Welcome to Orca Falls

Welcome to Orca Falls

Welcome to Orca Falls (formerly Stanwood), the happiest town in America. Come for our incredible natural beauty. And if you’re lucky, you just might catch a rare sighting of one of our orcas swimming up our waterfalls, as they do during mating season.

Welcome to Orca Falls (formerly Stanwood), the happiest town in America. Come for our incredible natural beauty. And if you’re lucky, you just might catch a rare sighting of one of our orcas swimming up our waterfalls, as they do during mating season.

I live on Camano Island in Washington state. There are no towns on the island and very few stores. To find a Starbucks, beauty salon, or tattoo parlor, you need to leave the island and head into Stanwood, the closest town. Like so many other small towns, Stanwood has been hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the COVID pandemic.

At the risk of offending the fine people of Stanwood, let’s face it. The town is not exactly a tourist mecca. It’s a hardscrabble, working-class community, whose stores are for the most part utilitarian and uninspiring. “Inviting” is not a word that comes to mind when you think of this place – unless you count Jimmy’s Pizza, which is always inviting – and full. When you think of a struggling small town like Stanwood, what comes to mind? Answer: Boring strip malls, a paucity of nice restaurants, and an unsettling number of “out of business” signs on boarded-up storefronts.

As my several million weekly readers will attest, I’m a humble man who is loath to boast about my impressive achievements. Heck, I never bring up my Nobel Prize unless you forget to ask. But it’s no secret I’m a nationally respected marketing / PR maven (because it says these words right on my business card). So, when Stanwood’s town council recently approached me for advice on how to turn around their flagging economy, I accepted my civic duty to save their town from disaster.

Now for some context. In the first half of the 20th century, there was a town called Leavenworth, nestled in the heart of Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. It was a thriving community with an economy based on logging. But by the 1950’s, the main railway had stopped serving Leavenworth, the logging industry collapsed, and the town came perilously close to bankruptcy. To avoid imminent financial ruin, the town reinvented itself into a Bavarian village, and all retail storefronts adopted a Bavarian theme.

Today it’s a bustling, highly sought-after tourist destination, annually drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors who apparently can’t tell the difference between an authentic Bavarian village and an IHOP restaurant dolled up with a lame Bavarian knock-off façade.

My point is this: What’s good for Leavenworth is great for Stanwood. When I think of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, two things come to mind: breaching orca (“killer”) whales and craggy snow-capped mountains teeming with waterfalls. Admittedly, you might not think of these two things together, but just go with me, okay?

Ladies and gentlemen, WELCOME TO ORCA FALLS (formerly known as Stanwood). Doesn’t that sound charming? Of course it does. Forget about the Stanwood you thought you knew. It’s time to bring your family – and your credit card – to this heavenly, undiscovered Cascadian paradise we’ve rebranded to avoid foreclosure.

First-time visitors will receive $500 in ORCA BUCKS, which they can redeem at any participating store – sure to be a big hit! [Disclaimer: One Orca Buck = 1/100th of a penny.]

First-time visitors will receive $500 in ORCA BUCKS, which they can redeem at any participating store – sure to be a big hit! [Disclaimer: One Orca Buck = 1/100th of a penny.]

Are there really orca whales in Orca Falls? Technically no, but we’re working on it – just as soon as we can find a way to import 50 trillion tons of salt water – and a few dozen pods of orcas. And what about the towering waterfalls, you ask? Almost. We’re installing them as fast as we can. You’ll just have to visit to see for yourself.

As soon as the town council signs off on my modest $2.5 billion business development plan, before long, people will be flocking here like snow geese. Here are just a few of my brilliant plans for Orca Falls, which I am confident will win approval:

ORCA WORLD:  The largest – and only – amusement park for hundreds of miles, featuring the exhilarating Thunder Falls roller coaster ride and It’s a Small World. (I read that Disneyland is looking for a buyer for that ride). And we haven’t forgotten the kids. Make sure your youngsters get here early to beat the crowds waiting to ride on the backs of playful baby orcas – just be sure they jump off before the whale submerges. We’d hate to see them drown in such a magical setting.

