial responsibilities of his new friend, helping her with mortgage payments and the like. He likely justified this by living with her, leaving the condo that was costing him so much money every month empty. She kept urging him to fight, to take one action after another to wear the other party down. She even began directly issuing orders to his lawyers and feeding them incorrect information that she misinterpreted from things she read online. She was rabid in her hatred, insanely jealous — or maybe, by some accounts, just insane.

But the other party in this legal battle was in the right and wasn’t about to give in, especially after investing in a costly legal defense. The other party needed to win. And unlike my friend, the other party was living within their means so there was money to pay lawyers for the fight. And to keep paying as long as necessary to bring an end to the battle and closure to the wounds it had caused.

In the end, my old friend lost his legal battle. The other party was awarded far more than the December 2012 counteroffer would have given. (After all, it really was a generous offer.)

I suspect my friend thought he would pay his legal fees with the proceeds from his win. I suspect he and his new friend looked forward to celebrating their victory over the other party.

But there was no win, there was no big settlement. Even later accounting for other matters proved disappointing. There was no windfall coming. My friend had acted on bad advice and had lost all the money he’d spent on legal fees plus the additional amount he’d have to pay over that original counteroffer.

Ah, if only he had taken my advice!

My former friend’s downfall fills me with pity for him. Not only do I care very much for him and value the years of our friendship, but I’m sad that he remains so close with the people who led him astray, friends and a lover so full of hate and anger and greed that they can’t see facts and listen to reason. I’m sad that they have his ear and are likely, to this day, giving him advice that will only cost him more in the long run. I’m sad that a man I once thought the world of has become a greedy and delusional puppet.

So he sold the airplane that would give him his retirement “job.” And he sold the condo that he claimed he wanted to keep as an investment. And now he’s trying to sell the house he has part ownership of. Liquidating his assets — one can only assume that he has money problems.

Meanwhile, he’s failed to comply with court orders regarding the case and has to defend himself against legal action related to that. More legal fees because he failed to do the right thing. What will happen next? Who knows?

It’ll be interesting to see if the friends who led him astray step up to the plate and help bail him out of the mess he’s in.

I know that I won’t.

Keep the Social in Social Networking

Stop wasting time chasing likes and accumulating followers and “friends.”

Twitter LogoToday, my friend Andy started a job at Twitter.

Andy and I met a little over seven years ago on Twitter. He, in fact, was the first person I followed there.

Back in those days, Twitter was only a year or so old and no one really “got it” yet. Actually, I don’t even think the folks who made Twitter got it. They promoted it as a “microblogging” platform, a place to share very brief comments with others. Did they ever dream that it would become what it has become? A valuable and timely source of news and information? The world’s “water cooler” for chatting, venting, and sharing?

This morning, when Andy announced that he was tweeting from Twitter’s U.K. headquarters, I realized that not only had we met on Twitter, but that Twitter had become a source of our livelihoods. Andy works at Twitter now, so he’s on their payroll. And I’ve written courses for Lynda.com about Twitter, so I get royalties for sharing my Twitter knowledge.

Funny how that worked out, no?

The Frustration of Facebook

Facebook LogoI really don’t like Facebook, but like so many of my friends, I find myself drawn to it. It has so much potential to be a truly valuable social networking service and enough of my friends understand that to make it worth visiting.

But at the same time, I find it immensely frustrating, mostly because of the number of people who just don’t seem to get it. I let some of that frustration out the other day after reading a post by one of my friends — coincidentally, someone else I met on Twitter — that proved how little she understood the “social” aspect of social networking.

She’d shared a humorous photo that had made the rounds at least two weeks before, presenting it as if it were something new. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much except for three things: (1) she considers herself a social networking “expert,” (2) her accompanying commentary clearly indicated she thought she was so clever for finding and sharing the image, and (3) I know she’s friends with at least one of the people who’d shared the photo when it made its original rounds so she should have seen it when the rest of us did. It’s this last point that bothered me most: she obviously wasn’t looking at anything that the rest of us shared. She was just posting whatever she found.

And posting and posting. Dozens of Facebook status updates with links and images every day, about half of which I’d already seen days or weeks before.

For some reason, Friday’s post was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I posted a status update that said:

If some people would READ their Facebook timeline as much as they POST to it, they’d discover that about 50% of what they post as new and novel was shared by their friends on Facebook 2 weeks ago. #JustSaying #FunnyThenNotNow

I know I wasn’t completely off-base because 12 people “liked” it. That’s slightly above average for a status update that doesn’t include a photo. (More on that in a moment.) But one of my friends commented to say, “Wow…that’s kind of mean.” And another one added, “New, novel, Facebook all in one thought? Oxymoron there fly lady. Think it’s vacation time. Don’t pack the cranky pants.”

And that’s when I realized I needed a break from Facebook. So I pretty much took the weekend off.

Chasing Likes, Follows, and Friends

I began to realize a few years ago that a lot of people were using social media as a way to stroke their personal or business egos. (Hell, it’s a lot easier than blogging, which actually requires you to come up with original content.) I think that realization hit me when I heard about Klout. That’s a social media monitoring service that tells you how “influential” you are. Your Klout score is a number and apparently a lot of people who should have more important things to think about think their Klout score is vitally important.

