Saturday, June 16, 2018

Szyja Sambor was my father’s

 name when he debarked from the SS Pilsudski in NYC on November 6th, 1937. The ship’s manifest classified him a “Polish Hebrew.” My father was then 18 years young.

His traveled solo with a one way ticket. He left his family and friends behind in Byzaziny, Poland to deal with the newest wave of racism and bigotry. Upon arriving in the Big Apple, Young Szyja noticed there wasn’t a Welcome Wagon for recent immigrants. He quickly discovered the streets of America weren’t paved in gold either. He saw challenges and hard work ahead. Fortunately, he was a fast learner. 

With his talent of placing needle and thread to cloth, he scored a job. Eventually he paid off his debts, became proficient in speaking, reading and writing English and got his own pad. He was wise enough to date a recent Jewish  immigrant with a beguiling smile named Clara Zinn. 

By September 1939, WW II had officially begun. On December 8, 1941, America entered the melee. In December 1942, Dad was drafted by the Army. Uncle Sam declared him to be “White, not yet a citizen.”

Read all about my father’s Military Days: 

When my Dad was attending Bootcamp in Tennessee, he petitioned to become a naturalized US citizen. On July 30th, 1943 Szyja Sambor became the more Americanized Sidney Sambur. Apparently, Sidney thought the name change would help ease his transition in this strange New World. 

I told you he was a fast learner. 

After the War, Sid and Clara married. In a six year span three healthy (but short) boys emerged. Expectations were subtlety placed upon us. We were all going to attend college. Period. 

While growing up, we were taught to admire and respect learned people. “Jeffy! That man’s a Doctor!” Instant awe. My parents saw education as a tool to advancement in our adopted country. All this from folks whose education was interrupted by World events. Dad’s formal schooling was done by the 9th grade. Mom finished 11th grade.

We boys did better. My oldest brother earned a Masters in Education. Mike has two degrees. I was the slacker with a Bachelor of Sciences. However, my education didn’t end in 1976 with that diploma. 

I’m an avid reader of non-fiction. I yearn to learn. Since Black Tuesday, (AKA Election Day, 2016), I began digesting US History books. I’ve done this for two reasons.

One)  I knew history would provide an answer on how a mean-spirited, uncaring,  unethical, incurious, racist low-life could attain the highest office in our Land. Yes. The answers are in our Nation’s history. 

Two) I’m still reading. I want to better prepare myself for what lies ahead.  I want to be an educated World Leader. On November 16, 2016, I tossed my Death Valley National Park baseball cap into the Presidential ring.

 I know. It wasn’t a major media event. Maybe I should have sent out a Tweet. 

So...what’s my point in going ad nauseam about Education (including Vocational Technology)? 

Education will be one pillar of my “Triple E” platform for my Presidential run. If you want to find out what the other two are....Drumroll. You will need to read the July 4th Blog. This Administration will be the start of a new Independence Day.

Sid and Clara Sambur would have been pleased to know their little baby boy became the 46th President of the US. It’s not as impressive as becoming a Medical Doctor, but it’s a close second.

Thanks Dad for the gift of education.

Special Thanks to Big Al (AKA Badger Boy) for his in depth research on Sambur family history. 

Cheers to all Dads, past, present and future.

PS. For those who might enjoy a BIGLY list of my favorite non-fiction reads, I can forward you a copy. Just ask!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Mother Never Spoke...

about the Holocaust.

While growing up, my brothers and I weren’t  privy to the “How”my Mom and her family escaped Nazi held Austria. The few details we had were murky at best. 

In 1939, Clara Zinn emigrated from Vienna. She might or might not had been with her two siblings or her parents on the NYC bound ship. The European country she debarked from was also part of the mystery. 

What we knew was this. The Zinn family settled in New York. Young Clara met Sid Sambur on a blind date. After the War, they married and got down to business of raising three sons. I’m the youngest.

When it came to those tumultuous WW II years, the unofficial Sambur policy was “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”  Clara nurtured, hugged and loved her Boys. We were blessed by the best Mom in the World. When life is good, why ask questions? So we didn’t. 

In 1972, God recalled an Angel back to Heaven. Mom was 52. 

I was 17. 