For added fun, park visitors will enjoy imagining the sensation of being a salmon as they attempt to steer a rowboat upstream in the Ragin’ River Rapids ride. They will compete with other guests as they try to avoid being eaten by one of the park’s five adorably rambunctious grizzly bears. Don’t worry, our grizzlies are well-fed and wouldn’t hurt a soul – so long as you don’t make direct eye contact – or smell like salmon.

KILLER WHALE WAY: The town’s main street will be renamed and re-imagined with a fanciful whale theme. Store owners choose which whale image to carve into their storefront – orca, grey, humpback – or for a larger store, I’d go with a blue whale motif (it’s the largest animal on earth). Other storefront façade options include “Shipwrecked”, “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Captain Crunch.”

Audiophiles will thrill to the soothing recorded sounds of whale clicks, whistles, and mating moans blasted at 150 decibels, sure to make you feel like you’re in the splash zone at Sea World (before they shut down the whale attraction on animal cruelty charges).

Visitors will thrill to the rides and shows at Orca World, where you will see our whales do things you never thought imaginable. [Park opening delayed indefinitely. Check back in summer 2031.]

Visitors will thrill to the rides and shows at Orca World, where you will see our whales do things you never thought imaginable. [Park opening delayed indefinitely. Check back in summer 2031.]

BUBBLES’ BATH: There’ll be no shortage of fun at Orca Falls’ giant public indoor – outdoor wave pool “where kids will have a WHALE of a time!” (I just made that up – that’s called marketing.) Visitors will delight to the hourly “Free Willy” playtime, as killer whales are let loose to mingle joyfully among the unsuspecting swimmers.

I’m confident my scheme will turn the town formerly known as Stanwood into a world class destination – right up there with Monte Carlo or Scranton, PA (another one of my success stories). But in the unlikely event the town council’s members aren’t quite the visionaries that I am, I have a fallback rebranding plan:

Welcome to Eagle Canyon. Come for the Eagles. Stay for our world-famous Eagle Pot Pie.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

Never Accept a Ride From a Stranger

Never Accept a Ride From a Stranger

When you were young, remember how your parents told you never to get in a car with a strange man? Well, this is the harrowing true story of the time a young, innocent couple accepted a ride from a strange man. And by strange man, I mean ME. A cautionary tale.

When you were young, remember how your parents told you never to get in a car with a strange man? Well, this is the harrowing true story of the time a young, innocent couple accepted a ride from a strange man. And by strange man, I mean ME. A cautionary tale.

They seemed like such a lovely young couple, deeply in love. They had their whole life ahead of them. They were on their honeymoon, without a care in the world. And then, they made a fateful decision that just might change their destiny forever. They did something incredibly reckless and impulsive, as young people are wont to do. They accepted a ride from a complete stranger. I saw the whole thing unfold because, well, um, that stranger was me.

Austin and Ali from Kansas City, KS, were vacationing in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). I now realize that they probably would not like if it I mentioned them by name, so henceforth, I will refer to Austin and Ali as Jeff and Beth from Lawrence, KS, to protect their anonymity. They were on a day trip to an idyllic tropical island called Jost Van Dyke and had taken a taxi ride to a remote beach, where they were frolicking in the ocean waves.

Unfortunately for this innocent couple, there was someone else lurking nearby: ME – and my wife, Michele. It turned out that we had similar plans for today, as we too were on vacation, and we had recently been on our own honeymoon 34 years prior. Like them, we’d heard that the most incredible beach in the entire BVI was on the opposite side of this extremely rugged, mountainous island. Austin and Ali, I mean Jeff and Beth, had just one small problem. They had no car. They would have to call a taxi driver and wait another 30 to 40 minutes to be picked up.

That’s when they made what could only be described as the worst lapse in judgment of their very young marriage, They accepted my offer to drive them to the other beach, The four of us piled into our cramped Suzuki hatchback rental car, whose main power source, I can only surmise, based on this experience, must have been four AA batteries.

This is Ali and Austin, I mean Beth and Jeff, a lovely couple on their honeymoon. Don’t they look sweet? Well, within minutes of this photo, they’d be praying to God to let them survive the ordeal I would soon inflict on them.