I’m not sure how you build up your Klout score. I’m not sure because I don’t care. I don’t have the faintest idea of what mine is. From the way people talk, I suspect it has to do with how many Twitter followers and Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections you have and how many Google+ users — yes, there really are some — have you in their circles. It probably also takes into consideration things like retweets, likes, and shares — at least it should.

Stop Hijacking Tweets!

One of my pet peeves with certain Twitter users is the way they retweet content by copying and pasting tweets instead of using Twitter’s built-in retweet feature. What they’re doing is hijacking content. Even if the author’s name appears in the tweet (usually after RT), the hijacker’s account is the one that appears when it’s subsequently properly retweeted by others. It’s like taking credit for someone else’s comment or link or photo.

It’s a slime bag way to use Twitter for self-promotion.

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about and want to learn, read this.

As a result, to some people it becomes vitally important to accumulate followers, friends, connections, and circlers (or whatever Google+ calls the people who supposedly monitor your activity). And it’s equally important to post new content on the social networks with the ultimate goal of attracting attention to pump up that Klout score. So lots of these people post all kinds of things all day long.

I guess they figure that if you throw enough crap at a wall, some of it’s gotta stick.

Or maybe they just assume that everyone who follows them on social media does it they way they do: a quick glance a few times a week to see what others are saying. They figure that if they post a ton of stuff, something will be seen. So they go after quantity and not quality.

Of course, there are dozens of “viral” websites cropping up every day to provide content that’ll get social networkers the likes and shares they crave. Any site with the word “viral” or “share” in its name exists solely for that purpose. They have staffs who comb the web for interesting or amusing content and repackage it on their sites surrounded by dozens of ads. They write headlines designed to hook bored readers and drag them in. You’ve seen them: “This second grader’s revenge against Common Core math will make your day” and “Bella Thorne Suffers “Major Wardrobe Malfunction” at Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards: Picture.”

Quote List
How many of these do you see on Facebook every day? Too many, I’ll bet.

Then there are the lists: “16 Alarming Airline Secrets That Will Change How You Feel About Flying.” Or the simpler lists that just appear in images.

And the inspirational quotes, superimposed over (often inappropriate) photos.

Love Mom
I didn’t share this. What does that really mean? That I don’t love my mother? Or that I don’t want to clutter up my friends’ news feeds with idiotic crap?

And the short stories of friendship or love or faith — that end with a statement implying that you’re uncaring S.O.B. if you don’t share it with everyone you know on Facebook.

This is the (mostly) crap people are “sharing” in search of likes and shares and retweets. And the people who share this (mostly) crap don’t understand that they are being manipulated into promoting websites that have hijacked content solely so the hijacker sites can get hits and maximize ad revenue.

And Facebook doesn’t help matters. Instead of showing me everything that the people I follow post on their own timelines — like Twitter does quite faithfully — it uses some mystery algorithm to determine what appears, what order to put it in, and how many times to show it. So I wind up missing half the content posted by the people who tend to share interesting stuff and get stuck looking at a lot of crap because my friends happened to comment on one of their friends’ mindless drivel.

Social Is More than Sharing

It’s all about likes and retweets and favorites. Apparently, that’s what most people want. It’s a good thing, too. Because most people can’t be bothered to participate any more than with a simple click on an icon indicating their approval.

Deep discussion is rare. Very rare. I’m fortunate that I follow a few interesting and thoughtful people and they follow me. I’m fortunate to get the few exchanges of comments and ideas that I get. I know that now.

But it still frustrates me.

How can something be social when there’s no real interaction between people? I post a photo, 20 people click a like button. Is that a real “social” activity? (Tip: Updates with photos are far more likely to get “likes” than those without.)

I share a link to an article Hobby Lobby trying to use a claim of “conscientious objection” to avoid providing health care to employees that includes birth control coverage and I don’t get a single comment. Is it possible that no one has anything to say about this?

(And don’t get me started on the people who do comment based on an article’s headline but obviously haven’t read the article.)

Maybe the problem is what I expect from social media. I expect a two-way exchange. I expect civil discourse, conversation to carry an idea forward or sideways or simply expand it.

That’s why I got hooked on Twitter so quickly — I was building relationships with people there. These people were keeping me company throughout my work day, when I was stuck in a home office in front of a computer. They were there when I needed a break. They were my water cooler companions.

There were plenty of two-way exchanges. I was even meeting Twitter friends in the flesh — I remain very good friends with more than a few.

To me, that’s what social networking is all about: making and communicating with friends.

It’s social.

Real People, Real Friendships

Andy lives in the U.K. I’ve never met him in person; I’ve never even spoken to him on the phone or on Skype. Yet I know that he’s a techie, he loves Lego, and he’s been through a divorce. He’s someone I can communicate with every day, the guy I can find at the “water cooler” and exchange links, comments, and gripes with.

There’s a pretty good chance I’ll meet Andy in person in April. He’s coming to Twitter headquarters for some orientation. I’m in the Sacramento area with a wide-open schedule. I’ll work my schedule to meet his.

To me, social networking is social. It’s an exchange of information and ideas — an exchange that works two ways. I’ve built good friendships with the folks who understand that, folks like Andy who see how social networking can truly enrich our lives.