Years went by. I emigrated to Colorado. One day, Sid (My Dad) phoned me. 

“Jeffy! I have bad news. Grandma Zinn passed away.”

“ Oh! That’s so sad! She was such a sweet woman. I loved her.” 

Sid never minced words, “Don’t feel so bad. She wasn’t your real Grandma. Clara’s Mom was killed in the Holocaust.” 

Who knew?

Now we live in times where it’s in vogue to speak your mind, to tell it like it is. “Alternative Facts” are fine as long as you say them in a convincing manner. America now has a Racist Mentor occupying the White House. The Commander in Tweet believes American Immigrants should be predominantly White Christians from Norway. (But only if they are not handicapped). In Trump’s geopolitical world other countries are “shit holes.” 

Presently, there is no such thing as a politically correct pause button. Wannabe candidates reckon if the President can get away with trash talk, so can they. 

In this political climate change, is it any wonder Patrick Little is currently ahead of all other Republicans in California’s Primary race for Senate? Mr. Little (minded), is running under a platform of unabashed Anti-Semitism. The State Republican Party disavows his strong beliefs. Yet, this SS Stormtrooper in a suit could be on November’s ticket. 

Other States have similar like minded losers under the guise of being Republicans as well. Are these true American values? 

Back in 1974, then Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, made a joke about the Pope. Catholics rose up en mass to condemn his low brow comedy routine. He kept his job after a half hearted apology. Two years later, Mr Secretary verbalized an off-color jibe about Blacks. A wave of outrage forced him out of office. 

Where is the outrage in 2018? 

A recent survey of American millenniums (18-34 of age) reported  22% were unaware of the Holocaust. Education is the key to combat racism. If the human race aspires to evolve, it’s imperative we learn from our sordid past. 

My Mother never spoke about the Holocaust, but “We the People” need to.

RIP Mom. I still miss you. 

Last photo: it’s a shame my wonderful nephews never met their wonderful Grandma. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Road Trip Like...

no other.

That’s a good thing. 

I’m now in the waning days of a three month-plus on the road again trip. I’ll say it now. This tour has been the most challenging in the six years I’ve been Homeless by Choice.

It all began on February 12th after a six month hiatus from sleeping in a movable object. I had great expectations and high hopes for another worthwhile Barley the Van  roll through the Southwest. It was not to be. It’s was a stuttering, puttering and plodding quarter of a year. 

Why is that? Jeffy? 

Most of the reasons had been weather related. 

I spent a month in Death Valley National Park. Normally, average temperatures are pegging the orgasmic range. ( 74-82 degrees.) I was scoring low 60’s with a wind from Santa Claus’ address. On one hot (for a change) windy day, two date palm trees at Furnace Creek Resort were whipped down. It takes a lot of push to make an old palm tree go horizontal. 

All in all, wind was a constant unwanted companion. I’d say a typical week yielded three days of 25 mph plus breezes. Oftentimes my sleep was interrupted. I wish I could report it was the “When this Van is rockin‘ don’t come knockin’” type of motion. But it wasn’t. It was the damn wind.

You can now find my name in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest CPM of the wind. (Curses per Minute). 

This caused my route selection to be determined by the Weather Channel app. 

Instead of heading to the wild lands I wanted to revisit IE: Escalante region or the Cedar Mesa Areas Of Utah. (Too icy or too wet). I sojourned to warmer places such as Palm Springs, CA. ( probably not the best choice for a straight male looking for a girlfriend ) and Borrego Springs, CA ( a pleasant surprise. ) 

I was in reaction mode of travel instead of an action mode. 

Towards the end of this trip, I surrendered when the forecast turned malicious. I said “Screw it!” and headed to beer and 420 friendlier Colorado. The thought of spending another night in Blanding, UT (yawn) would have had me reaching for Prozac. I couldn’t do it. 

Don’t misunderstand me, it wasn’t all painful. I caught a weather break in Zion and Canyonlands, Those National Parks proved to be the Apex of the nasty spring of 2018. There were a few other “Eureka!” moments, but not that many. 

It was a shame Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. I was so hoping for an easy, gentle transit through the Southwest. I wanted to be reminded on why I live this homeless, nomadic and sociable Hermit-like existence. It didn’t happen.