This is Ali and Austin, I mean, Beth and Jeff, a lovely couple on their honeymoon. Don’t they look sweet? Well, within minutes of this photo, they’d be praying to God to let them survive the ordeal I would soon inflict on them.

I was the driver, Michele the navigator. A word about roads in BVI. Even the very best of them are bad, filled with potholes, way too narrow, no lane divider markers, and extremely twisty, with lots of blind hairpin turns. And you have to confront all these obstacles while mastering driving on the wrong side of the street. But today, there wasn’t a “best road” in sight. No, we unwittingly embarked on a fool’s errand to test my driving skills on the most grueling road I would ever attempt in my life.

Michele consulted Google Maps on her phone for the quickest way to get across the island to the other beach. Apparently, the app must have thought we were using a helicopter or a zeppelin because the route it selected took us right over the very top of the island. Or perhaps the BVI version of Google Maps was designed by Satan. Because someone was out to get us this day.

I apparently missed the sign that said, “CAUTION: ONLY IDIOTS ARE PERMITTED TO TAKE THIS ROUTE” because within one minute, we had diverged from a paved surface and found ourselves routed to a dirt and gravel path barely wide enough for one vehicle.

I recall distinctly asking Michele, “Are you sure we’re on the right road? This doesn’t look right,” to which she calmly replied, “Yes, I’m sure. Google says this is the most direct route.” And of course, by “direct route,” what Google apparently meant was the most direct route to ensure your imminent death.

Very quickly, I realized we had made a horrible navigational error in choosing to go this way. If this route qualified to be considered “a road”, then having watched two seasons of Grey’s Anatomy qualified me to be “considered” a brain surgeon.

While this is not our vehicle or our road, this is a lot like the road we took, only safer.

While this is not our vehicle or our road, this is a lot like the road we took, only safer.

The trek became steeper and steeper, and narrower and narrower. The cliffs were easy to see because there were no pesky guard rails to block my view of the 1000-foot sheer drop-off. The further we drove, the rougher the terrain got. The boulders got bigger, the ruts deeper, and in many places we were attempting to scale an incline with a 45 degree angle or higher, sometimes transitioning to a switchback requiring us to make a sharp blind hairpin turn while accelerating up a steep uphill.

If there had been someone driving from the other direction, one of us would have had to make the very difficult choice to drive off the cliff, because there was no way we could pass each other on this narrow obstacle course. But I needn’t have worried about the possibility of someone coming at me from the other direction, because there was no way more than one idiot would try to cross this Highway to Hell.

As all our heads jostled up and down uncontrollably with every bump, like cheaply made bobble head dolls, I wondered what Jeff and Beth must have been thinking: “Lord, we will go to church every Sunday for the rest of our lives if you’ll just deliver us from this nightmare” or maybe, “Why did you agree to get a ride from a complete stranger? Maybe he’s a serial killer. Or worse – a Suzuki used car salesman!” 

The further I drove, the worse conditions became, Then I noticed that the pitch of the thoroughfare sloped noticeably to the right, and I had to fight to keep the car from drifting rightward, towards the cliff. Going downhill wasn’t any easier. I kept pumping the brakes over and over, to keep this freight train from barreling off the cliff as I tried to negotiate one 160 degree turn after another. But I stoically kept my fears to myself, so as not to alarm our passengers – except for the four or five brief moments when I came upon yet another gut-wrenching hairpin turn and I blurted out, “HOLY SH*T, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!”

I’ve been to Italy’s ancient star-crossed city of Pompeii. Two thousand years later, their roads still were in better condition than what I had to contend with. During our nerve-racking ordeal, I was increasingly worried that this might end badly. I had visions of the lead story on CNN the next day: “HONEYMOON COUPLE MURDERED BY TERRORIST SUICIDE DRIVER,” followed by a related story on how Suzuki hatchbacks are not recommended for off-road travel.

Can you find a road in this picture? Neither could we. But this is a photo of the road we took. In many sections it was almost impossible to tell where the road was. This is a “road” my ass, Google!

Can you find a road in this picture? Neither could we. But this is a photo of the road we took. In many sections it was almost impossible to tell where the road was. This is a “road” my ass, Google!

This misguided journey took us over the literal peak of the island, through what was inarguably the most treacherous terrain I had ever attempted. If you could ignore the fact that in minutes we were all most likely going to perish in an agonizing 1000-foot crash, I have to say, the panoramic view from up here was rather magical.

After what felt like three days, but was probably closer to 40 minutes, we reached the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen: a paved street. Somehow I had delivered the newlywed couple to their destination physically in one piece (albeit emotionally in tatters). I thought about asking them for $25 for having provided them with a thrilling memory they would undoubtedly tell their grandkids one day, but Michele thought that would be in poor taste.

Hopefully, someday Jeff and Beth will be able to forgive me for the terrifying experience I put them through. Maybe they’ll even laugh about it. They had to head back home to Kansas the next day. I briefly thought about offering them a lift to the airport. But something told me they’d probably prefer a taxi instead.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

Trying to Go Offline

Trying to Go Offline

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

Life is short – especially for my wife, who’s  barely five feet tall. The years race by, we waste time, and before you know it, we discover we’ve missed out on what’s important in life: pizza.

Add to this reality our obsession with technology, which is constantly at our fingertips. It can be hard to break free from the bombardment of texts, social media and emails constantly vying for our attention. I can easily pull an all-nighter just watching Randy Rainbow videos on YouTube.

That’s why my wife and I have decided to get away from it all. Right now, we’re vacationing on a pristine island paradise thousands of miles from any major city. I won’t reveal where we are, because we’ve chosen to unplug from the hectic pace of our lives.

In the spirit of getting off the grid, I even left my laptop at home (because, frankly, who needs a laptop if you have a smart phone – just ask anyone under the age of 25). For one week, we’re going to focus on slowing down, breathing in the ocean air, and smelling the roses (though I’ve yet to spot a rose). We plan to take long hikes, kayak, and –

… Sorry about that. I just got a text from my sister. Thought it might be important. She’s been going through an issue at work with her boss… Like I said, for the next seven days, I’m committed to getting in touch with myself … just as soon as I get in touch with my broker. Hold that thought….

… Again, my apologies. I realized that there was a voicemail from my broker marked “Urgent.” Had to check it. He advised me to sell all my Sears stock while they’re still worth 15 cents a share.

…. Now, where was I? Oh yes, being totally present with my wife during our special 168 hours alone…. So, this evening, I’m surprising her by taking her to see … a penguin playing the piano! OMG, that’s hilarious. Oh, sorry. Someone just posted on FB the funniest clip of a penguin. You really need to see it. Soooo cute!

… My point is that I really want to slow my life down and be totally here, in the moment, with the most special person in my life… The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Hey, Season Two is now streaming on Amazon! There go my plans for a nature walk this afternoon with my sweetie.

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

[Nine hours later] … I’ve just finished binge-watching the second season of Mrs. Maisel. Fortunately, we have six more days here on Fantasy Island to smell the flowers and feel the ocean … BREEZ!!! Are you kidding me? The Saints are seriously considering trading Hall of Fame QB Drew Breez for a 1st round draft pick? That’s what my ESPN alert message just notified me. Unbelievable.

I know what you’re thinking – Tim, you are clearly incapable of unplugging. You need a 12-Step Program. I admit, I got off to a bumpy start, but now I’m even more determined to turn off all devices and concentrate on some us time with my lovely wife. She puts up with so much from me, standing by me through even the most stormy … DANIELS hush money lawsuit against Trump might get tossed – according to Politico. Thank goodness I’m on their email list or I’d have missed this crucial news story.

Speaking of emails, there are 78 new ones in my inbox – mostly from work. Hmmm…. I can power through them in a flash, send out a blast “Out of office” message, and still have time to chillax the rest of the trip. That’ll work.

[Three hours later…] There! Job done! I am SO looking forward to lying in a chaise lounge on the beach, sipping a Mountain Dew from a frosted mug, and reading a good book. Ugh! I can’t see the screen on my Kindle with this blazing sun! Alright, I’ll just close my eyes and listen to the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shore …. on Pandora. Or how about some Calypso music? That conga beat makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island – oh, right, I am.