For the first time of Barley the Van travel, I caught the loneliness bug. It was a virus I thought I had immunity to. The malady made me introspective. 

Back in 2013, Robin (the best sister-in-law in the World) asked me if I enjoyed living and traveling in a Van. I quickly answered, “Yes! It feels right!”

On this Southwest sashay, It rarely felt right.

I’m now in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. I’ll admit it. It feels right to be in my “Home” State. 

If future road trips are as rough as this one, I’ll buy an immovable address somewhere in the “Centennial State.”

It might be time for a change...


Sunday, April 29, 2018

“Cause you got to have friends.”

Bette Midler.

The world has many National Park groupies. I’m one of them. Among us Natural Wonder aficionados, we all harbor our favorites. That’s the Park where just hearing the name causes our involuntary systems to kick in. Our heart pumps an extra thump. We don our happy faces. It’s a lovesick reaction to a place that’s special to us. It’s a feeling of friendship. 

For me, it’s Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I’ve been visiting this“Wilderness of Rock” for over a quarter of a century. Throughout those years, I’ve shared the Park with a few girlfriends. I have lots of smirky memories from those times. It’s a true sign of friendship and respect when you show off your significant other to an Old Buddy.

On this visit to Canyonlands, I came unattached. A condition I’m feeling less and less thrilled about. But Hey! That’s what friends are for. The good buddies pick you up, dust you off and push you back out on the trail. Canyonlands knows me. Hitting the trails is just what I needed.

So...for a week, I woke at first light. After my morning rituals, I hit the trail. I then performed my two-pot of coffee trot past other Early Risers for the first few miles. When the sounds of strangers huffing and puffing were a distant memory, I’d ease off on the throttle. I wanted to spend quiet, quality time with an Old Pal. It’s more meaningful that way. The truly wonderful thing is not once did Canyonlands kvetch, “You never call. You never write.” It’s a guilt free relationship. 

Enough about my buddy-ship with an inanimate object. Let me “learn” you about Canyonlands National Park. A good way to describe CNP is this way. How can a Park have three Districts and each one be so different? 

There’s Island in the Sky with it’s Big Views. It’s the closest to Moab and the most visited. The Mesa is attached to the mainland by a narrow neck. When geological erosional forces eventually win, this will truly be an Island in the Sky. It contains the mountain bike friendly 100 mile White Rim Trail. (Been there, done that five times). 

There’s the Maze, a convoluted and contorted  District which requires a more-than-macho 4x4 vehicle to conquer. I’ve been there one time. I’d love to go back. It’s aMazing. BTW. There’s no toilets, water or 7/11’s. What you lug in, must come out, plus your poop. Read all about it.

Included in the Maze District is Horseshoe Canyon. A separate unit housing the mystical and beguiling rock art of the Grand Gallery. Look but do not touch. It’s other claim to fame is being the canyon Aron Ralston stumbled into after amputating his own arm. But that’s another story. 

Lastly there’s my most cherished, The Needles District. It contains 60 miles of interconnecting trails of Joy. It’s accessible and intimate. I hiked most of them this past trip. The Needles rocks. 

All told Canyonlands is 527 square miles of Wild Lands. It receives less than a million visitors a year. Not bad-yet. The Park was established in 1964 (the same year as the Wilderness Act). It’s a young Park despite an over 300 million year geologic age. (Yes! Older than Adam and Eve.) 

I’ll wrap this up with a Canyonlands birthing story.

In the early 60’s, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy escorted Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall on a flight over the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Dominy pointed down and said that would be the site of his “next” big dam. Udall thought not so much. That will be the confluence of my next big National Park. 

Every now and then, the Good Guys win. 

Cheers to more winnings. 

From windy (again) Blanding (yawn) Utah

Last Photo. I bought property.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Somethings Shouldn’t be Collected...

In the early 80’s, I went backpacking with three other firefighters to Utah’s Grand Gulch   region. It’s a beautiful canyon system featuring many rocky alcoves containing archeological wonders. On the hike, we came upon Turkey Pen Ruin. The site was substantial. There was an intact Kiva ( a round roofed ceremonial structure dug into the Earth ), a ladder leading down to the Kiva, tiny corn cobs, pot shards and a turkey pen. 