That’s it. No more distractions. From now on this week, I’m only going to think about what really matters (other than pizza) and ask myself the important questions, like how to be a better husband and how to do my part to tackle global warming … how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? And should The Wall be built of Legos? Sorry, that last one was an insta-poll question from Buzzfeed. How embarrassing. I thought I had unsubscribed.

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous - using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous – using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Anyway, I can’t wait to take windsurfing lessons – something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a quick study when it comes to sports, so mastering this should be a snap… chat from our elder daughter. She sent an adorable video of her two kitties chasing the laser pointer. Never seen that before!

Like I was saying, it’s all about the here and now. In a minute, I’m going to take my wife out on a bicycle built for two. Won’t she be surprised when she learns that … Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France! Okay, I don’t know who he is, so I guess I could have ignored that alert.

Hmm, I think I should just leave the phone in our room, so it can’t distract me anymore. Time to get some fresh air and enjoy the warmth of the tropical sun … which reminds me, my friend Elizabeth has an amazing Pinterest site with tons of photos of tropical flowers and beaches and even videos of wind surfers. And I can view them all from the comfy couch in our hotel room.

Ah, it’s wonderful to unplug for a change.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Welcome to Portland

Welcome to Portland

[The following is a message from the Portland, Oregon Visitors’ Bureau.]

Welcome to Portland, Oregon, America’s Most Livable Liberal City.

If you’re planning to spend a few days in the Rose City, we at the Portland Visitor’s Bureau would like to offer a few friendly suggestions to help make your stay as pleasant as possible.

First, we might as well get this one right out of the way. In Portland, we’re slightly left of center in our politics. If you’re a lifelong Republican or you accidentally voted for Donald Trump, no need to apologize. But, you might want to rethink your travel plans. We hear Tulsa is a place you might enjoy, with its expansive plains and oil rig fields.

But if you’re someone who thinks Hillary should have been our 45th president, or better still, Bernie, or even better yet, Spider-Man, then you’ll feel right at home here. Our city’s motto is KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD. In case you thought that was Austin, Texas’ motto, you’re right. We don’t mind sharing.

One of our more iconic residents is The Unipiper. He can be seen pedaling around town on his unicycle, donning a Darth Vader helmet while playing the Star Wars theme on his bag pipes, as they shoot flames. In most cities, such a sight might be a bit unnerving. Here in Portland, we just wave and say, “Hi, Brian.”

We’re extremely laid back about most things – that’s because at any given time, roughly half of us are stoned. We don’t mind if you’re a couple hours late to work, so long as you remember to buy a latte for a co-worker when you stop at Stumptown Coffee on your way in. Continue reading “Welcome to Portland” »

Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers

Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers

Welcome, Tense Traveler.

Thank you for choosing High Anxiety Tours (HAT) to arrange your trip. We’ll take care of everything. Take a deep breath and relax. We understand that as a first-time international traveler, you may be a tad nervous about venturing into the unknown. At HAT, our mission is to ensure you have a 100% stress-free experience.

So, this is your first visit to Colombia. As travel experts, trust us when we say there is (almost) nothing to worry about. Word has it that the Colombian drug lords have no documented plans to kidnap or torture American tourists in the foreseeable future. Of course, their plans are subject to change without notice.

Before you leave for the airport, remember to go through a departure checklist so you can R-E-L-A-X while away. Did you …

  • Bring your passport?
  • Pack sunscreen?
  • Turn off the stove?
  • Get a sitter for your cats?
  • Refill your Xanax?
  • Are you 100% sure you turned off the stove?

You are now ready for a calm, peaceful holiday in tranquil Colombia– that is, if you make your flight. It is imperative to be at the airport a minimum of four hours before departure, in case of unforeseen glitches such as highway construction or a wildcat strike by baggage handlers. In rare instances, flights do take off a day or so early, to adjust for the time differences. The odds TSA Security will mistake your traveler’s trepidation for drug-smuggling jitters are 3-1, at best. So, don’t sweat. No, seriously, do NOT sweat! If they see you sweat, they’ll get suspicious and probably conduct a full body cavity search.

Continue reading “Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers” »