The turkeys weren’t utilized as the main dish at a pre-White Folks Thanksgiving Day Dinner. No. It was all about their feathers. The Ancient Ones used the plumage for making blankets and accessorizing their clothes. Turkeys were prized processions. 

We treated this outdoor museum with the respect it deserved. We took photos and nothing else. We walked away with a “how cool was that?” feeling. 

In 2012, I shouldered my backpack for a solo trip into Grand Gulch. I was looking forward to seeing Turkey Pen Ruin once again. Sadly, it had been ruined. The kiva, the ladder, the corn cobs, the pottery shards and the turkey pen were gone. Apparently, all had been plundered. The only things left were a few crumbly walls and rooms. 

I felt violated. Worse is the fact future generations have now been denied a “how cool was that?” moment at Turkey Pen Ruin. A few short sighted miscreants, vandals and clueless bastards screwed it up for all of us. A pox on them. 

I’ve visited many Ancient Ones ruins in the Southwest. Unfortunately the above story is not unique. Most of the sites have been demolished and plunked over. It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather hike to a rock art panel than a ruin site. It’s harder for the trouble makers to mess with pictographs and petroglyphs. 

Although they try. In Marble Canyon in Death Valley National Park, Bad People hauled in a battery powered drill for the purpose of creating modern day pictographs. Others scrawled on or nearby the ancient petroglyphs. 

Could someone please explain this antisocial behavior to me? Which leads me to another story...

A few years ago, I had the displeasure of being seated next to a hard drinking, dry coughing, turquoise wearing Wyoming drugstore cowboy at a group Happy Hour. He must have heard about the Wandering I do in the West. Between sips of his straight up whiskey, he asked me, “Ever come across Native Artifacts out there?” 

“Occasionally, but not that often. Most have been carted away by now.” 

He looked at me with Jack Daniel eyes and asked, “Well, do you keep them when you find them?”

“Hell No! First off, it’s against the law. (Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979). Secondly, it’s wrong to take what really doesn’t belong to you. The artifacts found on Public Lands belong to everyone. Wouldn’t it be nice to have lots of people find an arrowhead on the ground than for one person to steal it?” 

He gave me a slurry response, “Well, that’s stupid. If you don’t take it the next person will.”

Folks! That’s the mindset which triggers the pilfering of Turkey Pen Ruin to happen. There’s too many people carrying feelings of entitlement. All for the sake of owning an old bauble. It’s a sad commentary about humanity. The future generations will understandably curse us once they discover what we’ve robbed them of.

Speaking of robbery. The Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area has recently been removed from National Monument status and protection. Shame on President Anti-Conservation and Secretary of Interior Toady Zinke  Your Grandkids will curse them too.

For further readings: “Finders Keepers” by Craig Childs 

For more blogs by opinionated W W J’s, please check out:

Don’t be a Meanie.  Leave the good stuff in place for everyone’s enjoyment.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Want to save money?

Visit Utah.

A few years ago in Zion National Park, I struck up a conversation with some Young Turks from LA. I began by tuning them up for picking the trailside  blooms. “Guys! Zion is a National Park, not a Flower Shop.” After awhile they warmed up to me. One leaned in and whispered, “What do people do around here for fun? Where’s the nightlife?”

I laughed and answered, “Dude! You’re in Utah! There is no nightlife except looking up at the stars and the Moon.” 

Then I explained further. 

Utah’s towns are tidy, safe and graffiti-free. The locals are civil, polite, friendly, family oriented and wholesome. The liquor laws are Mormon Doctrine based. In other words, it’s not easy getting a quality beer or other libations in the Beehive State. I call Utah a BYOB State. (Bring Your Own Booze)

Why bother going out to a bar & grill serving watery and weak draft brews at premium beer prices? I don’t! I plan ahead and bring my own. Sure the initial costs can be a shock. Stocking up on a half ton, five week supply of quality IPAs set me back $260. (My credit card company called me to confirm the charge!) At $7.42/day I consider it an inexpensive Happy Hour. 

So don’t come to Utah to Party On! Do come to Utah to gawk at the canyons, mesas, plateaus and all the beautiful stuff above and in between. The state is 66.5% Federally owned, so more than likely you won’t be trespassing on private property. When all things line up: the weather, the cool campsites and uncrowded trails; you won’t even miss the Club Scene. 

There’s worse ways of spending an evening than looking up at the stars and the Moon with a Double IPA in your paws. 

Think of all that money you are saving too! 

From cold and windy Kanab, Utah. 
Come on warmer temperatures!


PS. Wish me luck on getting a Wave permit.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Fort Collins Syndrome...

“You can observe a lot by watching.”  Yogi Berra.

When I moved to Fort Collins, CO in 1978, the population was around 59,000. Old Town was a mess of shuttered storefronts and a spattering of dicey dive bars. One could buy a nearby house for far less than a pittance. The city was considered by many Coloradoan’s to be a “cow town.” In fact the University had a bull farm within the city limits, so it wasn’t too far from the truth. At least there were no cattle drives down College Avenue.

Fast Forward to the present. Now the population stands at 162,000 and gaining. Old Town is now the cool place to see and be seen. Gone are the shuttered storefronts. Gourmet restaurants, groovy bars and boutique stores for people and pets complete the scene.  My 1902, 1000 square foot home in Old Town would now fetch about half a million. I bought it for $72,000 in 1992. Fort Collins is making the “Best of...” lists cities drool to be on. 

I’ve now been on an extended road trip in the National Parks, Monuments, Preserves and State Parks of America’s Southwest. I’m seeing a naturalized version of the Fort Collins Syndrome in wild places. 

Joshua Tree National Park (which lacks the majesty of a Yosemite or Zion)  is  packed to the point where anarchy reins. I had squatters set up tents on my campsite without asking! Drunken revelers party on till 1:00 am. All these people for a park where the highlights are multiple piles of big rocks and funky shaped “trees.” 

When I visited Joshua Tree starting in the late 90’s the place was devoid of people.

After Joshua Tree, I headed north and east to the Mohave National Preserve. Five years ago, I discovered the “Hole in the Wall” campground. A sanctuary set in a spartan desert landscape where Happy Campers made an effort to distance themselves from each other. I was more than OK with that. Peace and quiet prevailed. 

This year the Hole in the Rock campground filled to capacity each night. Thankfully the clientele were still peaceful. 

Last year, I camped and hiked in Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. It was a nice enough experience to warrant another visit. A few days ago, I phoned about getting a campsite. The Ranger laughed, “We are booked solid for the next few weeks!” 

So...I found an RV Park in St. George, UT. The campground resembled a Walmart parking lot minus the store. In other words, it sucked. After a cruddy night of sleep, I drove up to Snow Canyon to hike.

The trails I had to my lonesome last season were NYC subway packed. I had to use my tried and true method of passing people. “Excuse me! Coming through! Hot soup! Hot soup!”  It works. 

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra

So Jeffy! What’s your point? 

Our wild regions are being visited in record numbers. Places that once weren’t considered worthy of a look-see are now scoring visitors. In other words, the Wild Land equivalent of a “Cow Town”(the  Fort Collins Syndrome) are now on people’s must-see lists.

It’s  only going to get worse. In 2016, 430,000 brand new RV’s were sold in the US. Those buyers want to take them to pretty places other than a Walmart parking lot. This is the pressure of population growth. 

Now my point: The Diminisher in Chief has eviscerated two of Utah’s National Monuments. Both Bear Ears (Obama) and Grand Staircase/Escalante (Clinton) have had their acreages vastly reduced. (Of course, the Courts will decide the final outcome). 

America the Beautiful is coming under attack for the short sighted monetary gains of a few. Possible mines, logging camps and oil rigs would replace scenic and archaeological wonders. The resource extractors would scar the land. Waterways might get contaminated. (Google Uravan and Summittville, CO). Worse still, that will be so many acres of lost wandering available for future generations. The very idea is shameful. 

Beauty may be skin deep, but it lasts a whole lot longer than a mining operation. Joni Mitchell summed it up this way. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” 

My advice? Let’s Drain the Cesspool in 2018 and 2020 to overturn these ADD land management schemes. Your grandkids would approve.

From stormy (not Daniels) Zion National Park,

PS. For further readers,  please check out: (there’s pretty pictures too.)